When considering the safety of a workplace, it can be easy to forget that the most commonplace items can still constitute a risk to health. A prime example of this is cleaning products — used every day in the workplace with the aim to protect employees, these products are still chemicals and should be treated as such.
Basic storage recommendations
There are a few basic recommendations when it comes to storing cleaning products, which you can apply to the workplace as a foundation expectation.
Firstly, the storage area for your cleaning products should be cool and dry. It’s important that they aren’t stored anywhere that could heat up or cool down suddenly, due to proximity with running equipment for example.
It is also recommended that, unless stated by the instructions on the product, the original packaging be kept. For one, this should prevent any mix-up with other products, thereby reducing the risk of accidentally mixing two chemicals that should be kept apart: for example, a powerful drain cleaner such as one shot drain cleaner products should not be used if bleach or other chemicals have recently been used on the drain.
Cleaning with COSHH
Particularly if your workplace deals with chemicals as part of its sector, you’re likely to be familiar with COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health). COSHH also applies to cleaning products held in the workplace. The Health and Safety Executive points out example risks associated with cleaning products and the cleaning process, including:
- Skin allergies
- Eye damage
CLP hazard pictograms
As of 2015, the hazard pictograms on products have been updated from the old orange-and-black symbols to new red-and-white versions. The old “X” symbol for irritant has been replaced entirely. This is to make the pictograms more universal, as well as covering a few new areas. The pictograms you may now come across on cleaning chemicals are:
- Explosive, which uses an exploding bomb picture
- Flammable, which uses a flame picture
- Oxidising, which uses a flame over a circle in its picture
- Corrosive, which uses a vial pouring onto a hand and a surface in its picture
- Acute toxicity, which uses a skull and crossbones picture
- Hazardous to the environment, which uses a dead tree and dead fish in its picture
- Health hazard and/or hazardous to the ozone layer, which uses an exclamation mark picture
- Serious health hazard, which uses a picture of a person’s head and shoulders with a starburst from the centre of the picture
- Gas under pressure, which uses a gas cylinder picture
Though these symbols may feature on cleaning products, proper use and storage of these products will reduce the risks presented. Let’s look now at the correct practice for using cleaning products safely in the workplace.
Usage of cleaning products containing chemicals
Initial risk assessment and process-setting
The first step, as recommended by the European Cleaning Journal, is to outline and carry out a risk assessment. This assessment will help to identify specific cleaning products and processes that could have risk-reduction actions in place, as well as reviewing that current processes are being adhered to. Alongside this, you need to check that these processes are working; if not, they will need amending.
As previously mentioned, if the risk assessment brings to light any particular handling, storage, or usage requirements for a certain cleaning product or equipment, the next step needs to be putting a process in place. This process should be tailored to reduce any risk associated with the product.
Any cleaning products purchased for the workplace should come with instructions for their safe use, as well as a chemical safety data sheet where applicable. Be sure to follow these instructions given, as well as using the data sheet to help bolster your risk assessment.
Of course, a process is only useful if it is explained and communicated to the staff expected to follow it. Be sure to set aside time to train staff in any hazardous products with new processes in place and make space for safety posters in clear view.
It is important that your staff have as little contact with potentially harmful products as possible. Supplying adequate PPE for staff using chemical cleaning products can help with this.
Cleaning products can often be overlooked in terms of risk, but they are still chemical in nature. Be sure to keep your workplace safe with necessary procedures and protective equipment.