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6 Easy Ways to Prevent Accidents from Cleaning Chemicals

After last week’s incident at a Buffalo Wild Wings when a young manager died following exposure to toxic fumes from a floor cleaner, we’ve received several calls and emails from organizations looking to prevent a similar situation from happening in their own businesses. 

Updates from the original story show that the manager died and at least 13 other individuals in the restaurant became sick after two cleaning products — Super 8 and Scale Kleen — were “accidentally” mixed.

As most cleaning professionals know, mixing bleaches and acids is a no-no, as bleach contains sodium hypochlorite, it can create a dangerous—and sometimes fatal — chlorine gas. 

In this incident, Scale Kleen, an acid based solution, was applied to the floor. Later, Super 8 was applied to the floor which mixed with the Scale Clean creating a reaction that “turned green and started to bubble,” the local fire chief told NBC. The resulting fumes killed the manager who tried to squeegee the substance from the floor and sickened others in the vicinity.

While some have called for less “dangerous” chemicals to be used in commercial settings, we need to do a better job of training the people who use cleaning chemicals. Why? Because incidents like this can happen with household cleaning products. Even the most basic things can cause issues. Bleach (sodium hypochlorite), Ammonia (glass cleaner) and Peroxide (used as an alternative to a disinfectant) can cause reactions that damage surfaces —or even worse—death.

One of the most common OSHA violations is the lack of worker training and understanding on common SDS symbols.

Here are six easy ways to minimize chemical accidents such as these:

  1. Never mix chemicals. Need we say more? 
  2. Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when using any hazardous substances. This includes gloves, goggles, boots, face shields, aprons and any other material that can protect the user’s hands, eyes, face and skin from contact with the chemical. The PPE should be made of material specifically designed to resist penetration by the particular chemical being used.
  3. Read the Safety Data Sheet (SDS). In addition to listing the name, toxicity and hazard, the SDS also provides critical information about the chemical’s composition and physical characteristics. OSHA requires this information be available for employees to read and understand. 
  4. Follow instructions. Manufacturers include specific instructions for use of cleaning chemicals, which includes dilution ratios and where the product can safely be used. Read and take the time to understand these instructions before using any cleaning product.
  5. Use ventilation. The ongoing circulation of fresh air is critical in keeping concentration diluted and within safe usage levels. 
  6. Conduct ongoing training. Training—and the documentation of training—is critical when it comes to making sure workers safely handle cleaning chemicals. From online to classroom style training, there are a variety of resources to educate workers on how to properly handle cleaning chemicals.

When Benjamin Franklin made the famous statement, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” in 1736, he was encouraging the citizens of Philadelphia to be vigilant about fire awareness and prevention. 

He encouraged the formation of a brigade specially trained to fight fires, which led to the formation of the Union Fire Company later that year. He also urged that chimney sweeps should be licensed by the city and be responsible for their work. 

Thanks to his advocacy, Philadelphia became one of the city’s safest from fire damage. 

It is our hope that even today—almost 300 years later—we can look to the wisdom offered in Franklin’s axiom to prevent future chemical accidents from occurring, improving the safety of everyone who handles cleaning chemicals. Taking steps now to prevent an accident from occurring could quite possibly save a life.

Spring Cleaning Your Custodial Closets: A Checklist

The Spring Equinox starts in just a few hours and depending on where you live, the daffodils might be starting to show off their pretty yellow heads. It’s been a pretty nasty winter around the country, so for many, the flowers and other signs of spring are a welcome sight!

In addition to adding a bit of color to our lives, the Vernal Equinox also marks the start of spring cleaning activities around the world. From homes to offices, people eagerly purge their homes of dirt and clutter that’s no longer of use (we’re looking at you, floppy discs!).

Where did the ritual of spring cleaning start? There’s no clear answer on this. Some say it dates back to the Jewish practice of thoroughly cleaning the home in advance of Passover. Others say that it traces back to the Persian New Year, or Nowruz (pronounced “no-rooz”), where Iranians clean everything from drapes to furniture before kicking off a 13-day celebration of dinners, family visits and reflections for the year ahead (sign us up!). 

For cleaning professionals, spring cleaning offers an opportunity to reset. We talked a little while ago about how the (OS1) System can help a professional cleaning operation “tidy up,” and Ben will be presenting next week at the Clean Buildings Expo on “How and Why Remediating Your Cleaning Program Works”, but even just a few simple steps can help you spring clean your department to make it safer and more productive. One of these steps is focusing on custodial closets.

