Whether I am auditing a facility and on site to defend against OSHA, labor and employment matters, housekeeping is quite literally the first thing that I consider… and in 30 years, I have yet to find an occasion that poor housekeeping did not translate to, or foreshadow a variety of cultural, leadership, and compliance problems.
A good standard of housekeeping is always achievable, even if one is at a waterlogged mud hole of a construction site. No company is exempt from a requirement to maintain good housekeeping, although the standard for a cement plant is a tad different than that of technology-based employer.
Why housekeeping is so often a problem
The answer, as to so many questions, is largely a combination of, “we don’t have time,” “management doesn’t care,” and “for !@#$% sake, we’re a foundry, not a hospital!”
The consequences of poor housekeeping however, lead back to the NYC “Broken Window” philosophy of policing. Housekeeping sets the tone. If the workplace doesn’t focus on housekeeping, employees, vendors and others will not care about it, or any other area requiring purposeful action and not narrowly related to “production.” So, one can absolutely assume that continuous quality improvement won’t readily occur, and safety processes will be written procedures with little day to day effect on work.
The benefits of good housekeeping
Are you committed to maintaining a pro-employee, union-free atmosphere or a collaborative relationship with your unions? Yes? Then maintain good housekeeping. Here’s a great quotation from Phil La Duke to illustrate why:
“According to best selling author and employee engagement expert Dr. Paul Marciano, employee engagement is about respect; workers who feel respected by their employers are far more likely to be engaged than those who feel disrespected. Good housekeeping is a key indicator of respect; you can easily gauge the level of respect employers have for their workers (and how workers about themselves) simply by looking at their housekeeping practices.”
Good housekeeping doesn’t just keep you within the law, but it improves overall productivity and employee engagement, in his recent article “Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here – Why Housekeeping Matters” Duke sums it up in one concise sentence:
“It’s just plain easier to get things done in a neat and well-organized work area. In addition to preventing incidents, good housekeeping saves space, time, and money.
Good housekeeping action points
1. Become purposeful. Define “good housekeeping,” make a written plan, establish cleaning schedules, build an accountability structure, and add housekeeping categories to self-audits.
Do not assume that your normal housekeeping employees or operators will just get it done.
2. Train supervisors to be sensitive as to issues which destroy morale and a productive culture. Come up with supervisor-driven processes for them to discuss these issues. Include housekeeping in employee attitude surveys.
3. Use housekeeping as an early warning sign for a host of labor and employment issues.
“Cleanliness is next to … profit.”
More about Howard Mavity
Howard Mavity is a senior partner in the Atlanta office of the law firm Fisher & Phillips. He co-chairs the firm’s Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group, and has provided counsel for over 200 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies. In addition, he has managed almost 400 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Reference – Flickr S.G. Washington