Employers advised to protect workers from risks of cleaning products
This tip is included in a new guidance aimed at protecting workers from the dangers of cleaning products.
Building maintenance workers, janitors, and housekeepers are among the employees at risk of injury from cleaning chemicals. The dangers they face may include skin rashes and burns, coughing and asthma, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.
"Mixing cleaning products that contain bleach and ammonia can cause severe lung damage or death," the info sheet warns. "Never mix different cleaning chemicals together. Dangerous gases can be released."
The info sheet, issued by OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, says employers must be informed about the products they are using and make sure employees are properly trained.
"Cleaners, sanitizers and disinfectants serve different purposes and it is important to choose the least hazardous cleaning chemical that will accomplish the task at hand," the guidance states. "Before purchasing cleaning products, determine whether or not sanitizing or disinfecting is necessary. If sanitizing or disinfecting is not required, then choose a cleaner," which is generally less hazardous.
To determine whether a product is safe -- including green products -- employers should review the cleaning chemicals they purchase. Material Safety Data Sheets are one way employers can learn about cleaning chemicals. MSDS, which employers must obtain and maintain for all hazardous cleaning products and chemicals they use, include information such as:
- Hazardous chemical ingredients.
- Symptoms and health problems that may be caused by the chemical ingredients.
- First-aid measures for workers who are exposed.
- Recommended personal protective equipment such as gloves, safety goggles, or respirators.
- Proper procedures for cleaning up spills.
Both OSHA and NIOSH have a variety of information resources on their websites.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 30, 2012
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