With COVID-19 still on the forefront, many businesses continue to search for the best methods of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting in order to keep their doors open to customers and employees. As more chemical cleaning products are used, it continues to be important to train employees on chemical safety and potential hazards involved with their use.
Disinfectant use is soaring across the country, but many businesses have not provided training for employees to safely use these chemicals. Disinfectants can react with incompatible chemicals and even possibly cause health problems for employees. It is important to properly train employees to avoid creating additional safety risks. Proper training should meet or exceed current OSHA guidelines for using cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants.
Identifying health hazards and implementing training and resources for employees is a big responsibility. As you train current employees or new hires, it is easier to stay compliant by not placing all the burden on one individual. The use of HAZCOM safety training kits, safety data sheets informational posters, and signage can ease the process while training multiple employees with just one kit.
Training kits come in a variety of formats including instant digital download in English or Spanish and via online training module, also in English or Spanish. This is helpful due to ever-changing regulations surrounding maintaining a safe work environment during this time.
Once your employees have the proper training, it is important to keep the information readily available. Your workplace will also need Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for easy access to the information. These should be stored in an SDS binder in a Right-to-Know center. Right-to-Know centers are used to store all your chemical sheets in one location with easy access to all employees.
Proper Methods for Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting
While cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting sound like they are all synonyms for one another, they are different terms that serve different purposes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines these things as the following: Cleaning simply removes dirt, in general these products are less hazardous. Sanitizers work to remove specific microorganisms like bacteria and viruses. Disinfectants then destroy or inactivate microorganisms that cause these infections.
It is important to keep these purposes in mind to properly complete each of these tasks. For example, just cleaning in a hospital wouldn’t do much good to eliminate the spread of diseases which makes disinfectants critical for the control of infectious diseases in hospitals and healthcare settings.
Different environments require different methods for cleaning and disinfecting depending on public health codes. Some codes may require the use of all these methods. For instance, some restaurants will require toilets and food preparation areas be cleaned and sanitized.
While cleaning doesn’t disinfect, this is a step that cannot be skipped. Cleaning should still be utilized by all businesses, especially frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, light switches and tables. To practice proper cleaning, simply clean all surfaces with soap and water. This reduces the number of germs, dirt and contaminations on the surface. This should be done before disinfecting to make it more effective.
While cleaning does eliminate some of the germs and infections, it does not remove enough to be solely used. It must be accompanied by proper disinfection. Disinfectants can be more dangerous, especially if you fail to follow the directions on the label of the particular cleaning supplies you are using. You should also be mindful of protecting your skin and eyes from any potential splashes, ensure adequate ventilation in the area you are using it, and label the products.
Using Different Methods for Different Materials and Areas
Just like the difference between cleaning and disinfecting, there are also big differences in the methods for different materials. This is especially important in businesses like hotels, nursing homes, restaurants, banks and a variety of other institutions where there is heavy foot traffic and a variety of things to clean. Everything from the sheets on beds to cloth napkins on the tables to flooring and devices. Each of these items needs to be cleaned and disinfected according to their specific directions in order for it to be sanitized effectively. This includes;
- Laundry: Do not shake out any infected linens, towels or sheets. Simply place them in washing machine on the warmest setting. Then disinfect any hampers or baskets they may have come in contact with.
- Soft surfaces: Rugs, carpets, drapes and other fabric materials can be cleaned with soap and water or laundered according to the manufacturer’s instructions and then be disinfected with an EPA-registered disinfectant.
- Electronic devices: Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to clean and disinfect any tablet, touch screen, keyboard or any other electronic device. Or simply use 70% alcohol-based wipes or spray.
Before cleaning any of these potentially infected items, be sure to put on the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). This should include a mask and gloves so that you remain safe from infection and chemical hazards.
Safety Precautions to Take While Cleaning
While cleaning seems like a harmless task, there are many potential health problems that can be caused by cleaning chemicals when they are not properly used. This can include irritation of the skin and eyes, trouble breathing that can trigger asthma attacks and in extreme cases, even severe lung damage and death.
To avoid this, employees should be mindful of the ingredients of the cleaning products, how to properly store the product, ventilating the area the product is being used to clean, and avoiding any splashes or mists so not to come into contact with skin.
One of the best ways to initiate safer cleaning is by choosing safer cleaning chemicals and training on how to use them safely. Hazcom Safety Data Sheets are an important tool for learning which chemicals are the safest. These inform employees on the chemical ingredients, potential health problems, and recommended procedures for spills or exposure.
Right-to-Know centers help facilities comply with federal, state and municipal regulations by addressing the education and training requirements on chemical hazards. The centers allow employers to provide easy access to important SDS chemical sheets to help meet OSHA’s Right-to-Know standards.
Employers must also provide worker training on the health and safety hazards that come with using chemical products. This training should be completed by each employee before they ever interact with any chemicals in order to ensure that they understand all of the standards on the proper handling, use, storage, and proper procedures for using chemicals and the required PPE.
All employees should also have a clear understanding they are expected to use cleaning chemicals only for their intended use, never mix them together and always wash their hands while working with the products.
In addition to the basics of the use of PPE, your employees need to be trained on how to properly put their PPE on and take it off. Safe removal and cleaning of the PPE can be the difference between remaining healthy and catching an infectious disease.
Detailed training is necessary for employers to maintain a healthy work environment. If employees miss one lesson in their training, it can put the health of all your employees and customers at risk. To minimize this risk, National Safety Compliance offers a variety of training kits to simplify the process for you.
Employers are required to provide training to their employees at a level and in a language they understand. For this reason, National Safety Compliance offers products that are bilingual and written concisely so all of your employees will be able to easily comprehend and understand the training. To best serve you and your business, all of National Safety Compliance’s Hazard Communication Training Kits are available on DVD, USB, via Instant Digital Access, or Online Training Module. COVID-19 Safety Training Posters, Safety Data Sheet Binders and Right-to-Know centers can also be found here in the OSHA Safety Training store.