If you are an employer or a manager, it is your responsibility to provide a safe work environment not only for your cleaning staff, but for all your employees.
To do so, there are three of things that have to happen.
First, management commitment must exist and it must be continuous (not a one time thing).
Second, the cleaning organization must comply with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard and have a written hazard communication program in place.
Finally, employees must be involved in developing, understanding and executing the program.
The ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) leads managers through all of the above (see section 4, Health, Safety and Environmental Stewardship) to ensure quality cleaning organizations operate in a safe and healthy way.
One of the five main CIMS management principles is dedicated to Management Commitment, but really it is woven into the entire standard.
Without management commitment, it would be difficult to achieve the other four principles, especially the one that focuses on safety.
Employees count on managers to lead with a safety strategy and plan.
By committing to this charge, managers will prevent injuries and illnesses among cleaning staff and building occupants and reduce worker’s compensations costs and insurance charges.
Also, a safer, healthier workplace keeps workers and occupants feeling well, enhancing productivity.
Written Hazard Communication Program
All cleaning organizations should develop, implement and maintain a written hazard communication program.
This program details how managers will communicate workplace hazards to workers, in compliance with the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard.
When addressing cleaning products, for example, this includes labeling all chemical containers, ensuring workers have access to Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and training workers on safe chemical handling.
To identify a comprehensive list of hazards for cleaning workers, managers can conduct a job safety analysis, also known as a “JSA.”
A type of risk assessment, a JSA includes walking through specific tasks and looking for existing and potential job hazards for workers and any other person who may pass the area or work near the area.
Once hazards are identified, managers can decide what actions are necessary to eliminate, control or minimize hazards that could lead to accidents, injuries, damage to the environment or possible occupational illness.
There is a Hierarchy of Control when it comes to correcting, preventing and controlling identified hazards, starting with the most effective control and ending with the least effective:
Elimination (the most effective) — Takes the hazard out of the building or facility (e.g., removing an object that was causing a trip hazard).
Substitution — Replaces a hazard with something safer (e.g., swap a dangerous chemical with a safe one).
Engineering controls — Keeps a hazard from reaching a worker (e.g., barricading a dangerous area).
Administrative controls — Helps control hazards by alerting workers with signage, or additional training.
Personal protective equipment, or PPE (the least effective) — Places protective equipment on workers’ bodies, but does not eliminate or change the hazard.
During emergencies, hazards are created that are not encountered or planned for the average workday.
These emergency-related hazards may be caused by natural disasters (floods, tornadoes, etc.), by human error or attack (chemical spills, terrorist activities, etc.) or within a facility’s own systems due to unforeseen circumstances or events.
Managers must prepare for possible emergencies and plan the best way to control or prevent the hazards they present (see CIMS, section 2.1).
Some steps in emergency planning include:
- List possible emergencies
- Plan actions to reduce the impact on the workplace
- Inform and train workers on responding to emergencies
- Run emergency drills as needed.
All hazard control and prevention plans as well as emergency and disaster response planning must be included in the written hazard communication program, to be updated and shared with workers annually.
Management commitment and a documented hazard communication plan, both critical to a safe and healthy workplace, are not all that is needed to keep workplace injuries and the associated costs at bay.
Employees play the biggest and most crucial role in ensuring the plan is followed, every day.
Cleaning workers are the eyes and ears of your cleaning operation — they know buildings like the backs of their hands, and they are the first to notice when something is not right.
It is up to managers to involve and engage workers in developing and reviewing all safety programs to help eliminate risks.
Additionally, workers who contribute to planning have a sense of ownership and a feeling of deeper responsibility to follow safety protocols.
When included, they feel comfortable enough to speak up and say “this is not safe.”
With managers leading, employees contributing and everyone planning and executing together, safety becomes woven into a cleaning organization’s culture.
It is those organizations that continue to have excellent track records in not only workplace incidents; but with customers as well.