Whether you're a member of the front line workforce, returning to work, or working from home, cleaning chemical safety is mandatory for ensuring occupant safety, especially amongst all the confusion stemming from the COVID-19 emergency.
Chemical Safety Precautions at Work and in the Home
Ensuring occupant wellness and safety via facility and surface hygiene is more important and relevant than ever.
The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, while devastating on multiple levels, underscored a critical gap in our society--a focus on personal and facility hygiene for the purposes of protecting ourselves and others from the consequences of encountering potentially deadly bacteria and pathogens.
To combat this, many individuals attempted to step up the level of sanitation in their homes and businesses.
Unfortunately, this resulted in many preventable deaths and illnesses due to incorrect chemical handling and application.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO);
Poisoning is a significant global public health problem.
According to WHO data, in 2012 an estimated 193,460 people died worldwide from unintentional poisoning.
Of these deaths, 84% occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
In the same year, unintentional poisoning caused the loss of over 10.7 million years of healthy life (disability-adjusted life years, DALYs).
Chemical Safety in the Workplace
Commercial cleaning and disinfection products are often hazardous, corrosive, sometimes flammable, and occasionally explosive.
Incorrect handling often leads to unintentional contact resulting in accidental poisoning.
To prevent this, as a general precaution, always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for the facility, environment, and type of chemical product being used.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA);
Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as "PPE", is equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses.
Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests, and full bodysuits.
All personal protective equipment should be safely designed and constructed and should be maintained in a clean and reliable fashion. It should fit comfortably, encouraging worker use.
[...] employers must provide personal protective equipment to their workers and ensure its proper use.
Additional safety tips include:
- Ensure proper ventilation - Even when used correctly, commercial cleaning products emit volatile organic compounds and other toxic fumes that can result in a host of short and long-term health issues, including death.
- Standardized operating procedures - Creating and documenting standards for chemical purchasing, handling, storage, use, and disposal will help prevent costly waste and dangerous exposure.
- Training - All employed facility occupants should be trained in emergency response and evacuation procedures in the event of a toxic spill or the accidental mixture of poisonous chemicals resulting in a chemical cloud, e.g., bleach and ammonia. All custodial workers must be trained in safe handling, use, and disposal methods, in addition to emergency response procedures.
- Monitor air quality - Carbon monoxide, smoke, and other monitoring systems should be installed throughout the facility, especially where cleaning products are stored.
- Storage - As mentioned, some commercial cleaning products are highly volatile and must be stored at appropriate temperatures in manufacturer-approved containers. Additionally, all products should be clearly labeled and kept with safety data sheets nearby.
- Inspection - Facilities should be inspected routinely for potential hazards, and equipment should be checked for excessive wear resulting in reduced efficacy, potential safety issues, and an increased likelihood of contributing to cross-contamination.
Preventing Accidental Cleaning Chemical Mixtures
One of the most common methods of accidental poisoning stems from the mixture of dissimilar cleaning compounds, which can result in a toxic gas cloud--quickly, and with devastating outcomes.
The most common, incorrectly mixed cleaning products are:
- Bleach and ammonia.
- Vinegar and bleach.
- Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar.
- Rubbing alcohol and bleach.
- Any two different types of drain cleaner.
- Toilet bowl cleaners and bleach.
- Lysol and bleach, and;
- Baking soda and vinegar.
References & Resources
- 17 Tips for Chemical Safety
- The household cleaners that you should never mix at the risk of creating toxic gasses
Enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures to protect occupant wellness are long-overdue on a large scale in U.S. schools and businesses.
However, even 'safe' cleaning chemicals can be hazardous if mixed with other products or when used or stored incorrectly.
Proper protective equipment and ongoing training are necessary to protect operators and occupants from potential hazards, even death.
Outsourcing your facilities' cleaning and infection prevention and control measures to an experienced service provider is a proven method for ensuring the highest standards of cleanliness and safety are adhered to.
Contact us today and discover why Vanguard Cleaning Systems® is the Standard of Clean® for businesses throughout Northwest Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma, dial 918-960-4450
In Arkansas, dial 479-717-2410
In Missouri, dial 417-812-9777