A clean jobsite is a safer jobsite.
It’s not uncommon to see signs in workplaces reminding employees to clean up after themselves. If doing so is important in office kitchens, it’s doubly important on construction sites. Keeping sites orderly and removing waste can help avert accidents, prevent damage and even boost morale among workers.
The strategies below are a good starting point for keeping a jobsite clean.
1. Establish a housekeeping program
Set up a housekeeping system that involves everyone on the team. Focus on the importance of cleaning and removing debris after it has been created, and assign specific tasks to specific people to create accountability.
To keep the site tidy, use the 5S system, a method of workplace organization invented in Japan that includes making sure everything has a designated place and removing items not in use. To encourage compliance, use toolbox talks to remind everyone of the benefits of a clean, organized jobsite, such as improved safety and efficiency.
2. Separate the scraps
Construction companies may be required to recycle materials like metal, wood and sometimes, concrete. In addition to federal regulations, you may need to follow state or regional recycling rules. And the contract might stipulate which materials or debris should be diverted from landfills, along with target diversion rates for non-hazardous solid waste.
Observe the rules and designate piles, bins and containers for leftover materials. Do this ahead of time so nothing that should be kept or recycled is accidentally thrown away. In general, while recycling containers should be easy to access, the fewer containers for each type of material the better in terms of keeping transportation costs low and minimizing jobsite obstructions. Consider hiring a company that does waste and recycling management for construction firms.
3. Eliminate waste at the source
The less waste that arrives or is created at the site, the less disposal and cleanup is necessary. Choose products with minimal packaging. Measure carefully so you order only the materials you need, in the optimal sizes. Buy quality materials so you throw out fewer warped studs, for instance. Embrace the use of prefabricated elements when possible.
4. Keep waste properly contained
Keeping a lid on waste, literally, is important, especially when the waste could spill, evaporate or smell. Containers and product drums should be sealed tightly. Use the right container for the type of hazardous waste. Mark the container to indicate its contents, and make sure the container is in good condition. Containers of used oil should be free of leaks, structural defects and severe rusting, for example. Use a locked compound if you’re storing one near water or a drain.
All workers must be trained in the management of hazardous waste as it relates to their job function. Make sure everyone knows where to discard flammable and combustible materials.
Oily rags aren’t just tripping hazards; they’re also flammable. In fact, they can spontaneously combust. That’s why they should be stored in a metal container with a cover, preferably a self-closing lid. Schedule frequent removal of hazardous waste to keep areas clean and prevent fires and accidents.
To discourage dumpster divers and any unauthorized use of your dumpster, consider a lock for it.
5. Manage dust safely
Use engineering and work practice controls such as dust collection systems to limit dust in the air during certain tasks, such as sawing or grinding concrete, stone or mortar. Reduce the amount of dust created by installing water systems that steam or spray a cutting blade.
Controlling respirable crystalline silica is especially important since it can cause incurable lung disease if inhaled. Per OSHA’s silica dust compliance guide for small entities, don’t allow dry brushing or dry sweeping unless methods such as wet sweeping and HEPA-filtered vacuuming are not feasible. Workers should of course have access to appropriate respiratory protection.
6. The last sweep
Last impressions count. Performing a final cleaning during closeout will leave a good impression on the client and possibly help you win more projects in the future. Create a checklist of tasks, such sweeping, mopping, cleaning all surfaces, washing windows and removing any remaining stickers. And don’t forget trash removal.
If you established a good housekeeping routine at the beginning of the job, cleanup should be a relatively easy final step.
Emily Canal is a staff writer for Inc. Magazine and has written for The New York Times, Boston Globe and Forbes.