Safety Data Sheets

When a communicable disease becomes a global pandemic, disinfectants suddenly get a lot of attention. As the world struggles to stop the spread of COVID-19, building owners and cleaning managers are relying heavily on sanitizers and other cleaning chemicals to keep their facilities healthy.

“Through the proper use of these products, we have a safe environment for public health,” says Darrel Hicks, MRE, and author of Infection Prevention For Dummies. “Simple cleaning may be one of the key defenses in the battle against COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.”

Current events demonstrate the critical nature of cleaning chemicals to reduce transmission of viral pathogens. This time also serves as a reminder to those charged with keeping buildings clean that it’s incredibly important to ensure safe handling and storage of these products.

“It is vitally important that the personnel responsible for using cleaning products and disinfectants in professional settings are properly trained and educated in their application safe use,” says Brian Sansoni, senior vice president, communications, outreach and membership, American Cleaning Institute, Washington, D.C.

Chemical Considerations

Failure to understand the capabilities and proper use of different cleaning solutions can result in insufficient cleaning, damage to equipment and floors, and more. In each case, the potential problems come at great costs. There’s a price tag for repairing or replacing surfaces or equipment damaged by mishandled or misused cleaners and disinfectants. There’s also a cost for overused, wasted or otherwise lost chemicals.

As much of an impact these charges might have on budgets, cleaning managers will have bigger problems if chemicals aren’t handled properly. Departments could face thousands of dollars in fines from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA can cite facilities that fail to meet the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), which requires departments to make up-to-date Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for all chemicals available to workers.

“One of the top violations every year from OSHA is the mislabeling of secondary bottles,” says Shari Solomon, president, CleanHealth Environmental LLC, Silver Spring, Maryland. “That’s when you take a bottle from the manufacturer or distributor and pour its contents into a second bottle to dilute or store it, and then don’t label it appropriately.”

Violations of OSHA regulations can result in steep fines, which could also trigger a secondary cost — a jump in insurance rates.

Of course, the worst-case scenario is when improper chemical handling or storage results in an accident that causes injury or even a fatal situation.

“I have a good friend in his 60’s who has chronic asthma that was caused by overexposure to stripping solutions that were improperly diluted,” says Hicks. “This happened over 30 years ago. His health is diminished as a result, and he complains about the high out-of-pocket cost of managing his unhealthy condition.”

When a cleaning worker or building occupant is harmed, employers and facilities can face many financial ramifications. There could be costs for lost productivity, sick days or other paid leave, health insurance and worker’s compensation insurance claims, rate hikes, legal liability payouts, personnel replacement, building closures, training or retraining and more.

On top of that, any or all of this could lead to reputation damage and lost business.

“These scenarios can all represent the consequences of not prioritizing essential and necessary training and education on the use and storage of cleaning products and chemicals in commercial settings,” says Sansoni.

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Best Practices For Chemical Handling, Storage