As an employer in Australia, you should know that you have a legal obligation, under the current Workplace Health and Safety Act, to ensure the health and safety of yourself, your staff, your customers and even visitors.
This guide will help you, recognise the workplace hazards that can be found in your business facility, to assess the risks to health and safety, and if necessary, to eliminate them, or decrease them to an adequate level.
Workplace hazards include not just physical objects but also the handling and environment itself. Therefore, this guide will demonstrate an extensive list of areas that all business owners and managers should take into account when managing a cleaning plan.
Slips, trips, and falls
The most prominent causes of injury in serious injury claims were;
- Injury following lifting or handling objects (33% of claims) and
- Fall, trips and slips (22% of claims).
Alphaclean has created this guide about slips, trips and falls for your convenience so that you can protect your staff and clients from fall accidents.
Safework Australia – Slips, Trips & Falls
How is the risk managed? What are the options?
When an occupation risk is identified, the following options can help to deal with it:
- Separation of workers from the hazard
- It involves a restructuring of equipment, process or premises to separate or eliminate the danger.
- It includes training about hazards and risks.
- Personal protective equipment
When you choose from the above options, you always need to set deadlines after which you re-evaluate the risk and assess if the preferred method is working on reducing the risk.
Cleaning industry itself. How to help cleaning staff?
Business owners and facility managers can contribute to cleaning staff daily tasks only if they are aware of the significant hazards.
Business.gov.au – WHS/OH&S Acts, Regulations & Codes Of Practice
For the general cleaner, there are at least five major risks in their daily work that can cause injury:
1. Manual handling
- Lifting heavy equipment. This risk can be fully eliminated if for example there are vacuum cleaners provided for each level of a building. Furniture may be fitted with glides if this does not create additional risks to the client or worker.
- Work carried in risky postures. Usually, it happens when staff are not trained. Full training takes care of all the important position elements. Safe moving of heavy equipment includes posture management techniques too.
- Multi-tasking. Performing other tasks in addition to vacuuming that requires the same, or similar, actions (eg; mopping or sweeping). The first step is the management of schedules and assigning adequate time to complete each task.
2. The work environment
- Slippery floors. Floors often become wet after mopping. Staff should have a non-slip or grooved foot base to reduce slipping when wringing the mop.
- Cluttered space.Businesses or facilities should be helpful to cleaning staff to make sure that cleaners can do their best job within their allocated time frame. This can involve uncluttering space before a scheduled cleaning.
- Carrying equipment on stairs. Different industries reside in various types of premises. If stairs are involved – choose ergonomic machinery. For example, the caddy classic with telescopic pole allows for perfect working height. This makes manual handling of the hazard easier and a safer work task.
- Vacuuming around fixtures and furnishings.This risk can also be eliminated entirely if the right vacuum cleaner accessories are bought from the beginning. Most high-quality commercial vacuum cleaners already have the full kit included.
Business can always take steps to redesign for the less hazardous environment. Some examples of the redesign include:
- Choosing non-slip floors;
- Installing and ensuring sufficient lighting in storage and cleaning areas
- Adequate ventilation
- Sufficient space for cleaners to move around
- Less moisture on flooring – this is where the right equipment is required (a common cause of slips and falls), new technology allows for non-slip floors to be cleaner faster, safer and more effectively.
Electrical equipment is used most widely in the cleaning industry.
- Defective and old equipment with damaged parts.If cleaners report that they have identified errors in the equipment, react accordingly. Inspect equipment and ask for advice from commercial cleaning equipment providers.
- Working with non-splash proof equipment. Use waterproof electrical appliances instead of standard equipment. High-quality cleaning equipment today is manufactured according to the safety standards and that includes waterproofing.
Skin penetrating injuries can occur if staff are handling incorrectly. :
Appropriate equipment for handling and disposal of sharps help staff to handle sharps that can be found in rubbish:
- Tools for picking up needles
- Suitable dustpans;
- Sharps boxes (capable of safely containing needles);
- Professional cleaner gloves.
