When a member of your janitorial staff is injured, it presents a problem for the employee and you.
Not only will you incur increased costs from workers’ compensation claims, replacement labor, and insurance costs, but also the added costs from lower employee morale and productivity.
Custodians and janitors play a critical role in making sure your facility is clean, safe, and looking its best. The safety of your cleaning crew should also be a priority.
One common cause of injuries to janitorial staff is the result of improperly handling chemicals. Custodians in your facility likely work with a range of chemicals every day, potentially putting them at risk for chemical burns and other related injuries.
Accidents happen, but employers and employees can reduce the number of chemical injuries by following a few janitorial and chemical safety tips when they are on the job.
Reduced injuries will help keep your employees safe and your costs down.
In this article, we will go over how to ensure your staff is properly handling, using, and storing chemicals to reduce their risk of injury and lower the associated costs.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Employers need to provide the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent workers from exposing their skin to chemicals.
When using commercial cleaning supplies, PPE, such as goggles and gloves are critical to protecting your employees from splashes or spilled chemicals.
Employees should be trained on the proper usage of personal protective equipment.
Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
Safety data sheets provide guidelines for chemical usage.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers make safety data sheets available to all employees at all times.
Employers must keep SDS sheets:
- Clearly visible
- Easily accessible at all times (Readily available in a binder or accessible on a computer is acceptable.)
Understanding how to read and apply the information on a safety data sheet will allow employees to work more safely, helping to lower the risk of chemical injury.
SDSs provide information on how to protect yourself from potential adverse health effects, how to correctly handle the chemical, avoid possible dangers, properly dispose of the chemical, and more.
For more information on SDS sheets, check out our article: MSDS vs SDS Explained: Where to Find, How to Read, & What to Look For
Select A Safer Chemical
One way to avoid putting your employees at risk of chemical injury is by choosing less harsh chemicals, if possible. Sourcing cleaning chemicals that have lower volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or are third-party, green-certified can help prevent chemical-related injuries.
If a chemical cannot be replaced by a greener or more user-friendly alternative, chemicals that are ready-to-use or already diluted can reduce the amount of contact an employee will have with the chemical.
Pro Tip: Automated dispensers for cleaning chemicals are a great way to reduce employee contact with potentially harmful, concentrated chemicals.
How to Handle Toxic Chemicals
Employees should be trained on the most up-to-date and best practices for using commercial cleaning chemicals.
Commercial cleaning supplies are safe for use when used properly. When they are not used in the right dilution, application, or with the right tools and equipment they can pose a danger to the user.
Pro Tip: Imperial Dade provides several hands-on training courses, taught by CMI® certified trainers, for every member of your staff, including front-line workers, supervisors, and managers.
Educating workers on the proper ways to handle chemicals and limit their exposure will substantially reduce risks of chemical injury.
If you are not using ready-to-use or pre-diluted chemicals, you should stress the importance of proper dilution and application of chemicals.
Improperly diluted chemicals can cause harm to your employees and the building’s occupants. Too little of a chemical in the dilution will lead to reduced cleaning efficacy and increased spread of germs and illness. Directions for proper chemical dilution can be found on the chemical bottle or container.
It is important to ALWAYS follow manufacturers recommended dilution ratios.
Chemicals should never be mixed with other chemicals unless directed by the manufacturer. When mixed, some chemicals can have toxic reactions, like releasing dangerous vapors into the air.
Always apply cleaning chemicals in the appropriate amount and to the specified surface(s). Not all surfaces are tolerant of chemicals. For example, bleach-based cleaners can stain or erode metal surfaces.
Chemicals may have certain requirements for how and where they can be stored. Chemicals, which are not compatible with each other, should not be stored together. For example, ammonia and bleach should never be stored or used together.
Additionally, certain chemicals have temperature and ventilation requirements. Storing chemicals improperly will increase the risk of injury to your employees and the building’s occupants.
For information on how to properly store a certain chemical, check the label on the chemical bottle or container. If you cannot find the information on the product label, reference the product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS).
If the chemicals you are purchasing are not available in smaller, lighter container sizes, store the chemicals appropriately.
Avoid storing liquid chemicals and heavy containers on the top shelves to avoid them spilling on chemicals below.
Disposing of chemicals properly will reduce the chance of employee exposure to harmful chemicals.
Improperly disposing of chemicals can cause adverse health effects to workers and building occupants. For example, dumping chemicals down drains or in closed areas may release fumes causing illness.
For proper chemical disposal, employees should refer to the chemical bottle/container or the chemical’s safety data sheet.
When a custodian or janitor is injured you will experience increased costs from workers’ compensation claims and insurance rates. While your employee is injured or ill, you will also have to deal with finding and training a replacement employee or even being short-staffed.
Increased labor costs and insurance rates will negatively affect your bottom line.
Providing your employees with the necessary chemical safety tips, handling procedures, and training will allow you to reduce the risk of employee injury and increased costs.
Imperial Dade offers certified training to ensure your employees know how to appropriately handle commercial cleaning supplies and janitorial cleaning equipment.
If you’re located in the United States, Puerto Rico, or the Caribbean, visit our training page for more information on the courses we offer. You can also contact an Imperial Dade Specialist today to plan a custom training course for your facility’s cleaning staff.