Workplaces can easily become very untidy if housekeeping is not managed. Spoil heaps at excavations, piles of new materials, debris and waste can all accumulate very quickly. This can:
- Hinder or prevent the safe movement of pedestrians and vehicles around the workplace.
- Block light.
- Block access to essential services, such as fire equipment.
In some instances, stacks and piles of materials can present an immediate danger of collapse. Stacked materials, in particular can topple over if they are not stacked correctly.
Good housekeeping starts with good design and layout of the workplace; sufficient space must be allocated for the storage of materials at the planning stage. In particular:
- Storage areas should be clearly defined.
- Separate areas should be used for different items (for ease of identification).
- Certain materials and substances should be segregated during storage; alternatively, purpose-built secure storage (e.g. gas-bottle cages) may be required.
- Areas should be kept clean and tidy and should be routinely inspected.
- Appropriate warning signs should be displayed where necessary (e.g. where flammable materials are stored).
- Storage areas should not be used for work activities.
Stacking materials is an efficient way to use space. When stacking:
- Each stack should be for one material only (not mixed).
- A maximum stack height must be set (depending on the strength and stability of the material being stacked).
- Stacks should be vertical (not leaning).
- Pallets should be used to keep materials off the ground.
- Sufficient space must be allowed between stacks for safe movement.
- Stacks must be protected from being struck by vehicles.
Materials Handling Methods
- Inspect materials for slivers, nails or other protruding objects, jagged or sharp edges, burrs, and rough or slippery surfaces.
- Get a firm grip on the object.
- Keep fingers away from pinch points, especially when setting down materials.
- When handling lumber, pipe, or other long objects, employees should keep hands away from the ends to prevent them from being pinched.
- Wipe off greasy, wet, slippery, or dirty objects before trying to handle or store them.
- Keep hands free of oil and grease.
Personal Protective Equipment
Handles and holders should be attached to loads to reduce the chances of getting fingers pinched or smashed.
When the loads are heavy or bulky, the mover should wear steel-toed safety shoes or boots to prevent foot injuries in the event that the worker slips or accidentally drops a load.
In most cases, gloves or other hand protectors must be worn to prevent hand injuries.
When opening a wire-bound bale or box, employees must wear eye protection as well as stout gloves and take special care to prevent the ends of the bindings from flying loose and striking their face or body. The same precaution applies to coils of wire, strapping, or cable. Use cutters that clamp ends when cut.
If materials are dusty or toxic, follow UNC-CH guidelines for hazardous substances under the Environmental Affairs section of the EHS website.
Lifting and Carrying
Before employees perform jobs requiring heavy and/or frequent lifting, make sure they are physically suited for the job.
If a load is thought to be more than one employee can handle, the employee should obtain assistance or use a lifting aid to perform the operation in a safe manner.
Proper Way to Lift
Here are six steps to safe lifting:
- Keep feet parted – one alongside and one behind the object
- Keep back straight and nearly vertical. Bend at the knees instead of the waist
- Tuck in your chin
- Grip the object with the whole hand
- Tuck in elbows and arms
- Keep body weight directly over feet
When bulky objects are to be handled or when objects are to be carried on the shoulder, employees shall be trained in these techniques for special situations.
Handling Barrels and Drums
When possible, when moving barrels and drums they should be moved by using a dolly or other mechanical devices.
If two employees are assigned to up-end a full drum, they should use the following procedures:
- Stand on opposite sides of the drum and face each other;
- Grasp both chimes (rolled edges at both ends of the barrel) near their high points, lift one end and press down on the other;
- As the drum is up-ended and brought to balance on the bottom chime, release the grip on the bottom chime and straighten the drum.
When two employees are to overturn a full drum, they should use the following procedure:
- Make sure they have enough room. Cramped quarters can result in badly injured hands.
- Both stand near each other, facing the drum. They grip the closest point of the top chime with both hands. Resting their palms against the side of the drum, they push until the drum balances on the lower chime.
- They step forward a short distance, and each employee releases one hand from the top chime in order to grip the bottom chime. They ease the drum down to a horizontal position until it rests solidly on its side.
To roll a barrel or drum, an employee should push against the sides with his/her hands. To change direction of the roll, he/she should grip the chime, not kick the drum with his/her feet.
To lower a drum or barrel down a skid, turn it and slide it end-wise. Do not roll it. To raise a drum or barrel up a skid, two employees stand on opposite sides of the skid (outside the rails, not inside, and not below the object being raised). They roll the object up the incline. Handling drums and barrels can be hazardous, even when using utmost care. Special handling equipment and tools must be made available to make the job safer and easier.