H&S Guidance for employers when using Industrial Chemicals
Step 1: Gather information about the substances, the work and working practices
- List all the hazardous substances used.
- Find out who could be exposed and how.
Step 2: Evaluate the risks to health
- Find out the chance of exposure occurring, how often exposure is likely to occur, what level of exposure could happen and for how long.
- Conclude what risk is posed by the existing and potential exposure.
Step 3: Decide what needs to be done
- Consider whether there is a need to use each substance in the first place. Stop using those that are not required.
- For each of the remaining substances and for any new cleaning substances you later consider, ask your supplier if this is the safest product available, or if there is a safer alternative, which you should use if it is available. Ask your supplier if you can purchase diluted products in smaller containers that will be easier to use.
- Consider where and how the substances are used or handled. Avoid pouring from and using bulk containers, as these can be heavy and hard to hold. Minimise handling, eg by using appropriate syphons, pumps etc, smaller containers and lidded containers when carrying solutions, especially if floors are wet or slippery.
- Keep substances in their original labelled containers where possible. If decanting, ensure that the decanting containers are made of a suitable material, are clean and clearly marked with the manufacturer’s instructions for use. The label should clearly identify the hazards of the substance. This will help prevent any confusion about the contents.
- Consider safe storage arrangements, which should be away from heat, sunlight, foodstuffs and members of public, especially children. Containers should all have lids and be clearly labelled. Cleaning and disinfecting substances should be securely stored. Always check manufacturers’ storage instructions, as some products may need to be stored separately from others. Have procedures in place to clear up spillages.
- Make sure all your employees are informed, trained, and supervised in using cleaning substances. It will not be enough just to issue safety data sheets; you must make sure your employees understand the hazards and the control measures needed to control any risks.
- Take into consideration any of your staff who do not have English as a first language. You must make sure that they clearly understand. Posters or graphics can help as reminders of how to carry out the job safely.
- Remember to consult employees and their safety representatives about health and safety issues, including using cleaning substances. They may have experienced problems or come up with solutions that you may not have considered.
- Make sure appropriate protective clothing is available when using the cleaning substance. This could include eye protection, various types of gloves, face masks and visors etc. Where mains tap water is not readily available for eye irrigation, at least a litre of sterile water or sterile normal saline (0.9%) in sealed disposable containers should be provided. Avoid latex gloves as they are known to cause reactions. Employees must be trained when and how to use and replace such protection.
- Have a procedure for employees to report adverse health effects such as skin or respiratory problems.
- Have a procedure for clearing spillages. Keep safety data sheets in a place known to staff in the event that they need to refer to them in case of a spillage or accident.
- Check first-aid arrangements. Staff should be trained in first-aid actions to take in the event of accidental contact with skin or eyes, and appropriate first-aid provision should be available, eg eyewash bottles.
Step 4: Record the significant findings of your assessment
If you have five or more employees you must record the significant findings of the assessment. If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down, but it is good practice to keep a record.
- For all substances used, record a description of their use, eg oven cleaner, and a description of the type of hazard they represent, eg irritant/corrosive/toxic etc (you will find this on the product safety data sheets or product labels). If you do not have this information, ask your supplier to provide it. Manufacturers and suppliers of hazardous substances are required by law to provide safety information on their products.
- Identify what jobs involve working with hazardous substances and who may be exposed.
- Record your control measures.
Step 5: Review your assessment
- Monitor and review your use of hazardous cleaning substances. Supervisors should observe that they are being used and stored correctly. Train new employees.
- Always follow carefully any instructions and training information given in using cleaning substances.
- Remember that your safety representative and you as an employee are entitled to be consulted by your employer about health and safety issues, including the use of cleaning substances.
- When handling substances, especially concentrates (if unavoidable), always wear the protective clothing provided. If there is any danger of splashing, wear eye protection suitable for splash risks, eg goggles or visors. If cleaning at eye level or above, wear eye protection.
- Check that rubber gloves are free from holes, tears or thin patches. If any of these faults are present, ask for replacements immediately. Tell your employer if you experience any irritation or allergy from gloves you have used.
- Never mix cleaning substances.
- When diluting, always add the concentrated liquid to water, not the water to the concentrate.
- If you accidentally splash cleaning substances onto your skin or eyes, always wash away with plenty of water. Seek medical advice if irritation persists and tell your employer.
- Avoid lifting and pouring from heavy or awkward bulk containers, minimise handling by using syphons, pumps etc.
- If you are dispensing powders, always use a scoop; never use your hand.
- Never transfer cleaning substances into food or drink containers where they can easily be mistaken for foodstuffs. Ensure spray bottles and other containers are clearly marked with their contents.
- If you use aerosols for cleaning, never spray them onto hot surfaces as this can produce harmful vapours. Never place aerosols on hot surfaces.
- Only use cleaning substances in well-ventilated areas. Sometimes an open window will be enough. If there is mechanical ventilation, make sure it is working. You may also need a suitable fume mask and goggles, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Always clean up any spills on floors or work surfaces immediately.
- Always store substances as manufacturers advise, for example away from heat, sunlight, foodstuffs and members of the public, especially children.
- Make sure substances are disposed of properly, as instructed by your employer following the information given in the safety data sheet.
- Let your supervisor or manager, and safety representative know immediately if you experience any adverse reactions to substances, for example headaches, nausea, skin complaints.
Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0
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