Chemical Safety: Risks, Protection & Education

Chemical Safety: Risks, Protection & Education

At Omaha Paper Company, we are dedicated to helping businesses use our chemicals safely. Industrial cleaners are an asset for any business, but they have to be handled carefully and mindfully to ensure safety and effectiveness.



Every year, six out of 100 custodians in the U.S. gets a job-related injury from cleaning chemical exposure. 40 percent reported are eye related, 36 percent are skin irritations or burns, and 12 percent are from inhaling fumes.

Janitorial jobs remain one of America’s most dangerous jobs because of misuse of cleaning chemicals. Many industrial cleaners are extremely potent and require dilution before use. Other cleaning chemicals may produce or a mist or gas upon use which can be harmful if used incorrectly.

Acids and bases often found in cleaning products can cause skin irritation or severe burns if touched or inhaled. Solvents and detergents can cause irritation of the skin or respiratory system (if inhaled), and a toxic effect on the kidneys, liver, brain and nervous system.

One must be careful to never mix chemicals as well. Bleach especially is unsafe to mix with other chemicals, especially with ammonia which then would produce the noxious substance known as mustard gas.

Material Safety Data Sheet

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are an excellent resource for using chemicals safely and correctly. MSDSs are a widely used system for cataloging information on chemicals that include instructions for safe use, potential hazards associated with the product, symptoms that may be caused by the chemical, first aid measures if exposure occurs and recommended protective equipment.

Employers must have MSDSs for any hazardous cleaning products or chemicals they use, and MSDSs must be made available to workers.


Storage is something often overlooked for keeping cleaning chemicals in prime condition and safe to use. Many chemicals can be temperamental and require specific conditions when stored. In general, it’s a good idea to keep chemicals in a cool, dry area away from sunlight or food.

If in doubt on how to store certain chemicals, it is always a good idea to check out your Material Safety Data Sheet.

Chemicals should be kept in their original containers, as the original containers are made of more reliable materials that don’t have the danger of corroding or reacting badly with the chemicals. These bottles should also be clearly labeled, with warnings if the product is hazardous.


Protective equipment is imperative for keeping the user safe when using any chemical cleaners. Protective materials include but are not limited to: safety goggles, safety gloves, long sleeves, long pants and masks.

Protective equipment acts as a barrier between the chemicals and the user’s skin, eyes or mouth. For information on the suggested protective materials for specific chemicals, consult the corresponding Material Safety Data Sheet.

In case any serious injuries occur from contact with chemicals, it is a good idea to have the number for Poison Control posted in the workplace, if not several times. The number for the Poison Control Center in the U.S. is 800-222-1222.


One of the biggest helpers in preventing cleaning chemical related injuries is through training. Studies have shown that workers who have been regularly trained and retrained to use their cleaning chemicals are more likely to use the methods correctly than those who were only trained once.

Posters should also be hung up around the workplace in multiple languages and with many picture depictions about product use and emergency first aid to ensure worker safety. All posters must follow requirements outlined in OSHA’s Globally Harmonized System (GHS).

A sheet should also be kept on the premise with a list of all the cleaning chemicals on-sight, where they are stored, the amount of chemical stored, potential hazards and any precautions that should be taken.

Workers should also be educated on the difference between “caution,” “warning” and “danger.” Caution means the product should be used carefully but is relatively safe. Warning means the product is moderately toxic. Danger means the product is highly toxic and may cause permanent damage to skin and eyes.


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