Cleaning out the Closets

Aside from the challenges everyone talks about — labor, pressure to do more with less, etc. — storage for all the “stuff” associated with cleaning is a big issue for many people responsible for managing custodial operations. Cleaning workers should have storage areas on every floor, and possibly more depending on the footprint of the building. 

Safe chemical handling starts with safe chemical storage. Here are a few things you can do to “spring clean” your chemical storage areas.

But as we continue exploring dangers associated with poor chemical handling processes, where we store cleaning chemicals should be an important area of focus. This includes cleaning out these areas. 

Secured storage is critical, in order to limit access to building occupants and others who lack the knowledge and training to properly to handle chemicals. Held in one central bulk storage area, the chemicals should be kept clean, neat and sorted by hazard classification (e.g. don’t store flammable chemicals with oxidizers). 

A few good things to items to add to your spring cleaning checklist include:

  • Remove any cleaning chemicals from upper shelves or high areas where they might be  difficult to reach
  • Make sure all products are tightly sealed
  • Never store dry products atop wet products
  • Make sure any liquid acid and liquid chlorine products are stored away from one another
  • Conduct an audit of keys so you know exactly who has access to storage areas
  • Make sure your list of cleaning chemicals is up-to-date
  • Safely dispose of any expired chemicals
  • Audit what chemicals are in use and dispose of any chemicals that are not in use
  • Make sure all of your Safety Data Sheets are up-to-date and organized—which you can easily do with our SDS “Beyond Compliance” Wall Mounted Station!

Happy Spring, and Spring cleaning!

It’s Flu Season: Please Protect Your Cleaners

Last year’s flu season claimed the lives of 80,000 people, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, making it the deadliest season on record in more than four decades. Last year’s flu season was unique in that the virus didn’t remain isolated in a particular area of the country. A CDC spokesperson shared that for three consecutive weeks, “the entire continental US was affected by the flu at a very high level.”

November typically marks the start of flu season, so runny noses are already starting to fill classrooms, offices, hotel rooms and cafeterias everywhere. A few months ago, we shared information about how to clean to stop the spread of the flu virus, but it’s equally important to protect the people at the front line of flu prevention: your custodial staff. A kitchen staff wouldn’t come to work on a busy night without tools like gloves and knives, so your cleaning staff should be equally prepared when it comes to cleaning during flu season.

Here are seven easy ways that you as a custodial professional can make sure your team is protected:

  1. Make flu shots easy and accessible. Depending on the business type, a nurse may already be available onsite to administer flu shots to custodial personnel, but most times this is not the case. Make it easy for workers to get their flu shots by providing them with a list of nearby locations where they can get the flu shot and giving them time off work (just 15-30 minutes is all they need) to do so. If time off work isn’t an option, consider arranging for a professional to come to your facility and administer shots to staff during the start or end of their shift. The CDC offers this guide for promoting the flu vaccine within your business. 
  2. Educate workers on the differences between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing. Before the start of flu season, consider providing a short training session on microbiology basics. You know the drill—cleaning removes dirt and germs, disinfecting kills germs, sanitizing reducing germs to a safe level. Make sure your team understands the difference between each type of cleaning, along with how to disinfect properly by allowing disinfectants the proper amount of dwell time to be effective.
  3. Protect workers with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). From gloves to eye protection and face masks, equip workers with the necessary PPE to prevent them from coming into direct contact with airborne viruses or bacteria resting on surfaces being cleaned—or from exposure to quaternary-based cleaners. 

    Did you know? The average sneezing distance is anywhere from 3 to 26 feet!

