Green cleaning solutions are sometimes even more dangerous than conventional chemicals because they are delivered in such highly concentrated forms. This makes them last longer, which is more sustainable because it reduces fuel, transportation, and packaging needs. But in such highly concentrated forms, these products can also be very powerful, and therefore dangerous. In many cases, both Green and conventional chemicals must be diluted by 2 parts to as many as 20 parts in order to be used properly and safely.
Because of this, correctional facility managers are encouraged to work with their janitorial distributors to develop a cleaning chemical safety program designed specifically for their facility. This will minimize the potential for injuries to staff or inmates. Once put together, this program should be formalized–meaning it is put in writing. Everyone in the facility who uses, moves, stores, or handles cleaning chemicals in any way will need to be familiar with this program.
Components of a Green Cleaning Solutions Safety Program
Complete listing and documenting of all cleaning chemicals used in the facility; this should include how many gallons (and multiple gallon containers) are stored, where they are stored, and the potential hazards of and precautions necessary for each specific chemical (for instance, whether or not they need to be kept away from direct sunlight). Additionally:
- Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each chemical used; this should be included with the documentation listed above.
- Storing all chemicals in their original containers and never mixing chemicals, even if they are the same “type” of chemical.
- Storing chemicals in well-ventilated areas without HVAC intake vents; this helps prevent any fumes that may occur from spreading to other areas of the facility.
- Safety signage in multiple languages (or, even better, signs that use images and no words) that quickly conveys possible dangers and precautions related to the chemicals.
Other Green Cleaning Components
Cleaning chemical safety programs should also include getting rid of chemicals that have not been used for a prolonged period of time. A good rule of thumb is to consider disposing of any chemical products that have not been used for six months, and to properly dispose of any product that has not been used for a year.
It is also important to note that properly run housekeeping/custodial departments rarely dilute cleaning chemicals manually. Instead, they use auto-dilution/dispensing systems. These not only ensure accurate and safe dilution, they also reduce chemical costs. Most chemicals should be stored at moderate room temperatures away from direct sunlight. Temperatures above 85°F or below 60°F not only increase safety hazards, they can also reduce the effectiveness of the product.
Finally, administrators should realize that chemical safety is an ongoing concern. Once the cleaning chemical safety program has been established, managers should hold regular meetings with custodial workers and others who handle chemicals to ensure proper chemical use. When it comes to the safe handling and use of cleaning chemicals, ongoing education is a must.
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