Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Strategies to Control Exposure to Harmful Substances

Strategies to Control Exposure to Harmful Substances Control of exposure to substances harmful to health by the UK government was first implemented during the late 19th century (Piney 2001). Today, Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) assessments are used to address the risk associated with chemicals and how they may be used safely. This report considers three cleaning products which are used on a daily basis in the office environment in which I work: Freshline Bleach, Lifeguard 3 Way Toilet Cleaner and Mr Muscle Professional Kitchen Cleaner. COSHH assessments for these products are included in Appendix I. 1. Chemicals used in office cleaning products and the processes involving these products The three cleaning products assessed in this report contain a number of different chemicals. The components of each of these products are listed in Table 1, together with their toxicity, targets organs/organ systems and the recommended occupational exposure limits for these chemicals. The main targets organs for the chemicals in these products are the eyes and skin but the respiratory and digestive systems may also be affected if these products are inhaled or ingested. Freshline Bleach is used for general cleaning and disinfecting purposes. In the office, it is used dilute for cleaning floors (e.g. corridors and toilet floors). A working solution is typically prepared in a mop bucket using tap water for dilution and the floors mopped. At the end of the procedure, the dilute solution is emptied down the drain and both mop bucket and mop rinsed in clean tap water. This bleach is also used neat for cleaning toilets and drains into which it is poured straight from the 5 litre container. Lifeguard 3 Way Toilet Cleaner is a cleaner, disinfectant and deodorizer that is used in the office to remove limescale and uric acid deposits on toilet bowls and urinals. The product is typically poured neat into the toilet bowl/urinal from the 1 litre container. Mr Muscle Professional Kitchen Cleaner is a cleaning spray used to clean all kitchen work surfaces, utensils and other equipment. This is sprayed neat onto surfaces and then wiped off using a disposable cloth. 2. Potential hazards for workers during handling of chemicals The COSHH assessment included in Appendix I identifies the risk associated with the chemicals in each of the three cleaning products. There is the potential for all workers (both cleaning staff and office workers) to be exposed to these chemicals in the workplace. Cleaning staff are at the greatest risk of exposure at they will be handling the concentrated products. There is a risk of splashback from the bleach and toilet cleaner when pouring this into the toilet. There is also the potential for individuals to come into contact with undiluted chemicals during disposal of empty containers. Workers using bleach may inhale vapour if this is used in a poorly-ventilated area. If cleaning cloths are used for multipurposes with a variety of different cleaning products without being properly rinsed between uses, there is also the potential for reactions to take place between chemicals in the different products which could be hazardous for workers. For example, if bleach comes into contact with acid, toxic gas may be liberated which could then be inhaled. There is also the potential for chemical reactions to take place if different cleaning products are used together, e.g. when cleaning toilets. 3. Monitoring workplace exposure and minimising the risk of exposure The COSHH assessment identified Freshline Bleach and Lifeguard 3 Way Toilet Cleaner as medium hazards and Mr Muscle Professional Kitchen Cleaner as low hazard. For both the bleach and toilet cleaner in particular, it is essential that correct safety precautions are taken during the handling, use and disposal of these products. Monitoring workplace exposure to the chemicals in these products is difficult and levels of exposure cannot be measured qualitatively. Regular inspections of the office kitchen and toilets will detect spillages that have not been cleaned up thoroughly which could mean workers are exposed to higher than normal levels of concentrated products. Keeping a record of the quantities of each product used (e.g. by asking staff to complete a log when they take a new container) would provide an indicator of the amounts being used within the office as a whole on a monthly/annual basis which may provide some indicator of occupational exposure levels. There is a designated health and safety officer within the office but regular inspections are not conducted and no formal training sessions are held to ensure that new staff joining the company are familiarised with correct office safety procedures. A number of measures can be taken to minimise the risk of exposure. The COSHH assessments for all chemicals should be kept in a place where they can be found easily and all workers should familiarise themselves with these assessments and be aware of first aid measures and correct procedures for cleaning up spillages and disposal of solid waste. Training sessions for staff should be arranged if necessary. All workers using cleaning products must wear suitable personal protective equipment as detailed in the COSHH assessment (e.g. eye protection when working with concentrated toilet cleaner and eye protection, PVC/rubber gloves and protective overalls when working with concentrated bleach). Regular inspections would monitor whether correct working procedures are being followed and written reports from each inspection would provide a record over time. In case of spillage of concentrated bleach or toilet cleaner on clothing, bags should be available to contain the soiled article(s) of clothing to send for cleaning and these should be clearly labelled with the hazard. PVC or rubber gloves should be replaced regularly and should be rinsed well with water if they have come into contact with concentrated solutions of bleach or toilet cleaner ensuring that no door handles or other surfaces are touched and contaminated with concentrated product. All spillages should be cleaned up thoroughly to minimise the risk of workers exposure to concentrated product and both spilt product and any solid waste associated with the spillage disposed of safely. The risk of splashing is reduced by using spray containers (as in the case of Mr Muscle Professional Kitchen Cleaner), rather than the larger bottles or containers which hold the bleach and toilet cleaner, and less of the product is likely to be used with these types of containers. If concentrated bleach or toilet cleaner is spilt on toilet seats, it is important