Employers have a duty to protect workers’ health according to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH). Cleaning office surfaces and floors can pose health risks to workers if not correctly done. Many cleaning products are hazardous to health, if they become ingested, inhaled or come into contact with the skin. The worker using the cleaning products must be competent and understand the hazards and the risks. Examples of hazardous substances used in the office include photocopier toner and developer fluids, domestic cleaning materials (bleach, toilet cleaner, floor cleaner), substances found in maintenance departments (paints, solvents).
When using cleaning products…
- Water proof, slip resistant footwear should be used
- Skin creams are good for conditioning the skin
- Chemicals should be stored away from vulnerable people and children. A cool, dry dark place is best and they should be used before the use by date
- One should always read the label for guidance and put the cap back on the bottle immediately
- Any splashes should be washed off the skin immediately
- Continued use from some products can cause occupational dermatitis, others can cause asthma
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn. It may not be necessary to wear gloves and goggles. A face mask may be necessary to protect from splashes
- Splashes with caustic soda can cause blindness
- Bleach should not be mixed with any other chemicals, as this can give off a dangerous chlorine gas
- One should check their skin for dryness and soreness, this should not be ignored, treatment should be sought
- Dispose of any waste liquid safely
- The office work areas must be well ventilated when cleaning (open windows and doors)
- Workers should be aware of the risk of using the product and understand how to dilute it if so required
When using step ladders to aid office cleaning…
Although leaning ladders can be used in the office, they are more likely to be used outside or adjacent to the office for example, when cleaning windows or a task where a great height need to be reached. For all other general office maintenance, step ladders are most often used. Using Ladders or Step Ladders is regulated by the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR).
- All four feet of the stepladder should have level contact with the ground
- One should not overreach
- Generally, one should always position the step ladder so that it directly faces the work area, however in tight spaces it may be safer to work side on.
- The ladder must be locked in position correctly
- One should not stand on the top three steps, unless there is a suitable handhold
- Only light materials and tools should be carried on them
- When one cannot maintain a handhold on the step ladder, for example changing a light bulb or putting a box on a shelf, it needs to be risk assessed – taking into account the height of the task, whether a handhold is still available before and after the task and whether it avoids side loading or over-reaching.
- In the working position the ladder should support 2 feet and one hand. Hands should only be free for brief moments, during which time the full support of the body is by the two feet
- One should try to avoid work that imposes a side loading, such as side-on drilling through solid materials (eg bricks or concrete)