Housekeeping is crucial to safety on the job site

Ever stepped on a nail sticking through a plank? Ever fallen because you stepped on something that wasn’t supposed to be there? Ever twisted your ankle tripping over a piece of cut off lumber that wasn’t picked up? I have on all three counts and let me tell you it wasn’t fun.

Fact is that poor housekeeping accounts for a significant number of injuries on the job site.

I used to own a “construction cleanup” business back when I was in college. Contractors would hire me and my guys to come clean up the job site preferring to pay us $10.00/hr (that was a lot of money back when I was in college, 25 years ago) rather than paying the carpenters, the plumbers, the electricians, etc… who charged a whole lot more than that, to do the work of cleaning up the jobsite.

As I look back on that job now, I wonder if the general wasn’t unwittingly setting his guys up for accidents down the road by getting them used to not doing the housekeeping themselves. When the economy changed and they could no longer afford to hire others to do the cleanup work for them, did these guys just not do the housekeeping? It would have been interesting to go back and see if the injury rate went up after my company dissolved.

The point of all this is that housekeeping is crucial. Cleaning up scraps and debris, sweeping, etc… removes the items that could potentially cause an accident.

Good housekeeping includes:

  • Picking up cut offs, scraps and other debris
  • Keeping all staircases clear of building materials and tools
  • Removing or bending over any protruding nails or screws
  • Tying down any materials that might blow away
  • Keeping roofs clear of material and tools that might roll off or fall over the edge of the roof
  • Properly storing all building materials and tools in areas that are accessible but not in the way
  • Using only enclosed chutes or pulleys to drop or lower material from a higher elevation
  • Keep all material at least 6 feet away from ledges and/or floor openings to keep them from accidentally falling over the edge or through the hole
  • Make sure that flammable material and trash is immediately stored properly after use
  • Dispose of packaging immediately after unpacking. Packaging left lying around can hide protruding nails and other hazards.
  • Keep the traffic areas clear. Injuries go up when workers have to try to navigate around tools, materials or debris. Twisting to avoid stepping on a piece of cut off lumber can result in muscle strains and pulled ligaments.

Let’s face it, you would yell at your kids if they left their toys lying around, especially if you tripped over them and the jobsite is a lot more dangerous of an environment than your living room is, so clean up as you go to keep yourself and other workers from getting injured.