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Safety Training with Chemicals!

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ChemicalsEvery cleaning company owner understands the importance of choosing the correct chemicals for the particular building that is to be cleaned. But when choosing the chemicals for the particular building that we are going to be cleaning we  have to consider the health and well-being of our workers as well as the building occupants. Cleaning chemicals  are generally less toxic and harmful than they to be but this is not to say that they are still not harmful. I remember the days when we used to clean the toilets with almost pure chlorine. We used to think that the smell of bleach or chlorine would alert our customers to the fact that their toilets  were squeaky clean. Little did we know that after we left each night our customers staff and their clients were getting skin irritations and could hardly see due to the blinding fumes that we had left behind.

Back in those days most of our training was working with another experienced cleaning tech who would show us what to do. Dip our rags into a bucket of bleach and water and wash down the bowls and sinks with no PPE or respirators to be seen.

Chemical safety is much more than how it directly affects our front-line workers and our customers but also how we store them how we apply them to the surface we are cleaning how we mix them with water to the correct ratios all of these factors are now commonplace when training new cleaning staff.

Chemicals need to be stored correctly and proper training given to staff. Just placing chemicals within the cleaning room without proper arrangement is no longer acceptable. Chemicals have the potential to leak, create fumes and be a potential fire hazard.

Cleaning companies need to be diligent in their approach about training and enforcing the correct use, storage and mixing of chemicals this can be the difference between a law suit or a large workers compensation insurance claim.

Training, retraining and training again needs to become an integral part of building service contractors orientation or induction into their businesses for all new workers and enforcement through inspections to ensure not only the safety of our staff but also our clients their staff and strict standards need to be adhered to at all times.

From the first contact with a new worker BSC’s need to be actively promoting the safety message and educating their staff about the correct usage of chemicals and  personal protective equipment (PPE).

It is simply not enough anymore to show a new worker a cleaning room without going through proper training and explanation of what potential hazards are within their workplace including the chemicals they are to be working with. Cleaning staff need to have good written, reading and oral communications skills to effectively do their job properly in this day and age. The reading of MSDS’s and chemical labels to determine what can be harmful or hazardous to their health and the health of others need to be properly understood therefore an effective and efficient training program is essential along with a tests  and quizzes  to properly identify that the staff member understands and comprehends  all aspects of chemical use.

MSDSMaterial Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) describe the following for all chemicals

  • The identity of the chemical
  • Chemical and physical properties
  • Health and environmental hazard  information
  • Uses
  • Precautions to use
  • Safe handling procedures
  • Safe disposal procedures

MSDS’s should be the

  • Readily accessible by workers
  • Recorded on a central register with a copy of each MSDS
  • A copy of that document be kept close as possible to where the chemical will be used
  • Clearly written in plain language and understandable
  • Updated and current

An efficient training program can identify gaps within the new staff members education and/or ability to understand written comprehension this also helps the building service contractor to offer new benefits to the staff member by the way of helping them achieve more job skills.

Safety handbooks with a well thought out safe operating procedure( SOP) for every task to be carried out by the cleaning technician is a must for every janitors closet.

This serves as a reference and the guide for every staff member and it should detail every aspect they might encounter with any of their tasks, it should explain in detail and in step-by-step how to do a particular task and any potential hazards that they might encounter.

The safety handbooks should be included in every site that the company services. It also is a good reference for the clients if the unthinkable  should happen and a chemical incident occurs whilst the cleaning technicians are not on-site. It will serve as a reference point to satisfy if correct procedures were followed and/or if any first aid needs to be carried out some of the procedure’s for this also.

Correct chemical labelling is essential for chemical safety as it ensures that the chemicals are being used correctly and for their intended purpose. This is important as it guarantees that we are choosing the correct product for the correct surface to achieve the correct result without any damage to that particular surface. It also guarantees that we as cleaners are not endangering or harming the building occupants by leaving chemical residue behind that shouldn’t be used or be harmful to the building occupants. Labels for  the diluted bottles should be imprinted in the manufacturing process there by eliminating the bottle not being correctly labelled.

The old stick on labels fall off and get damaged in time when spills and drips from the bottle rundown onto the chemical label itself.  Printed labels within the plastic of the bottle are the best way to ensure that the diluted bottles are always correctly labelled. Most manufacturers these days are moving towards this practice.

Chemical labelling is also helps the building occupants in identifying which chemicals are being used in their building if they should ever need to know. Training employees in the correct use of chemicals and procedures for  handling chemicals should be the very first training program adopted by the BSC’s.

Hazardous chemicals have the potential to cause serious injuries. Spills can lead to serious bodily injuries and even explosions were coming into contact with an ignition source. People working with hazardous chemicals must be trained in their use.  Spills  must be cleaned immediately. Splashes on the body must be rinsed immediately especially  if it is in the eye area. Care must be taken to prevent injury from contact with spill substances during the clean-up process.

Hazardous chemical training includes:

  • Risk management-assess, control, and monitor hazardous chemical use
  • MSDS-what are they, their location and information they provide
  • Label information- learning how to read labels
  • Decanting- the proper procedures for decanting and diluting chemicals
  • Storage of chemicals-the correct procedure to store chemicals
  • Personal protective equipment-how to fit use and store PPE
  • Forms and record-keeping-how to correctly read and fill out forms
  • Emergency procedures-how to clean up the spill, incident reporting
  • Safe disposal of hazardous chemicals

A Chemical register should be completed with which chemicals are generally used on the particular site. If new chemicals are to be introduced they must also be added to the chemical register.

If a new chemical is required for use the following procedures should be undertaken:

  • An MSDS for the chemical should be obtained from the supplier or manufacturer
  • A complete risk assessment should be completed outlining the potential hazards for the new chemical
  • A “Trial of a new chemical” form should be completed and handed to all employees

The Trial of a New Chemical Form should ask the following questions to determine if the implementation of the chemical proceed:

  • Who will use the chemical
  • How will the chemical be applied
  • How often will it be used
  • What personal protective equipment is required for its use
  • Do we need protective eyewear
  • Do we need protective gloves
  • Do we need respiratory protection
  • Do we need other protective clothing
  • Will employees require specific training and supervision
  • A safe work Method statement and safe operating procedure will need to be designed and implemented

As you can see there are many elements to effective chemical safety training. There are countless ways to perform this cleaning training but one of the most efficient ways is to use a specialist online training provider. Research has shown that effective retention rates have been achieved when learners have the ability to learn at their own pace in comfortable surroundings. Online cleaning training is a new and exciting way to deliver chemical safety training. As part of a series of posts I will be highlighting other forms of training that all building service contractors should be implementing as part of their induction process and orientation into their own company.

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