The United Nation’s (UN) Global Harmonized System (GHS) for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals flags a key challenge to public health and safety: Many cleaning chemicals are hazardous and need proper labeling and use based on knowledge of the hazard.
Renewable Cleaning’s response: The best way to protect yourself and your workers from hazardous chemicals is not to use them.
What Is GHS?
GHS is a United Nations effort to help the world consistently identify and handle hazardous chemicals to protect people and the environment across borders — standardize handling — and in time, reduce their use.
Though not mandatory, the UN encourages each country to adopt GHS, and in the U.S., OSHA has done so by modifying its HazCom standard in May 2012, adopting GHS’s new labeling and its 16-section Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to replace OSHA’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
New labels provide “at-a-glance” info about “cleaning” chemical dangers through pictograms and hazard statements, while the new SDS provides more complete information about hazards, precautions to take and safer product handling.
There are two labels: A transport label for the outside of the container, package or box, and a GHS hazard warning label on the product inside the package.
The warning label has the following basic requirements:
- Product Identification (chemical name, code, batch number)
- Signal Words (“Danger” or “Warning”)
- Hazard Statements
- Supplier Info
- Precautionary Statements (four types, encouraging measures to minimize or prevent harmful effects)
- Pictograms (nine graphic symbols to communicate hazards)
- Supplemental Info (other hazards, percentage of certain ingredients)
“Right to know” has been replaced with “Right to Understand” — understand what?
Under GHS and OSHA’s enhanced HazCom program, workers that handle hazardous chemicals must be properly trained about the new labels, SDSs and safer product usage.
All states must adopt this program, and GHS training must also be effective with illiterate and non-English-speaking workers.
Renewable Cleaning Response
Stop using hazardous products wherever practical, and thus avoid the complex regulatory, health, safety and training morass created by reliance on hazardous chemical cleaning products.
Renewable Cleaning is the process of cleaning that reduces the introduction of, and actively removes, inactivates and/or properly disposes of pollutants, including soil and other harmful chemical, biological and particle substances in the air or on surfaces in facilities.
Responding Wisely — Process By Process
Below are processes where hazardous chemicals can be replaced or reduced using Renewable Cleaning concepts, easing compliance with GHS.
Use microfiber and water, a benign neutral cleaner or a water-dampened white cotton cloth.
Avoid chemical treatments that leave residues and pollute the air and environment.
Hard Surface Cleaning — Emphasis On Removal
Use a removal method such as microfiber, spray-and-vac, dispense-and-vac or dry steam vapor.
Microfiber using water alone can be effective, but remember a microfiber cloth when folded into quarters has eight cleaning surfaces.
Properly fold, and after a few swipes, wipe with a fresh, clean microfiber surface to help ensure soil removal rather than rearranging.
You will need plenty of cloths, and they will need laundering, but you will avoid unnecessary and costly chemical cleaners and worker exposure to harmful ingredients.
A spray-and-vac unit applies only clean solution (often just water) under pressure and removes it by vacuuming.
A poor-man’s spray-and-vac can be created using a pump-sprayer or other applicator using water or benign cleaner and a quality wet-dry vac.
A dispense-and-vac unit is the “next generation” of the mop bucket as it uses gravity feed to dispense water or a benign cleaning solution from a rolling bucket platform, followed by manual brush agitation and vacuuming the solution into a separate bucket compartment.
Dry steam vapor uses only tap water and penetrates deep into surfaces for cleaning without toxic chemistry.
Contrary to popular belief, it works not by “pressure washing” but by trapping dry steam (6 percent moisture) at the surface using an applicator tool wrapped in a microfiber or terry cloth, then absorbing and removing dissolved soil in the cloth.
Dry steam vapor technology that disinfects — supported by peer-reviewed data — is available.
A peer-reviewed study printed in the American Journal of Infection Control, and performed in eight occupied rooms of a long-term care wing of a hospital, showed “reduced bacterial levels by greater than 90 percent and reduced pathogen levels on most surfaces to below the detection limit” within only a few seconds of treatment.1
Other non-chemical interventions may involve the use of UV-C sanitation devices or wands which use light to kill germs.
These are effective but do not replace the need for cleaning.
1Reference: “Reduction in the microbial load on high-touch surfaces in hospital rooms by treatment with a portable saturated steam vapor disinfection system” − http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21641089