Housekeeping, Sanitation Boost Efficiency

Housekeeping and sanitation are important to job site safety. Disregarding them will jeopardize your employees’ safety and health. It will also negatively impact a compliance officer from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Imagine a compliance officer’s mood after using a portable toilet, unable to wash his or her hands, and tripping over debris. He or she can cite you for poor sanitation or housekeeping and other more serious violations. Slips and falls alone cause approximately 200,000 disabling injuries each year. Effective housekeeping procedures can prevent accidents, and proper sanitation can prevent workplace illnesses. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) contains the safety and health standards that electrical contractors must follow. Housekeeping and Sanitation are the two basic standards that protect the work force’s basic safety and health. Housekeeping regulations can be found in 29CFR 1926.25. This standard requires employers to keep all work areas, passageways, and stairs free of debris. It also requires frequent, regular waste disposal. Combustible and other hazardous scrap and debris must be safely stored until it is removed from the job site. Sanitation regulations can be found in 29CFR 1926.51, which establishes many of the fundamental hygiene practices required for the job site. It addresses the requirements for drinking water, toilets, washing facilities, food dispensing, and temporary shelters. Employers must provide an adequate supply of “potable water,” which is defined as drinking water that meets the quality standards of the U. S. Public Health Service. Water dispensing containers must be capable of being tightly closed and equipped with a tap. Each container must be clearly marked and not used for any other purpose. Disposable single-service cups should be supplied to meet the additional requirements. Some job sites may have outlets for “non-potable water,” which can only be used for industrial applications or fire- fighting purposes. The outlets must be identified by signs that clearly indicate that the water is unsafe and not to be used for drinking, washing, or cooking. Employers must ensure there is no cross-connection, open or potential, between a system furnishing potable water and a system furnishing non-potable water. Toilets and lavatories must be provided at construction sites. Under temporary field conditions, at least one toilet facility must be available. Lavatories must have hot and cold running water, or tepid running water. Hand soap, toweling, or an approved hand-drying device must be provided. Toilets and lavatories do not have to be provided for mobile crews if transportation is readily available to an approved facility. When workers are exposed to paints, herbicides, insecticides, and other harmful contaminates, special washing facilities must be provided that can remove them. Standards for lead and asbestos require special protective clothing. When this clothing is required, “change rooms” must be provided. These change rooms must have storage facilities for street clothes and separate storage facilities for the protective equipment. Exposure to hazardous substances may also require the provision and use of showers. The showers must have hot and cold water feeding a common discharge line. The regulations require that one shower must be provided for every 10 workers of each sex. Employers must also provide body soap and clean towels. The regulations prohibit workers from consuming food or beverages in a toilet room or around hazardous substances. Some hazardous substances are easily ingested. If these substances are present, workers should also be instructed to wash before they eat, drink, or smoke. A continuing and effective extermination program must be instituted and all workers should be instructed to report vermin immediately to their supervisor. At isolated or remote locations, employers may provide food service facilities and temporary sleeping quarters. All food service facilities must meet applicable laws, ordinances, and regulations established by other agencies in that jurisdiction. The food dispensed must be wholesome and protected from contamination. Temporary sleeping quarters must provide heat, ventilation, and light. CFR requirements should be included in a basic inspection checklist developed for each job site. Compliance with these requirements will improve your workforce’s morale, safety, and health. O’CONNOR is with Intec, a producer of safety manuals with training videos and software for contractors. Based in Alexandria, Va., he can be reached at (703) 628-4326, or by e-mail at

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