  4. Implement hand-washing protocol. When arriving at work, one of the first things custodians should do is wash their hands to remove any dirt or bacteria they may have carried in with them. Even if they’ve used protective gloves throughout their shift, encourage them to wash their hands when they have completed cleaning responsibilities or before/after taking a break as they may have come into contact with a virus during that period. Regular hand washing not only helps protect custodial workers, it also helps prevent them from spreading germs as they clean.
  5. Encourage sick workers to stay home. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average sneezing distance is anywhere from 3 to 26 feet—no one wants to be in the direct line of fire of that! Sick workers can not only spread viruses and bacteria throughout the building (and to others on staff), they can also become sicker. Reduce “presenteeism” by making sure employees understand what leave is available to them and encouraging a workplace environment that values health and wellness. 
  6. Reduce cross contamination with standardized cleaning processes. From dirty tools to processes driven by employee whim, a lot of cleaning programs lack standardization and leave the door open to issues like cross contamination, missed surfaces and ultimately polluting the indoor environment. Prevent this from happening by using an engineered, scientific approach to cleaning tasks that allows you to measure the work performed. 
  7. Increase fomite cleaning frequencies in custodial areas too. When the flu season hits, one of the first things many custodial workers do is increase the cleaning and disinfection of high touch surfaces such as door handles, hand rails, light switches and faucet knobs throughout the building. Make sure to include areas frequented by custodial professionals in this effort too, including custodial closets, break rooms and lockers. 

It’s estimated that the last flu season cost employers more than $21 billion in lost productivity. Because your team is on the front lines of preventing the spread of this virus that will inevitably appear in your facility at some point this year, make sure your team is prepared—and protected—in the fight. 

Why Are Chemical Handling Accidents Still Happening?

During our recent Symposium, Flynt Belk of Workers’ Compensation Fund Insurance shared the haunting story of Stefan Golab, an immigrant from Poland who in 1983, died at his place of employment, Film Recovery Systems. A former steel construction worker in Poland, Golab had only worked at the factory outside of Chicago for a few months where his job was to reclaim silver from used photographic film. 

On the morning he died, Golab drank warm milk, hoping it would settle his stomach. He’d been experiencing headaches and vomiting. He couldn’t read English or Spanish and while it was likely he’d seen the skull and crossbones located on the barrels of cyanide, that meant “high voltage” back in Poland, so he wasn’t aware of the risks in his job. 

In a landmark court case, a judge found the top executives of Film Recovery Systems and its parent corporation responsible for Golab’s death. The verdict read that the company had exposed workers to “totally unsafe” working conditions with no training, warning or safeguards to protect them. 

This is the catalyst for OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (1910.1200) in place today and later the Right-to-Know act. Right-to-Know refers to workers’ rights to information about chemicals in their workplaces.

“This is not the case of someone taking a gun and placing it to the head of a victim and shooting him,” the judge explained at sentencing. “What we have here is the kind of case where you take a bomb and you put it in an airplane, and you turn around and runaway somewhere, and a time bomb is ticking off and ticking off, and . . . all of a sudden, on February 10, 1983, the time bomb went off, and Stefan Golab is dead.” 

More than two decades later, that bomb is still ticking. The EPA estimates that as many as 2.8 million people in the cleaning industry are exposed to dangerous cleaning chemicals each day.

Required training under OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (1910.1200) includes understanding:

  • The health and physical hazards of cleaning chemicals
  • How to properly handle, use and store the products
  • What type of personal protective equipment to wear
  • How to use the hazard information, including labels and Safety Data Sheets
  • Procedures to follow in the event of a spill

This standard requires worker training before the use of any new chemicals, but no refresher training is required.

Wait… what? 

That means if a custodian may receive training on potential hazards associated with a chemical when they are initially hired, but if they stay at the same employer for several years, they are not legally required to demonstrate any understanding of how to properly handle, use and store chemicals after that point. 

Do you remember everything you learned in your first week on the job? In the flurry of new faces, paperwork and training, there’s a lot to remember. 

Sadly, incidents related to inappropriate use or storage of cleaning chemicals continue to happen all-too often. 

Earlier this year, five children were taken to the hospital after washing their hands with a cleaning chemical that was accidentally placed in the soap dispensers. In August, three workers in a cheese factory were treated at a local hospital after two cleaning solutions were accidentally mixed together. Just last week in Lexington, Ky., a janitor was burned while trying to clean chemicals with a towel. 

Fortunately, most employers take precautions to prevent deaths like Stefan Golab’s from happening. But we still have much work to do when it comes to training anyone with exposure to cleaning chemicals, as injuries are still happening. 

To help organizations comply with the ANSI/SI BSR SI-0001 American National Standard for Safe Use of Cleaning Chemicals which will go out for public review soon, we’re launching a new chemical handling workbook and online certificate program. Because accidents are still happening and every worker has the right to a safe workplace. 

