Many industries rely on chemicals to maintain safe and hygienic environments. Cleaning products are vital in the removal of fats, oils, proteins and dirt, acting quickly to break down soils, improve productivity and sanitise. Commercial cleaning products are often highly concentrated and require careful handling and storage to ensure the safety of cleaners, workplaces and the environment, especially if they are Dangerous or Hazardous.
Cleaning products are categorised into different classes depending on ingredients and the safety precautions required. These classes are Hazardous, Non-Hazardous, Dangerous and Non-Dangerous and with products labelled as Hazardous and Dangerous needing special care to ensure safety. It is also important to note that some products can be classified as Scheduled Poisons. Like Hazardous and Dangerous products these products need to be handled carefully with personal protective gear worn when in use. They must be stored in a secure and locked store room, away from children and unauthorised personnel.
Agar Cleaning Systems aims to formulate the safest products wherever possible, developing a wide range of Non-Hazardous and Non-Dangerous products to suit the majority of applications. There are some tasks however which demand the use of Hazardous and Dangerous products and for that reason, Agar recommends some basic safety precautions to keep people, property and the environment protected.
Identifying Hazardous and Dangerous Products
To find out if a product is classed as Hazardous or Dangerous check the SDS, the product label or a Risk Assessment Folder. On the SDS, look for the headings ‘2 Hazardous Identification’ to see if the product is Hazardous and ‘14 Transport Information’ to identify if it is Dangerous.
Before using a product for the first time, staff should always refer to the SDS as it outlines important information including any classifications, first aid, personal protective equipment that should be worn when handling, spill instructions and exposure controls. The information on the SDS will help keep staff safe when handling all cleaning products, especially Dangerous and Hazardous products.
What are Hazardous Products?
Hazardous substances are those that can have an adverse effect on health. Unsafe use and handling of these substances can cause immediate, short term or long-term health problems including poisoning, irritation, chemical burns, sensitisation, cancer and birth defects. Hazardous substances enter the system via inhalation, swallowing or contact with the skin or eyes. To minimise the risks of using hazardous products, precautions must be taken and personal protective equipment must be worn (© Commonwealth of Australia 2014).
What are Dangerous Goods?
Dangerous goods are solids, liquids, or gases that are corrosive, flammable, explosive, spontaneously combustible, toxic, oxidising or water-reactive (Worksafe Victoria). These substances present a hazard to people, property and the environment and must be stored and handled safely to reduce risks. Mishandling dangerous goods can result in fires, explosions, property and environmental damage, as well as serious or fatal injuries, poisoning and chemical burns (© Commonwealth of Australia 2014).
Dangerous goods are categorised into different classes and groups which helps identify the risks involved with the products. The different categories that Agar’s Dangerous products are classified under are detailed below.
Class 3 Dangerous Goods (Pack. II and Pack. III)
Class 3 Dangerous Goods are flammable, which means they can catch fire and burn. Often, they can give off vapours that can also burn and may even be explosive.
Class 5 Dangerous Goods
Class 5 Dangerous Goods are oxidising agents. Because they may readily give off oxygen, they may start a fire when in contact with other substances and may increase the violence of a fire. They react dangerously with many other materials.
Class 8 Dangerous Goods
Class 8 Dangerous Goods are corrosive, which means they can damage the skin, eyes, many metals and many other substances by chemical attack.
There are a number of key measures that must be taken when handling and storing all chemicals but especially Dangerous and Hazardous Goods. The following outlines four steps to help improve chemical safety. For further information on chemical safety, or others requiring attention, please contact Agar.
1. Chemical Safety Training
Training staff on the correct way to handle cleaning products is paramount to their safety, the safety of those around them and that of the facility. Employers must provide product and safety training to all staff using cleaning products classed as Dangerous. General training should be provided for staff using Hazardous and all other products to ensure their safety. Agar offers both onsite and online chemical awareness training to clients and their cleaners.
Dangerous Goods Training
All employees handling or using Dangerous Goods must be trained and given information on:
- The names, properties and possible hazards of the dangerous goods present
- The correct use and proper fit of personal protective equipment, e.g. gloves, goggles, etc. that need to be used
- Correct procedures for work involving the storage or use of the dangerous goods
- Emergency actions to take if a spill, leak, fire or explosion occurs.
Basic Chemical Safety Training
- Hazardous and Dangerous products identification
- Chemical storage
- Reading Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Safely diluting products (PPE)
- Personal hygiene
- Correct way to handle chemicals
- Exposure standards
- Cleaning up spills
- Basic first aid
- Health hazards
- Other dangers
2. Chemical Storage
Cleaning products must be stored correctly to help minimise the risks of injury. There are strict regulations surrounding the storage of Dangerous Goods, different for each class and group. An overview is provided below, please contact Agar for full information on storing the different classes of Dangerous Goods.
