Avoiding health hazards is a legal necessity. You are required to provide a safe and healthy work environment for all employees. You want to implement preventative measures that keep your janitorial team safe from illness or injury. From dust-related allergens to chemicals seeping into lungs, the health concerns of cleaning can be serious and costly.
This is your guide to keeping your workers safe and healthy when cleaning. These 9 measures will protect your employees from injury while defending your business against lawsuits and high healthcare costs.
Common Cleaning Hazards
The most common health hazards related to cleaning are:
Chemicals in cleaning products, which can cause skin reactions, allergies, asthma, and long-term damage
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Exposure to dangerous materials when handling trash, like sanitary items or incorrectly-disposed needles
Slips, trips, and falls
Strains and sprains
There are other safety concerns to consider in your commercial space as well. The tips below are specific to hazards while everyday cleaning. There are additional safety measures necessary for specific cleanings, like getting rid of mildew or when sealing and finishing floors.
Handling chemicals can be dangerous if not approached correctly. Follow these rules when dealing with chemicals:
Keep a complete list of chemicals in the facility including the amount, storage procedures, potential hazards, precautionary measures, and emergency information.
Keep all chemicals in their original bottles with the label still attached.
Store in well-ventilated areas to avoid a buildup of fumes.
Don’t store near HVAC vents, which can spread chemical fumes to other areas of the building.
Don’t store in direct sunlight or near heat sources.
Keep chemicals away from flames, sparks, and static electricity.
Never store chemicals above eye level. This can fall on someone and cause serious damage.
Never store chemicals with food products.
Always store chemicals in a safe area. Do not leave around the building.
Never mix chemicals, especially ammonia and bleach.
Use respirator masks, protective footwear, and rubber gloves.
Wear long pants and sleeves to avoid chemical contact with skin.
Close all chemical products tightly after use to avoid spills.
Pour chemicals from a low height to avoid splashing.
You should also ensure all staff is familiar with the chemical Material Safety Data Sheet of the chemicals you use. Looking at the MSDS should be the first step in any cleaning procedure. This document gives key information about the chemical product for safe handling to minimize health effects, including:
Chemical components in product
How to use product
How to store product
Potential health effects
3. Provide PPE to all employees.
You should have clean, regulation personal protective equipment (PPE) available for all employees. This includes:
Slip-resistant, closed-toe shoes
Long-sleeved shirts and long pants
You want to ensure that your workers actually use this equipment. Create a sign-out sheet of PPE so you can see who is using the equipment for which jobs. This ensures there is a level of accountability and responsibility for proper safety. You’ll also want to discuss the importance of safety equipment in trainings.
4. Always use ventilation.
When using any cleaning products, you want to use a fan to ventilate the area. This helps prevent inhalation of harmful fumes, and it dries the product quickly to avoid moisture-related damage.
Proper ventilation is also necessary when sanding or buffing floors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. You should also have adequate ventilation when cleaning mildew or mold to prevent inhalation of spores.
5. Prevent slips and trips.
Wet floors, uneven floors, ladders, broken tile, and other hazards can cause serious falls. Even one misstep can cause strains, breaks, and damage. Preventing slips is crucial to worker safety.
Place caution and warning signs around spills or damaged floors.
Clean up spills immediately.
Clean from the back of the room towards the door when washing, stripping, or waxing floors. This prevents walking on wet floors, which can cause slips.
Keep machine cords close to you or on shoulder to avoid tripping.
Empty backpack vacuum bags often to avoid lifting heavy machines.
When using a ladder to clean hard-to-reach places:
Put ladder on a stable, dry surface.
Check that the ladder is open and locked.
Ensure shoes are clean and dry.
Don’t stand on the top two rungs of ladder.
Have a second spotter nearby to hold the ladder.
Floor mats help protect workers and others from slippery floors. For example, if someone is cleaning a large bathroom, they can use floor mats as a “go-to” space where they can stand while waiting for one area of the floor to dry. Think of floor mats as cleaning “safe spaces.”
Learn more about the use of floor mats here.
6. Prevent electrical hazards.
Train your workers to spot and prevent electrical hazards instantly. Electrical shocks can be a serious and fatal concern.
Keep electrical machines away from water, including wet floors. This includes vacuums unless specified as a wet vacuum.
Dry hands before touching an outlet or machine.
Make sure equipment is in “power off” position before plugging into outlet.
Turn off power if you smell burning plastic or smoke, see sparks, or feel tingling. Report to a manager.
Disconnect from the outlet by pulling on the plug, not on the cord.
7. Clean often.
The better maintained the space, the safer it will be. Consistent cleanings can reduce health and safety concerns.
For example, dust can be a fire and asthma hazard. If you don’t dust a room for two months, it can accumulate and cause a hazard for the cleaner and overall building. If you clean the space weekly, there will be less dust that can cause a hazard or fly into someone’s lungs during cleaning.
8. Utilize training and safety sheets.
Ongoing training is crucial to ensuring compliance with health and safety. We recommend partnering with an online platform that provides safety and cleaning trainings. These offer videos that can teach workers how to clean with chemicals, lift heavy items, store equipment, prevent fire hazards, and more.
You should also create a sheet with industry and company safety rules. Sample regulations could include:
Always hold on to the railing with one hand when cleaning staircases.
Have a partner nearby when climbing ladders to clean hard-to-reach places.
Follow directions for all cleaning products and machines you use.
Do not mix different cleaners or products.
Don’t leave products or water unattended.
Do not operate electrical tools near buckets of water or wet areas.
Never carry a pile higher than your eye level.
Note: You should install safety signage and offer training in multiple languages. You want your workers to understand health and safety in their native language for full comprehension.
9. Have necessary tools on hand.
You always want to have safe cleaning products and machines available to your workers. The equipment you supply can encourage safety and health.
Not sure which products and equipment will keep your workers safe while cleaning your space?