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Safety and Environment

Using Effective Environmentally Safe Chemicals

Due to technological advances, there are now many products available which are safer for workers and building occupants, and more friendly to the environment, while still providing cleaning effectiveness without a price increase. Many of these products clean better than old stand-bys such as new non-ammoniated strippers.

However, custodians and their supervisors must look beyond chemicals and consider the whole process of cleaning from purchasing and storage to cleaning techniques and practices.

Chemicals to avoid include corrosives those which can damage human flesh, and reside at either extreme of the pH scale and highly reactant chemicals such as ammonia and chlorine. Chlorine has for years been used because it is cheap, but it is actually a poor cleaner in most regards, except for disinfectant properties. VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) should also be reduced, because they are solvent-based and thus flammable and bad for the environment. The use of aerosols should be avoided. Few of them contain CFC’s any more, but those former propellants have been replaced with VOC’s such as propane and butane which contribute to smog and flammability. A better option would be mixed concentrates used in trigger sprayer bottles, buckets, or disposable wipers.

Environmentally preferable products:

  • moderate pH (closer to 7)
  • water-based instead of solvent-based
  • non-flammable
  • low or no VOC’s
  • low or no reactivity with other chemicals

The newer quaternary cleaning compounds are good choices. They are less irritating, and have a better natural odor and so do not need to be masked with heavy chemical scent additives.

Use concentrated cleaning products as well as dispensing or portion control systems. This means less packaging, less shipping and transportation of products, and less overall waste. Research has shown that portion control can result in up to a 50% reduction in chemical usage, with no adverse effects to the quality of cleaning.

An environmentally-preferable cleaning program must be looked at as a system, and the whole process considered, from chemicals to cleaning techniques. For example, try spraying wood or metal polish carefully onto the cleaning rag, because spraying it directly onto the object to be cleaned results in overspray, which is not only a slip/fall hazard but pollutes the building environment with solvents.


(The following is contributed by 3M News. Call 3M Home and Commercial Care Division at 612-736-1333.)

Reducing Slip and Fall Accidents

Sometimes slip and fall accidents are caused by slippery surfaces; at other times, by shoes slicked with moisture, grease, soap, etc. No matter what the cause, falls follow only vehicular accidents as the leading cause of work-related deaths.

Slip and fall injuries can occur in a variety of environments. Conditions contributing to slip and fall hazards are everywhere, from modern office buildings to nursing homes. Deaths from accidental falls are on the increase, especially among the elderly. With the lives and safety of employees, customers, and clients at risk, it is important to recognize steps to reduce slip and fall accidents.

National Safety Council Steps To Prevention

Step One: Spot Hazards In Advance
Pay special attention to busy areas. Wet surfaces are one of the main causes of on-the-job falls. Food preparation areas, bathrooms, and building entrances are examples of potentially hazardous areas. By installing slip-resistant matting or treads, traction is increased, thus reducing the slip hazard. Use non-skid floor finish to decrease the slippery nature of bare floors.

Weather factors can also contribute to slip and fall hazards. Traction tread can be placed on inclines or stairs to improve friction.

Keep all aisles, hallways, and stairs clean and free of obstacles. Clear boxes or other clutter from pathways. More than one-third of falls are the result of poor housekeeping.

Step Two: Steer Around Hazards
Take extra time and caution maneuvering around or through visible hazards. Look carefully while walking, not only to avoid a spill but also to prevent getting a slick substance on shoes.

Step Three: Alert Others
If possible, repair the hazard. If not, call attention to the location of the hazard so that it can be marked and repaired. Quickly and efficiently clean up or fix a hazard.

Step Four: Choose Appropriate Footwear
For example, leather soles provide enough traction for wood floors, but are not a good option for tile or concrete. Safety (non-skid) soles are available to handle nearly every traction hazard After tracking through a potentially slippery hazard, like water or chemicals, clean the soles of your shoes so they will continue to provide traction on every floor surface.

Maintaining Safety

National organizations are encouraging higher levels of safety in the workplace. OSHA requires a safe, non-slip workplace and has penalties for businesses not complying to these standards. Enforcement includes detailed inspections of facilities, fines for safety violations, and even imprisonment.

Through the efforts of architects, builders, and construction planners, safety in design is becoming a standard instead of a specialty. Whether it’s is improving the lighting in a plant’s stairwell or placing slip-resistant material on a nursing home’s wheelchair ramp, prevention is a current trend businesses can’t afford to disregard.

Slip and fall accident reduction depends upon each person, from the pedestrian walking around a hazard to the building designers creating a safe work environment. Future slip and fall accidents can only be prevented through each individual’s continued actions promoting safety.

Osha Regulations:


Material Safety Data Sheets are written by chemical manufacturers to provide information on contents, potential hazards, and safe use and handling. OSHA requires that employers provide workers with MSDS for all products with which they might come into contact at work. So far, there is no one specific format for these sheets, but the frequently used OSHA format is divided into 8 sections:

    1. Supplier’s or Manufacturer’s Information
      Chemical name, manufacturer’s name and address and emergency number, and date of form.
    2. Hazardous Ingredients:
      Lists all hazardous ingredients and their safe exposure limits.
    3. Physical/Chemical Properties:
      Environmental conditions that will change the chemical’s form, perhaps affecting its hazard potential.
    4. Fire/Explosion Hazard:
      Flash point, explosion limit, extinguisher type and fire fighting procedures.
    5. Reactivity Data:
      Potential hazards if chemical contacts air, water, or other chemicals.
    6. Health Hazards:
      Details common exposure routes (breathing, skin, mouth, eyes, etc.), health hazards, symptoms of exposure and emergency first-aid.
    7. Safe Handling Precautions:
      How to handle, store and dispose of the chemical.
    8. Control Measures:
      Details needed Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

(Source: OSHA)