Keep Your House in Order


April 1, 2008

When good housekeeping lapses, the potential for an accident increases exponentially.

Slips, trips, and falls are a leading cause of accidents reported to Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Many of these accidents are caused by clutter, debris, and spills in walkways. Mining operations can also produce excessive dust, increasingly consisting of potentially harmful chemicals, which pose health hazards. Routine cleaning can remove the potential dangers of debris and dust.

MSHA guidelines require that mining operators do a minimum of housekeeping to keep the workplace safe. The regulations related to housekeeping (30 CFR 56/57.20003) state that the following must be done at all mining operations:

  • Workplaces, passageways, storerooms, and service rooms shall be kept clean and orderly;

  • The floor of every workplace shall be maintained in a clean and, so far as possible, dry condition. Where wet processes are used, drainage shall be maintained, and false floors, platforms, mats, or other dry standing places shall be provided where practicable; and

  • Every floor, working place, and passageway shall be kept free from protruding nails, splinters, holes, or loose boards, as practicable.

To comply with regulations, MSHA recommends that owners, managers, and supervisors first commit to preventing accidents related to health hazards and then take action by implementing necessary policies and practices. Regular frequent inspections will help identify problems. The following conditions should be evaluated during these inspections:

  • Are work areas wet, slippery, or cluttered?

  • Are floors wet or oily?

  • Are work areas messy and passageways cluttered?

  • Are steps, stairs, ramps, or ladders slippery?

  • Is harmful chemical dust accumulating in work areas?

Cleaning up

After identifying where rigorous routine cleaning procedures are needed, use a schedule and checklist to clean the entire facility and re-inspect specific high-risk areas. Train employees on risks, assign cleaning tasks, and allow time for cleaning up.

Spills of wet or dry substances: Know procedures for cleanup. Where appropriate clean up spills immediately. If area is still wet or tends to stay wet, alert employees with barricades or warning signs.

Dust: Whenever possible, dust should be vacuumed with a HEPA vacuum cleaner instead of being swept with a broom. Sweeping puts dust in the air to be breathed by miners and re-settle on new surfaces. If vacuuming is not possible, consider wetting dust before sweeping it. Inspect ducts and piping of HVAC systems for dust accumulation and change filters regularly.

Floor coverings: Identify problems with condition and placement of mats/rugs and method of securing them to the floor. Install new mats and replace old ones as necessary.

Floor cleaning: Avoid wet mopping or vacuuming during high traffic times. Workers may slip on recently cleaned floors or trip over vacuum cords.

Clutter: Keep the workplace tidy and walkways clear. Make sure equipment, tools, supplies, and materials that are not currently in use are stored appropriately away from work areas and walkways.

Trash: Remove trash (paper, food, packaging, etc.) from work areas and walkways; place trash bins strategically where needed and empty them regularly.

Fatal accident caused by clutter

Putting equipment away and keeping work areas clear of clutter can help save lives.

According to a MSHA report of a 2006 accident at a Tennessee limestone mine facility, a worker was killed as a result of tripping over equipment left in a work area. The employee had been with the company for more than seven years and had recently received required training. While he was gathering wash-down hoses to wash material out from under the railroad scales, he tripped over hoses that were lying on the ground and twisted together, creating a trip hazard. Subsequently, he was run over by a front-end loader that was moving railcars in the area.

According to MSHA, the accident occurred because the wash out area was not being kept clean and orderly. The MSHA report states that “[m]anagement failed to require that hoses were removed from the travelways after they had been used. Hose reels, hooks, or storage areas had not been provided to eliminate tripping hazards.”

Slips, trips, and falls can be expensive, disruptive, painful, and even fatal. Good housekeeping is a smart first precaution.

Information contained in this article was provided through the MSHA-NSSGA Alliance and was written cooperatively by members of both the aggregates industry and the regulatory agency.

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