I have a friend in the Netherlands who is a jack of all trades. He is in construction and does a lot of maintenance and repairs in buildings and homes. He once shared with me how he went about a painting job in the home of an old lady. First of all, he taped off all areas that should be left clear from the paint, like ridges, electricity sockets etc. Secondly, he made sure the floor was covered as well to avoid spilling of paint all over the place. After the job was done, he asked the lady where he could find the vacuum cleaner and other cleaning utensils. Less than half an hour later, the place looked spotless and he left the old women smiling gratefully. He finds it important the leave the workplace behind in the same condition or better than when he found it. It is part of the job and a way of showing respect for the client, who will not hesitate to recommend the service to others and call back for a next job. It is also making sure that the place is left safe for use again.
In contrast, a few years ago we had to treat our wooden parquet floor of our house in Addis Abeba. Workers came in the morning with a kind a large sanding machine and we left for work. Coming home in the evening, we were horrified by the mess we encountered. The whole house was covered in fine saw dust. We left and spent the night in a hotel. Fact of the matter was that the sanding machine should have had a cover and the workers never bothered about the mess they were creating, leave alone thinking about cleaning up.
In a similar way, roads are constructed and opened, while boulders, heaps of gravel, sand, open manholes, name it, are left behind and undone. Have a carpenter come over and you better doublecheck, else you will find yourself having punctured tyres from all the nails strewn all over the place.
We had a painter come over, giving our house a facelift. The walls were painted by the end of the day, surely, but so were the floor, the ceiling, the electricity sockets, the ridges, and the clothes and the face of the painter. The empty tins and brushes were left behind to somehow find their own way. In the same way, the metal worker, the bricklayer, the plumber, they all leave the place with a mess for you to clean up.
Not only is this carelessness irritating for the houseowner, it leaves the place exposed to all kinds of danger.
The other day we drove in the dark and almost hit into big stones, lying on the middle of the road. A very dangerous situation indeed. The stones were obviously left behind by a truckdriver who used them to block the wheels and preventing the truck from moving while attending to some brake down. After getting the truck moving again, the driver never bothered to remove the stones from the road.
It seems nobody cares. Or is it that workers and drivers are simply not aware? You see, not cleaning up after a job is done may result in injuries or worse.
So, what can be done? If you value health and safety, simply follow these general rules:
Cleaning up is everyone’s responsibility!
Clean up after yourself. Pick up trash and debris and dispose of it properly.
Keep your work area clean throughout the day, minimizing the time needed to clean a “larger mess” at the end of the day.
Dispose of combustibles and flammables properly. If improperly discarded, they will increase the potential for a fire.
Remove protruding nails and other sharp objects.
Stack materials and supplies in an orderly manner and secure them so they won’t fall over.
Now, assuming that ignorance is a main reason, why workers in general leave their mess behind, management will do well to institute a routine cleaning schedule and hold everyone in the workplace accountable for cleaning up. Walkways should be kept free of debris and storage items and workers should be trained in the proper disposal of combustible and flammable materials. For safety reasons, also provide non-skid strips or floor mats in slippery or wet areas and ensure that workers wear proper gear for their work.
Allow me though to take the issue of this ignorance a step closer to home. I can’t help but have the impression that many children in Ethiopia grow up, without learning to clean up after themselves. They get away with leaving a mess behind because somebody else in the house, often the house help, will clean up after them. Especially the boys are spoilt and grow up to become men, who are used to leave their mess behind in the bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen. Somebody will clean up, is what they know.
In conclusion, the most important concept to remember is that you are responsible for your own safety and the safety of others. Most safety practices are common sense. Unfortunately, they can be forgotten or overlooked unless you make safe practices a habit or an instinct.