Cleaning Chemical Safety Guidelines for Safe Use and Handling
Updated: May 4
Every occupational hygienist can tell you how incredibly important it is to ensure your workplace is kept clean and hygienic. Keeping people safe is their highest priority.
It should be yours too.
Any of the chemicals you use as a cleaning business can cause harm to your cleaners. Even if you bought the 'green' version it doesn't automatically make it safe for them to come into contact with it.
It's very likely that the green version contains only a slightly smaller amount of hazardous substances than the standard counterparts.
Which leads nicely into my first guideline for cleaning chemical safe use and handling.
Know what products you're using
Be sure to research any new product before purchasing it. Learn the hazards the chemical ingredients in the product present in themselves, and whether you're able to adequately control the risk to your cleaners if you were to use the product.
Know that you are using the right cleaning chemical
If you are in any doubt that a chemical is the right one for the job your contracted for, do not use it. Always ensure you know what chemicals you are buying, and that your cleaners are using the right solution for their work.
Ensure your cleaners know all of the 'signal' words
If your cleaners know the signal words and understand what they mean, they're able to quickly and easily understand the general risk of using a cleaning chemical.
Danger: the product is, or contains, a highly toxic substance(s) and is likely to cause severe damage to human health.
Warning: the product is somewhat toxic and is likely to cause some damage to human health.
Always use safety signs
As a cleaning company, all of your chemicals are likely to present slip and trip hazards. Some cleaning chemicals also release fumes which may cause respiratory irritation. It's important to always place signs while the area is still wet so everyone understands the risk of entering.
Remove and restrict the use of any product that is missing it's label
If you come across products that have no label, or the label is missing important information, do not allow your cleaners to use it.
Every dangerous chemical needs to be clearly labelled with certain hazard information that is vital knowledge they need to know.
Test any chemicals inside unlabelled containers to make sure it is what you think it is, and then attach the proper label.
Never forget respect
You know your cleaning chemicals have danger associated with them. They're likely all hazardous to human health in one form or another, even if they're labelled otherwise.
Treat every chemical you come into contact with, with the utmost respect, and ensure your cleaning staff do the same.
Have them study the labels, go through the relevant training, and consult the safety data sheets regularly.
Never mix your cleaning chemicals
Even seemingly innocuous chemicals can become extremely dangerous if they're mixed with another, incompatible substance.
Many will go through rapid or explosive reactions, often generating toxic fumes or fire.
Ensure your containers are kept clean when not in use to avoid accidental mixing. And always, always read the safety data sheets!
Understand how you and your cleaning staff are at risk
Chemicals and other hazardous substances can enter your body in the following ways:
Absorption; either through the skin or the eyes;
ingestion; through the mouth into the stomach;
and inhalation; through the mouth and nose into the lungs.
Ensure you and your cleaners know which chemicals can enter your body which way and wear the right protection for the job.
Personal protective equipment is your last line of defence against substances hazardous to health, and the law obligates you all to wear it.
Follow tested dilution procedures
Always follow the manufacturers directions when diluting your cleaning chemicals, unless your company has a variation on an approved dilution standard.
Ensure you, and your senior cleaners, have been through the relevant training, including dispenser training, and read the safety data sheets.
Measure everything out carefully and do not overuse concentrates. Cleaning chemical dilution points are generally the correct amount for the job.
Follow safe storage procedures
Never stack chemicals too high and store them in cool, well-ventilated areas away from sunlight and out of the reach of anyone who is not trained and authorised to use them.
Ensure each storage area is clearly labelled and protected with appropriate controls.
Ensure ample emergency stations are available
Working with chemicals and other hazardous substances has its risk, and accidents happen.
Ensure your workplace has enough emergency wash stations, first aid kits, and fire extinguishers to deal with an incident, if possible, immediately after it happens.
Training, training, training
Ensure you, and your senior cleaners are trained to deal with dangerous chemicals on any level.
Ensure your general cleaners are trained to at least a basic understanding of COSHH and the regulations that protect them.
Ensure everyone understands that they are bound by law to uphold chemical safety regulations. Have them take the COSHH Risk Assessor Certification™.