It is common for cleaning staff to use a number of hazardous substances. Cleaning fluids such as floor, toilet and window cleaners, bleach and polishes are regularly used.
Some of these substances are designed for use only in well-ventilated areas, yet cleaners are expected to use them in places where there is little or no ventilation. In addition, some substances may cause health problems such as asthma and dermatitis when used inappropriately.
By law, employers must assess the risk of substances used at work under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 1999.
■ Assess the risk caused by hazardous substances.
■ Decide what precautions are needed to protect workers and the public.
■ Prevent exposure (for example, by using a less harmful chemical) or if that is not practicable, adequately control it.
■ Ensure that control measures are used and monitored.
■ Monitor exposure to the hazardous substances.
■ Carry out appropriate health surveillance.
■ Ensure employees are informed, trained and supervised.
Safety representatives will need to ensure that employers’ COSHH assessment includes all chemicals used, stored, moved or disposed of by cleaning staff.