Engaging in custodial work can be a hazardous job. The reason? Usage of cleaning chemicals. Chemical compounds in cleaning solutions can cause many health problems. Chemicals in cleaning products can cause skin rashes or irritations, or produce severe burns if splashed on the skin. Gases or vapors from cleansing chemicals can cause problems to the nose, eyes, lungs, and throat. You can also experience severe burning eyes, throat, coughing, or trouble breathing.
Chemicals in some cleaning products have been known to spark asthma attacks and other breathing problems. There are cleaning goods containing dangerous compounds that come into the body via the skin or breathing in fumes. At times mixing cleaning products that contain ammonia or bleach can cause lung damage or even death.
How to Provide Safe Working Conditions
When using hazardous cleaning chemicals, employers must follow several protocols for keeping workers safe:
- Warn workers not to mix cleaning products containing ammonia or bleach
- Ensure workers know which cleaning chemicals need to be diluted
- Train workers on how to dilute the cleaners correctly
- Train workers on storage and emergency spill procedures
- Review the protective equipment needed for using cleaning compounds
- Provide proper protective equipment like gloves and goggles
- Ensure all containers for cleaning products are labeled correctly and list the contents and hazards
- Use ventilation systems in cleaning areas to allow sufficient airflow
- Provide workers a place to clean and wash up after using cleaning compounds
Worker Training on Cleaning Chemicals
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard has been designed for training workers and keeping them informed about hazardous chemicals. Employees also need to know the protective measures, and this information needs to be communicated to those who work with cleaning compounds. Training must be provided before the employee starts to use the compounds. Training under the OSHA Hazard Communication standards include:
- Physical and health hazards of the cleaning compounds
- Proper handling, storage, and use of all cleaning chemicals. These rules include dilution procedure
- Proper procedures to follow if a spill occurs
- Training on personal protective equipment such as gloves, safety goggles, and respirators
- Training on how to understand hazard information, labels, and read Material Safety Data Sheets
- During training, ensure that those who handle dangerous chemicals know what chemicals cannot be mixed
- What chemicals should not be used in certain areas
- Washing hands after working with cleaning compounds. Training needs to be provided on what cleaning chemicals should not be used to wash hands, face, or eyes
Better Ways to Clean
There have been recent advances in safe cleaning products and cleaning equipment that minimizes the use of chemicals. Equipment to be considered includes:
- Walk-off mats inside and outside entryways
- Microfiber dusters and cloths
- High-filtration HEPA vacuums
- Walk-behind floor scrubbers
- Hand free mops
- Green cleaning systems
Many building managers use green cleaning chemicals, knowing that green cleaning products are safe for the environment and workers. Make sure, however, that a cleaning product labeled “green” is safe. Review all the cleaning chemicals purchased and understand the health and safety hazards of green cleaners. Make sure “green” chemicals say Certified Green Cleaners. Products with this certification will ensure these cleaning products meet specific criteria. You can visit the EPA webpage for guidance on green chemical products.
Following safety procedures will ensure you have a safe and clean environment and healthy workers. If you’re looking for more information about cleaning chemical safety, contact Business Hygiene of Central Texas to learn more about our business cleaning services.