Skip to main content

4.4 Housekeeping

Housekeeping refers to the general condition and appearance of a laboratory and includes:

  • Keeping all areas of the lab free of clutter, trash, extraneous equipment, and unused chemical containers. Areas within the lab that should be addressed include benches, hoods, refrigerators, cabinets, chemical storage cabinets, sinks, trash cans, etc.
  • Keep all containers of chemicals closed when not in use.
  • Cleaning up all chemicals spills immediately, regardless if the chemical is hazardous or not. When cleaning up a chemical spill, look for any splashes that may have resulted on nearby equipment, cabinets, doors, and counter tops. For more information on cleaning up spills, see the Chemical Spill Procedures section.
  • Keeping areas around emergency equipment and devices clean and free of clutter. This includes items such as eyewash/emergency showers, electric power panels, fire extinguishers, and spill cleanup supplies.
  • Keeping a minimum of three feet of clearance (as required by fire codes) between benches and equipment. Exits must be clear of obstacles and tripping hazards such as bottles, boxes, equipment, electric cords, etc. Combustible materials may not be stored in exits (including corridors and stairways), exit enclosures, boiler rooms, mechanical rooms, or electrical equipment rooms.
  • When storing items overhead, keep heavier and bulkier items closer to the floor. New York State (NYS) Building Code prohibits the storage of combustible material (such as paper, boxes, plastics, etc.) within 24" of the ceiling in unsprinklered rooms. In sprinklered rooms, All storage, including both combustible and non-combustible materials, must be kept at least 18” below the level of the sprinkler head deflectors to ensure that fire sprinkler coverage is not impeded.
  • Always use a stepladder when reaching for overhead items, do not stand on chairs or countertops. If you do not have a stepladder available, then contact your Building Coordinator.

In summary, good housekeeping has obvious health and safety benefits and can have a positive mental effect on laboratory personnel who work in a clean environment, which can lead to increased productivity. Also keep in mind that during an inspection by a state or federal regulatory agency, the general condition of the laboratory observed in the first few minutes of the inspection (the housekeeping of the lab) can have a significant impact (positive or negative) on the rest of the inspection process.

It is the responsibility of Principal Investigators and laboratory supervisors to ensure laboratories under their supervision are maintained in a clean and orderly manner and personnel working in the lab practice good housekeeping.