- Ensure all products and decanted solutions are correctly labelled and labels are facing the front and easily readable
- Ensure that any spillage of Dangerous Goods stays within the premises
- Use shelves that are constructed of materials compatible with the Dangerous Goods and able to carry the load successfully
- Prevent unauthorised persons from entering the store. Keep the door and windows locked when no one is in attendance
- Keep Personal Protective Equipment near the Store-room
- Keep the Store-Room clean and free of rubbish
- Train all employees who use Dangerous Goods on the hazards, correct storage procedures, correct use of personal protective equipment and emergency response actions that may be required
- Keep all packages closed when not in use
- Prevent leaks and spills from occurring. Clean up any spills immediately using correct equipment and instructions outlined in the product SDS
- Access routes must be kept clear, inside and outside (for vehicles) dangerous goods storage areas
- Access must be available for fire engines
- Access for staff must be provided to personal protective equipment, spill containment gear, fire extinguisher
- Prescribed appropriate fire fighting equipment must be kept on site
- Make sure SDS, PDS and Risk Assessments documents are stored in the cleaner’s room together with products
3. Personal Protective Gear
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is worn when handling chemicals to reduce the risk of contact with the product. The PPE that is needed to be worn is shown on the Material Safety Data Sheet, under the heading, “Precautions for Use – Personal Protection”. Employers must provide personal protective equipment to suit each type of Dangerous Goods kept on site and make sure it is maintained in good order and replaced when damaged.
Because some chemicals may attack rubber, it may be necessary to wear chemical resistant gloves, such as nitrile, neoprene, or PVC gloves.
- Eye Protection:
Many chemicals can irritate or burn the eyes so it is essential to wear safety glasses, goggles or a full face mask when specified.
Special overalls or boots may be required.
4. Handling Cleaning Products
- Before you start handling products or cleaning
Read the MSDS, making special note of the Risk Phrases and Safety information.
- Read the label on the drum or bottle. Note the Dangerous Goods Class Label, Warnings, etc.
- Read the wall charts.
- If you have to train other people, go through this information with them and explain what it means.
- Keep the MSDS near the work area in case you need the First Aid Instructions in an emergency.
Diluting Cleaning Products
- Follow the instructions outlined on the Product Data Sheet.
- Use automatic dispensers where possible, make sure you have received training on how to use them.
- Always use the correct colour coded spray or squirt bottle to match the product.
- Work out how much chemical product you need to water and add that to the bucket, spray bottle or squirt bottle first. Be careful not to spill any and clean up any that you might have spilt straight away (spill instructions can be found on SDS).
When Using Products
- Follow the application instructions on the Product Data Sheet
- Never mix chemicals – you do not know what may happen
- Do not bring chemicals from home into the workplace
- Use the chemicals only for the purposes for which they are intended
- Make sure all spray and squirt bottles of chemicals are labelled
- All incidents or accidents should be reported to the supervisor
- If you inhale, spill product on your skin, get it in your eyes or swallow it, call for help and refer to the SDS. Depending on the severity, medical assistance may be required.
Handling Dangerous Products
- Personal Protective Gear must be worn at all times when handling Dangerous Goods. Information on PPE for each specific product can be found on the corresponding SDS.
- Generally speaking, Dangerous Goods must be transported in closed containers (unless they are non-dusting solids).
- Packages must not be left open other than while actually pouring products out.
- Packages of Dangerous Goods must not be opened except in the area where they are to be used.
- Packages of Dangerous Goods must be inspected when being delivered onto site and at regular intervals thereafter to ensure any damage or leakage is found promptly.
- Any leaking or broken packages must be repacked or made safe immediately.
- Any spill or leak of Dangerous Goods must be cleaned up and disposed of immediately.
- Leaking packages must not be taken into a storage area.
Practising the above procedures and precautions will help maintain the safety of staff when handling and storing cleaning products. For further information on chemical safety or any other topics mentioned in this guide, please contact Agar.
Commonwealth of Australia 2014, Hazardous Substances and Dangerous Goods. Available from: <http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/whs-information/hazardous-chemicals/dangerous-goods/pages/hazardous-substances>. [1 July 2015].
Worksafe Victoria, Dangerous Goods. Available from: <https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/safety-and-prevention/health-and-safety-topics/dangerous-goods> [1 July 2015].
Disclaimer: For full safety guidelines on handling Dangerous Substances, Hazardous Substances and Scheduled Posions, please contact Safe Work Australia. All data and information provided on this site is offered as a guide only. Agar Cleaning Systems makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.