Safety Month Continued: The Dangers of Handling Chemicals [INFOGRAPHIC]

We hear the stories too often: someone improperly mixes cleaning chemicals, which leads to a strange odor. Everyone evacuates the building. People are taken to the hospital for precautionary measures, but in a best-case-scenario, there’s no injury.

But in some cases, there are injuries. Like the chemical mixing incident where an Idaho woman drank iced tea mixed with a cleaning solution and nearly died.

The EPA reports that as many as 2.8 million people in the cleaning industry are exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals each day. And if their job requires that they handle chemicals, it’s up to the employer to make sure they know what they’re doing.

OSHA’s revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS 2012) requires organizations to provide training on the following:

  • Methods and observations to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical in the work area.
  • Measures employees can take to protect themselves from these hazards.
  • Details of the hazard communication program developed by the employer, including an explanation of the labels received on shipped containers and workplace labeling system, the SDS and how employees can use the appropriate hazard information.

While the new standard requires training when new personnel assigned to work in a specific area or when a new health or physical hazard is in place, employers can further reduce risk of an incident resulting from improper chemical handling by providing ongoing training and making sure key personnel have demonstrated their understanding of key handling protocols.

Handling chemicals can be extremely dangerous when people don’t know what they’re doing. We’ve put together an infographic to share at your next safety meeting so cleaners understand the potential risks and take the time to understand best practices for handling.

What We’re Lovin’: The FIT Start Program at The University of Texas at Austin

Few would argue that custodial work is tough business. Not only does it come without much prestige or recognition, it also requires a lot of physical exertion — more succinctly, “elbow grease.” In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts custodians near the top of the list of occupations with the highest rates of injury-causing days away from work in the U.S.

Most of these injuries are caused by overexertion, or pushing the body past its limit.

Someone who has overexerted themselves can experience a variety of issues, including swelling in the joints, pain, soreness, numbness, muscle weakness and repetitive injuries down the road. It can also lead to increased workers’ compensation claims and labor costs—which already amount for almost one-third of a total facilities’ budget.

But the thing is, the majority of injuries related overexertion are preventable. We’ve found that the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT Austin) Fit Start Program is one smart approach to helping prevent these injuries.

In 2010, the UT Austin custodial management team recognized the need to address the daily physical strains experienced by custodial staff, so they partnered with the Kinesiology Department’s Fitness Institute of Texas. The group studied the daily work and cleaning tasks of each custodial worker and developed a customized program aimed to reduce the risk of injury and prepare the custodial department for the demands of the day. After conducting a series of trials to see what worked and didn’t work for the team, the program was implemented with the goal of preparing employees for the day and reducing the risk of injury.

Every morning, the custodial team warms up before each shift. The routine consists of five simple movements that are not exercises or stretches, but activities specifically designed to accomplish the following:

  • Increase blood flow to the muscles that are needed to perform custodial work.
  • Increase the communication between an individual’s brain and muscles to help reduce the risk of injury.

Following the acronym detailed in the program’s name, the moves consist of the following:

S: Swing the Arms

T: Twist the Body

A: Alternate and Sink

R: Reach and Fold

T: Touch and Toss

While the thought of doing warm up exercises before each shift may seem silly or unnecessary, it can have several benefits if you do it the right way. In addition to reducing injuries, it can offer an opportunity to engage workers and have some fun. It also shows them that you care about them and their well-being—and what’s not to love about that?

We love the program so much that we’ve incorporated it into our (OS1) Program to improve the safety of cleaning professionals everywhere.

And the 2012 Best in the Cleaning Industry Nominees are…

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Winners will be announced at the 11th Annual Simon Institute Symposium during the Awards Ceremony August 6th 2012. For more information please visit: www.simoninstitute.org 

Best Cleaning Program Award

  • Michigan State University
  • Mt. San Antonio College
  • Sandia National Laboratories
  • University of Michigan
  • Wake Forrest University

Best (OS1) Audit Award

  • Michigan State University
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst – Murray D. Lincoln Campus Center and UMASS Hotel
  • Sandia National Laboratories
  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • Wake Forest University

Pioneer Award

  • Rappahannock Goodwill Industries – Cleaning with workers with disabilities at Marine Base Quantico
  • University of Massachusetts at Amherst – Murray D. Lincoln Campus Center – (OS1) Cleaning in a multi-use building
  • University of Michigan – Cost justification for improving results while cutting costs
  • The University of Texas at Austin – Job Card Development and Implementation
  • Wake Forest University – Hiring Utilizing the ManageMen Job Fair