Staff should also never hold garbage bags near to their body and compress rubbish bags.
- Cleaning toilets. Secure containers for sharps can help staff manage the rubbish and toilets cleaning.
- Disposing clinical waste. Alphaclean has prepared a special guide about biohazardous waste where we give advice on how to handle clinical waste with sharps. Specialist hazardous waste companies collect and dispose of sharps bins routinely or by appointment. Therefore, if your company handles a lot of daily sharps disposal and clinical waste, it is best to use professional services.
5. Hazardous substances and exposures
Substances are usually the cleaning chemicals
It is critical to manage the location of incompatible goods, as certain goods cannot be placed near chemicals. The government has provided a segregation tool to ensure there is adequate help for business and citizens in the transportation and safekeeping of dangerous goods.
- Biological hazards. Biological hazards include viruses, influenza, and clinical sharps too. Alphaclean has compiled a report on how to deal with influenza.
- Carcinogens may cause cancer. Carcinogens are found in a variety of industries including manufacturing, construction, scientific research, and healthcare. Certainly, prohibited carcinogens can sometimes still be found in cleaning chemicals, therefore, ensure that you buy only certified safe chemicals.
- Noise in workplaces that exceed the standard and is not controlled, is one of the main causes of hearing loss to workers. Make sure that cleaning equipment does not create too much noise in the business premises.
- Heat stress. Some cleaning machines can expose workers to heat, therefore causing health risks. Heat-related illness can result from these contributing factors:
- Wearing high levels of personal protective equipment (e.g. hazmat suits)
- Heat from extremely hot material (steel mills, bakeries, smelters, glass factories, and furnaces)
- The exposure of the sun (e.g. outdoor work such as construction, road repair and agriculture)
- High humidity (e.g. laundries, restaurant kitchens)
- Internal body heat (from manual work- for example carrying a heavy cleaning machine upstairs after cleaning a large area.
Not everyone reacts to heat the same way. Heat stress caused by workplace hazards can finally cause dehydration, heat rash, dizziness, fainting and heat stroke can possibly lead to death.
- Hand-arm vibration. Workers using equipment such as powered scrubbers, buffers and polishers in facilities may be exposed to harmful levels of hand–arm vibration. Factors that determine the risk of hand-arm vibration include:
- Length of exposure
- Weight of tool
- Firmness of floor material
- Magnitude of vibration
Commercial cleaning equipment providers can consult on the accepted length of usage periods, how to handle machines, how to identify errors and other equipment management best practices.
Article from Alphaclean – 10 Things To Consider When Building A Training Program
Training of cleaning staff
What should be included in the training of cleaning staff?
The training should include fundamentals enclosed in the Code of Practice – Manual tasks such as:
- Critical sections of the OH&S regulations and the Manual task code of practice;
- The roles and responsibilities of the employers, workers, and others;
- Consultation to identify manual tasks, and to assess and control risks;
- The primary function of the spine, body postures, types of muscle work and principles of levers;
- The relationship between the human body and the potential for injury;
- Actions in manual tasks that lead to various types of injuries;
- Possible causes of risks;
- Regulation strategies for manual tasks.
Rotations and changes of staff should always be managed accordingly with no exceptions made when it comes to training. Sometimes staff should be provided different training in a different environment with varying levels of risk and management availability.
Occupational Health and Safety is a critical priority for employer and must be managed daily. Often, the right choice of equipment and cleaning tools can make the work environment a much cleaner & safer place for everybody including the visitors. Also see Wikipedia definition.
In this guide, Alphaclean wanted to give the best advice for managing health and safety of your team and be a responsible employer that attracts the best talent and beats competition at all levels.
When developing a strategic cleaning plan, ensure that all the tools and equipment will only contribute to long-term safety & the ultimate cleaning result.