On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I observed an interesting phenomena, which prompts this blog. Walking down Las Vegas Boulevard from casino to casino you will encounter a large number of individuals (not sure if they are someone’s employee, or independent contractors), who will attempt to hand you some baseball type cards, of attractive females, with phone numbers to dial should you wish companionship. In a matter of one block, a person can easily collect enough cards to rival a complete set of “Topps” for the current baseball season with every player having their own card present.
When there is a miscue on the hand off, or if someone realizes what they have just acquired, the multicolored cards fall to the sidewalk, where they will stay for many hours until the evening is pretty much over. These cards that are dropped and stepped on are somehow magically removed by morning when the whole routine will begin again. Observing this ritual made me think about “HOUSEKEEPING” and it’s importance in keeping your workplace free of obstructions and hazards that could injure your employees.
When I visit a workplace, I’m always on the look out for things with the potential to harm someone. I visited a sheet metal fabrication shop where piles of scrap sheet metal were allowed to be near walk paths instead of having bins or dumpsters for the scrap where the lids could be closed ensuring no contact with workers was possible. I wasn’t surprised this company had a large sign that read “Clean Up Your Blood”.
I visited a flower shop where employees were encouraged to just create bouquets without regard for where the flower stems were falling. The policy of “We’ll clean up later” was not only tolerated by management, they had created it. For the sake of speed, employees were allowed to step on the wet stems (slip/trip hazard), and if they were cut by a rose thorn, it was just part of the job. Customers waiting for flower arrangements watched employees deal with their work environment in addition to performing work activities.
Housekeeping defines who you are. It is part of your reputation, and it contributes to creating and maintaining a safe workplace. We aren’t required to follow the laws sometimes, and ignore them when we’re busy. We’re required to follow them all of the time. Safety concepts aren’t just for others, they are for everyone to follow, especially when you’re busy! “Create and maintain a safe workplace” means exactly that. A few well placed trash cans can keep the flower stems and thorns from contact with employees. Insisting trimmings are placed in those proper containers sends the right message that employees must perform work safely all day every day no matter how busy we are. When you go to a car dealership or a hospital, the housekeeping gives you confidence that the employees working there will perform work correctly. Poor housekeeping will send you someplace else for services.
Safety is what you and your employees actually do. Putting stems in the trash can and not dropping them on the floor is actual safety. Anything else will contribute to an accident or employee injury eventually. Putting the scrap sheet metal in a dumpster with the lid closed would have kept the employee who fell into one such pile from needing over 100 stitches to handle the cuts inflicted by the actual accident. Cleaning along the way is important to keep employees safe.
Clean workplaces, are high productivity, and excellent quality workplaces. I have been in a truck repair shop… 18 wheeler repairs, where you can eat right off of the floor at any time of the day. Every drop of spilled oil is wiped up immediately. Every part, and hose, and belt, is in it’s designated place. Cleaning time is built into each repair job, and because everything is where it belongs, mechanics don’t spend large amounts of time looking for things. They are able to spend their time fixing trucks, which is what they are paid to do. The clean workplace reduces the amount of time needed to repair the trucks which is why they are given the truck repair contracts in the first place. If someone can fix your truck in one hour instead of two, that’s a win for everyone. By the way, the shop I have been describing has had one employee injury in 30 years. That’s a safety record to be proud of.
Stop looking for ways to get out of being safe. Instead, look for ways to get the work done without placing your employees at risk. I know you can do it, and when your housekeeping is perfect, so will your quality and production also be perfect. Satisfied customers is a good thing. Doing the job right the first time is a good thing. Having customers sing your praises instead of complaining about your work will keep business coming your way. Remember, safety is NOT what we talk about, it is what you and your employees actually DO.