Innovation Award

  • KBM Facility Solutions – (OS1) Distributor Certification Program Development
  • KBM Facility Solutions – (OS1) Floor Care Program Development
  • Los Angeles Habilitation House – Using (OS1) to Create Job Opportunities for Disabled Veterans
  • Sandia National Laboratories – Disaster Response During the 2011 Freeze
  • Wake Forest University – (OS1) Distributor Certification

Peer Influence Award

  • Mt. San Antonio College
  • University of Michigan
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Housing
  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • Service Point

Trainer of the Year Award

  • Marcela Bernal – GMI Building Services
  • Mary Clark – Michigan State University
  • Joseph Garcia –  Mt. San Antonio College
  • Jewel Golson-Roberts – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Chris Wallace – Service Point

Communications Award

  • KBM Facility Solutions
  • Los Angeles Habilitation House
  • University of Michigan
  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • Wake Forest University

Safety and Health Award

  • Michigan State University
  • University of Massachusetts at Amherst – Disaster Clean-up
  • Sandia National Laboratories
  • The University of Texas at Austin

Environmental Program Award

  • KBM Facility Solutions
  • Mt. San Antonio College
  • Provo City School District
  • University of Michigan
  • The University of Texas at Austin

Training Program Award

  • Michigan State University
  • Mt. San Antonio College
  • Sandia National Laboratories
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Wake Forest University

Cleaning Quality Improvement Award

  • KBM Facility Solutions at The Boeing Company, St. Louis, MO.
  • Michigan State University
  • Mt. San Antonio College
  • University of Michigan
  • Wake Forest University

Certification Program Award

  • KBM Facility Solutions
  • Los Angeles Habilitation House
  • Michigan State University
  • Sandia National Laboratories
  • Wake Forest University

Workloading Award

  • Michigan State University
  • Provo City School District
  • Service Point
  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • Wake Forest University

Our ‘Beyond Compliance’ Program Keeps KBM Facility Solutions Employees Safe

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by Nick Pangaro, KBM Facility Solutions 

Every employer has a duty to their employees to have them return home in the same condition as to which they reported to work. OSHA laws have been created to help companies do just that. Requirements of OSHA include companies having a written program, a document describing who is responsible for training employees on MSDS, documenting and tracking chemical inventory, having the MSDS available for employees to review in less than 10 minutes and an employee’s Right To Know Training.

KBMs use of  ManageMen’s (OS1)® cleaning process and its MSDS “Beyond Compliance” segment does just what is says; it goes beyond compliance and OSHA’s requirements. We start off with a Safety Yellow mounted wall box with binder. There is no mistaking where our MSDS materials and information are kept. Within the Binder can be found those items required by the OSHA standard, KBM’s written program, Employee’s Right To Know, MSDS, an inventory of hazardous chemicals and documents who is responsible for training.

We go beyond compliance with the additional items contained within the Beyond Compliance Binder. Items include:

  • A seven step introduction guiding the use of the binder and its contents.
  • A summary of the OSHA standard.
  • The MSDS are color coded to match the corresponding chemical and secondary use bottle. The daily use chemicals also have had the MSDS reformatted for an ease of use/read.
  • A glossary of terms found in MSDS is included in the binder.
  • We use silk screened secondary use bottles to avoid any labeling issues and the print color corresponds with the color of the chemical.
  • A ‘verification of training’ recognition pin and ID card is rewarded to each employee having successfully completed the MSDS program.
  • MSDS are all alphabetically organized within the binder.
  • Training log indicating employees having successfully completed the ManageMen (OS1) Beyond Compliance training.

The ‘Beyond Compliance’ Program helps ensure that KBM goes beyond being compliant, it highlights our commitment to PEOPLE ensuring our employees are safe. The program also allows us to provide our customers ease of mind when performing internal audits, safety inspections or an OSHA audit as they are current and immediately available for review.

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MSDS to SDS

Change is coming; a decision to modify the HCS (Hazard Communication Standard) to align with the GHS (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals) has been adopted by OSHA to improve safety and health of workers through more effective communications on chemical hazards.

Employers will be required to have employees trained on the new label elements and safety data sheet (SDS) format by December 1, 2013. For more information and phase in dates go to:

http://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/hazcom-faq.html

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