From cleaning with chemicals to navigating a recently mopped floor, your custodial staff can face a variety of exposures during a work shift. Here are some ways to help address some common risks.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
While slips, trips, and falls are typically caused by wet surfaces, they can also be caused by floor debris, lack of proper warning signage, or improper footwear. Reduce slip, trip, and fall hazards by following these guidelines:
- Keep the work area clean and free of debris and spilled materials.
- Clean up spills quickly and keep floors as dry as possible.
- Mark newly waxed or wet floors with proper caution signs.
- Be sure employees always wear slip-resistant shoes.
- Keep electrical and telephone cords out of walkways.
- Keep walkways, such as aisles, hallways, and stairways, clear and free of obstructions (furniture, equipment, cables, extension cords, boxes, etc.).
- Keep the floor and floor coverings (mats and rugs) in good condition.
- Use ladders correctly.
- Use tool belts to carry tools up a ladder.
- Maintain adequate lighting to enhance visibility.
- Conduct regular inspections of both interior and exterior walking surfaces, including sidewalks and parking areas. Provide repairs and maintenance as needed to keep surfaces free of defects.
- Develop an action plan that addresses snow/ice at building entrances, on sidewalks, and in parking lots.
Strains and Sprains
Workers often need to carry or move awkward and heavy equipment. Using appropriate material handling equipment and procedures can help reduce risk of injury. Follow these guidelines to help prevent strains and sprains:
- Train employees on appropriate body mechanics when lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, and carrying.
- Require all employees to use available material handling equipment, such as desk movers, chair movers, dollies, carts, and lift trucks.
- Encourage employees to ask for assistance when moving heavy equipment if a mechanical device is not available.
- Incorporate job safety as a measurable objective for every employee in their performance review process if possible.
- Identify key tasks that involve twisting, bending, carrying, or lifting materials, and incorporate new methods of working that reduce or eliminate these risk factors.
Employees who execute repetitive motions for extended periods of time may be prone to specific motion-related injuries. Minimize the risk of these types of injuries by adhering to these guidelines:
- Avoid standing, sitting, or kneeling in awkward positions for extended periods of time.
- Assess equipment that transmits vibrations, such as floor buffers, prior to use to address any possible vibration hazards.
- Rotate job tasks between employees so that no one performs the same motion for an extended length of time.
Inhalation and Skin Contact
Many industrial cleaning agents, such as those for cleaning and stripping floors, are corrosive and can cause injury and/or illness when exposed to the skin or inhaled. Take these steps to help protect your employees from these hazards:
- Caution workers against mixing incompatible chemicals together. For example, hazardous gas forms when chlorine and ammonia are combined.
- Use proper labeling when transferring cleaners to secondary containers to avoid using the wrong chemical.
- Conduct a hazard assessment of the environment and chemicals being used to determine what personal protective equipment (PPE) might be needed.
- Fit and train employees on the proper selection, use, and maintenance of PPE (including respiratory protection; proper footwear; and eye, face, and hand protection).
- Educate staff about the hazards associated with each chemical they might use and how to adequately protect themselves against overexposure.
- Communicate information on manufacturer warning labels and mixing instructions to workers.
- Ensure work areas are well-ventilated during the mixing and application of solutions.
By following these guidelines, you can help your staff safely perform their jobs and minimize their risk of injury.