Are you doing enough to ensure the safe use of cleaning chemicals in your workplace? Did you know that it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that you have the correct procedures in place, to protect your employees from risks relating to the chemicals on your premises?

In this article you will find our advice about how to ensure that you are following the correct regulations and what to do in case of an incident.

  1. Ensure that chemicals are labelled correctly and provide relevant safety information, Safety Data Sheets. If you are purchasing products from the supermarket it is unlikely that the required safety information is supplied with the product. You should contact the manufacturer and obtain their safety sheets. We advise buying cleaning products from a commercial supplier; these products will have clear labelling and instructions to help you meet your legal requirements.
  2. The employee has a responsibility to wear PPE but you must ensure that you provide it. Each product could have a different requirement, gloves, goggles, breathing masks etc. Ensure that this equipment is supplied and in good order.
  3. Once you have the products in place do you know what you need to do in the case of an incident and do you have the appropriate first aid supplies in place to deal with it. If you have commercial cleaning products read the labels and the data sheets and be aware of what they recommend.
  4. Ensure staff are trained adequately and that COSHH risk assessments are in place and regularly audited.

This seems like a lot of work to go to when you just want to buy bleach, furniture polish and kitchen cleaner doesn’t it? It’s not usually top of the list when one of your team offers to clean the kitchen after a breakfast meeting either. Unfortunately, even these seemingly normal products can cause harm. If you work with a professional cleaning company, they will only use products that are tried, tested and trusted and they will have a full understanding of the risks and how to minimise them.

Here’s our top tips to handling chemicals

  1. Choose the correct products before starting, always ask for advice if you are not sure.
  2. Do not mix chemicals, mixing even household products can produce toxic gases that can have fatal results
  3. If there is a red diamond on the label – This is a hazardous product, read the label very carefully before use
  4. Avoid contact with skin and eyes, this may sound obvious but even small splashes can cause irritants
  5. Ensure your PPE is available and in good condition
  6. Do not leave cleaning products out – keep them locked away

What to do if you get cleaning chemicals get on your skin

In most instances it is recommend that you rinse the affected area with cold, clean water. Some products are non-irritants and others can be highly corrosive and cause burns. This is guidance from the NHS when dealing with chemical spills:-

  • Remove any contaminated clothing as carefully as possible without spreading the product further onto your skin. If necessary, cut the material away.
  • If the product is listed as highly corrosive call 111 immediately
  • Take off all jewellery
  • Rinse the area continuously with clean water and ensure the water is able to run away from the skin
  • Do not rub the area, this could further aggravate the skin
  • If the area affected continues to show an allergic reaction call the NHS 111 service to seek advice

There are some products that can pose greater risks than other. We would advise to avoid purchasing any of the following:-

  • Products that contain chlorine or ammonia. These products can cause respiratory and skin irritation.
  • Bathroom and kitchen cleaners containing sodium hydroxide, bleach or phosphoric acid will cause breathing problems and can burn your eyes and skin
  • Corrosive cleaners containing sodium hydroxide used for drains, oven and toilets. Leave these products to the professionals these acid-based products can cause severe reactions and the results of the exposure can be ongoing.

When used correctly cleaning products are very effective at keeping your workplace clean and hygienic but if misused they can cause severe problems. If you would like any further support or advise, get in touch with our team