There are plenty of safety hazards awaiting every facility cleaning staff member at the start of every day. With so many risks the task of keeping people safe can seem difficult. There's risks like needle stick injuries, chemical exposure, slip and falls... the list goes on and on.
There is always risk no matter how hard you work on improving safety. But if an accident happens you want to know you're covered and have done what you can do to prevent accidents. A good question to ask yourself is, "in the event of an accident will I be able to answer the questions that might be asked about the safety measures I have or haven't taken for this facility?".
When you think about improving safety it's good to think about the 5 levels of safety control. With this system you start with number one. You'll always try and use the highest level of control to reduce any safety risk. When you do this you are taking a giant step towards keeping your staff and visitors safe while protecting your business.
As we go through the levels of safety control let's use cleaning chemicals as an example for the questions and actions we might take.
a. (1st Option) Eliminate the risks.
For example: Is the cleaning chemical really needed? Can it be completely eliminated? If it can’t be eliminated look at the 2nd option.
b. (2nd Option) Substitute or replace.
For example: Can you replace the cleaning solution with a safer alternative? Could buying ready to use products instead of concentrates be an option? If you can’t replace it with a safer option look at the 3rd option.
c. (3rd Option) Use engineering controls.
For example: Would safety be improved if you installed better exhaust ventilation? Or could you eliminate exposure by using a cleaning chemical mixing station or a safer way of dispensing? If you can't do this try option 4.
d. (4th Option) Use administrative controls.
For example: Could the procedure for the task be improved or changed to make it safer? Or perhaps regular staff safety training could help? Then it's time for option 5.
e. (5th Option and last line of defence) Use personal protective equipment (PPE).
For example: This is where introducing gloves, respirators, masks, goggles, hard hats, aprons etc comes in. If you can’t eliminate, substitute or change they way you use or handle a particular cleaning chemical then personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn whenever someone is using that chemical.
This 5th option is your last resort. It's important should an accident happen that you've explored the higher 4 levels of safety control first. Why? Because you'll be asked about it. Many people reach for the PPE first as their safety answer but this is not sufficient in an effective safety improvement program.
Safety is a major cost and concern for managers and business owners. Having a simple 5 step system like the one above really helps you make good decisions and in the event of a problem provides you with a defence that you are doing the right thing. Keeping short notes and some documentation about the decisions and actions you take with the 5 levels of control is also very helpful should a problem arise.
While safety is first and foremost about protecting people, no manager or business owner wants to be blamed for contributing to an accident. These 5 levels of safety control can keep people safe and protect the interests of managers and business owners in the even of an unfortunate accident.
At XO2 we specialise in safer ways to work. Give our customer care team a call on 1300 123 499, if you require any help or advice for your workplace. If you're a bit stuck on one of the levels of safety control we can help. And for more information on cleaning related safety visit the XO2 health and safety blog.