'Housekeeping' in fire safety terms, describes practices used to avoid the dangerous build up of combustible materials in or about the premises. The term also describes the accessibility of fire exits and installed fire fighting equipment which have the potential to be obstructed by stored goods (combustible or otherwise). Piles of empty pallets, combustible off cuts, wood shavings, wrapping materials, cardboard boxes, piles of redundant paper or files, or exits blocked by stored or discarded materials is ‘poor housekeeping’. Poor housekeeping often reflects poor management procedures.

Good housekeeping practices, both indoors and outdoors, reduce the likelihood of ignition and the impact of fire by controlling the presence of fuels, obstructions and sources of ignition.

Many fires in the workplace can be prevented through effective housekeeping practices. Constant attention to housekeeping and removal of unnecessary combustibles assists greatly in lowering the inherent fire hazard.

Some good housekeeping (hazard reduction) tips to reduce the likelihood and impact of fire, and to help occupants to quickly escape and the fire service to reach the fire include:

  • Stop waste materials accumulating in the workplace.
  • Store trash and other waste in covered metal containers.
  • Position combustible material and rubbish containers well clear of buildings**.
  • Secure metal lids to rubbish containers at all times when not in use**.
  • Establish a suitable routine for the regular removal of rubbish and all unnecessary combustible material from the premises.
  • Keep walkways and paths to emergency exits clear at all times.
  • Properly store equipment after use.

**Many buildings have been destroyed by fires which have originated in unsecured waste containers positioned too close to the building.

These practices are relatively inexpensive and uncomplicated. Well trained staff are the key to safe housekeeping methods and all employees can make significant contributions to fire safety where housekeeping is involved.

Refer to South Australian Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012

For further discussion or advice on this matter, please contact the Community Safety and Resilience Department.

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