that this is cleaned up thoroughly to minimise the risk of skin contact. In all cases where concentrated bleach has been used in sinks, this should be rinsed thoroughly with copious amounts of water to reduce the risk of workers’ exposure and also to ensure safe disposal of the product. Previously, cleaning staff used to clean the office in the early evening when many staff were still working. This meant that neat bleach or toilet cleaner would be poured into toilet bowls or urinals and workers may then wish to use them, which significantly increased the likelihood of exposure to concentrated products. We have now req uested that cleaning staff work later in the evening two nights per week when staff have already left and it is only on these occasions that the toilets are cleaned. Cloths used for cleaning the kitchen should be rinsed thoroughly at the end of each use and not left where workers or even food could come into contact with concentrated products. Empty containers should be rinsed out well with water before disposal and the top of the container should be replaced to minimise the risk of individuals (i.e. office workers or waste disposal workers) coming into contact with undiluted chemicals. Products should be used in a well-ventilated area, particularly in the case of bleach. The office kitchen is poorly ventilated and has no windows that can be opened but the windows in the toilets can be opened before using products in these areas. Correct storage of products will minimise the risk of workers’ exposure to chemicals. These products should ideally be stored in a locked storage area for which only suitable trained staff have access, and all products stored in original, closed containers, kept upright, in a cool place away from direct sunlight. 4. Plan of action for improvement An audit showed that many staff were not aware of the risks from chemicals in cleaning products used in this office and that correct procedures for their safe use, disposal and storage were not being followed. Following this, a number of new measures have been, or will be, implemented. Training sessions have been arranged for all existing office staff to ensure they are familiar with COSHH assessments and safety procedures and these will be repeated when new staff join the company. Ensuring cleaning staff are correctly trained poses a greater challenge as these staff are recruited from an external agency who are responsible for their own training and quality control; however, the health and safety officer has worked with this agency to ensure that staff are familiar with safety procedures. No sand or other inert absorbable material was available in the office in case of large spillages. This has now been obtained and all staff are familiar with where this is stored. A small, lockable cupboard was previously used for storing cleaning products but this was sometimes left unlocked. Furthermore, containers of kitchen cleaner were left in the cupboard under the sink in the kitchen close to where clean crockery is stored, and toilet cleaner was also frequently left in toilet cubicles. The COSHH assessment identified that Lifeguard 3 Way Toilet Cleaner should be kept away from chlorine-releasing agents and sodium hypochlorite; therefore bleach and toilet cleaner should not be stored together in the same cupboard as there is a risk that they may come into contact (e.g. in case of spillage). A second, lockable cupboard suitable for the storage of these chemicals will be purchased with one month and the two products stored separately. Staff will be trained to ensure that no products are left lying around in the kitchen or toilet areas and are returned to the storage area after each use, which should always be kept locked. The disposable cloths used for cleaning the kitchen were previously being rinsed with water after use, left to dry and re-used. In order to minimise the risk of exposure of office staff to the cleaning product, these cloths will now be disposed of after a single use. Protective overalls worn by cleaning staff will be washed on a weekly basis and PVC/rubber gloves changed regularly. Regular inspections are now carried out by the office health and safety officer on a monthly basis to ensure correct procedures are being followed. Conclusions Everyday cleaning products used in the office can pose a potential hazard to workers. It is therefore important that COSHH assessments are performed to assess the risk posed by the chemicals contained within these products. All workers should be aware of the correct procedures for the safe handling, use and disposal of these chemicals and should take the necessary precautions to minimise their risk of exposure (e.g. through use of personal protective equipment where appropriate). Reference list Health and Safety Executive 2007. List of approved workplace exposure limits. Retrieved 26th September 2008 from: http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/table1.pdf Piney, M. 2001, ‘OELs and the effective control of exposure to substances hazardous to health in the UK (version 3)’. Retrieved 26th September 2008 from: http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/oel.pdf The Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory 2008, Chemical and other safety information. Oxford University. Retrieved 26th September 2008 from: http://msds.chem.ox.ac.uk Bibliography Health and Safety Executive 2008. Control of Substances Hazardous to Health – COSHH. Retrieved 26th September 2008 from: http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/ Health and Safety Executive 2008. COSHH: A brief guide to the regulations. Retrieved 26th September 2008 from: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg136.pdf Table 1. Chemicals used in office cleaning products: toxicity, target organs and recommended exposure limits (Health and Safety Executive 2007). Assessment Reference: Date:26th July 2008 Review Date: 25th July 2009 1) Assessor Details [Client: please complete Section 1] 2) Process Description [Client: I’ve included all three products in one assessment – you may prefer to put each on a separate COSHH assessment pro forma] [Client: the codes for both risk phrases and safety phrases are standard for COSHH assessments and were taken from The Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory, Oxford University website, accessed from: http://msds.chem.ox.ac.uk/] 3) Specific Considerations 4) Hazard Category I have familiarised myself with the risks created and safe working practices during the use and handling of chemicals. I shall adhere to COSHH regulations and safe laboratory practices as explained to me during the COSHH assessment. Signature: Date:

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