Keeping places clean and hygienic inevitably involves the use of cleaning materials. In the home, our cleaning materials come straight off the supermarket shelves, and to an extent, we entrust our safety to the supermarket because we rarely read the instructions or safety advice on the surface cleaner spray or dishwasher tablets.
In the world of commercial cleaning and facilities management, there’s no place for anything less than a complete understanding of our cleaning materials, the risks they pose, and how they should be used, transported, stored and disposed of.
Most cleaning agents rely on acidic, alkaline or solvent bases, and these can be extremely hazardous, especially if they are stored as a concentrate. Mixing cleaning materials can result in violent reactions, excessive heat and can even generate poisonous gas, so in spite of any perception that the risks are small, the correct and safe use of cleaning agents is a serious safety matter that affects our workforce and our customers.
The Control of Substances Hazardous To Health guidelines, always abbreviated to COSHH guidelines, are vital, as they stipulate exactly which chemicals and preparations pose a health hazard, what the nature of that hazard is, how the hazard should be mitigated and the correct requirements for use, such as ventilation. The guidelines also describe how these substances should be used and stored, what personal protective equipment (PPE) is required, and how to deal with spillages and emergencies.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) are also an important part of our cleaning materials policies and procedures. These are supplied with the chemicals on delivery and can be obtained directly from wholesalers. These documents provide important details on the composition, concentration and hazards of every substance we use for cleaning. We keep these MSDSs on file, for reference by our staff and in case of emergencies, and we always supply them to our customers for their records when the materials are being stored on their property.
Although COSHH and MSDSs provide important safeguards against accidents and problems arising from the use of cleaning materials, the most important factor in preventing hazards and ensuring safety is staff training.
At Crystal Clean Service, all of our cleaners complete our in-house ‘Crystal Academy’ training course, learning about compliance with COSHH, understanding risk assessments, exposure control, health surveillance and incident planning.
In addition to Crystal Academy, our staff also complete our in-house chemical competence course that focuses on how to store and use the chemicals and cleaning agents they will be using at work on a daily basis.
You don’t need a chemistry degree to be a good cleaner, but understanding the safe use, storage and transfer of chemical cleaning agents is essential for the safety of everyone in the workplace.