Health & Safety – No Need To Be Afraid
Steve Scotter on the risks for carpet cleaners
DOES health and safety scare you? If it does, don’t despair, you can just keep it simple.
Carpet cleaning, carried out by a skilled carpet cleaning technician, should be low risk so long as attention is paid to the workplace and the task in hand.
Self-employed technicians need to concentrate on earning a living, which can make Health & Safety seem like an inconvenience, but if you work to simple systems it can be easy to comply with the regulations.
The main risks from carpet cleaning are:
1. Manual handling;
2. Electric shock;
3. Slip hazards from damp cleaned surfaces;
4. Trip hazards from hoses and electrical leads; and
5. Exposure to chemicals and hazardous substances.
1. Manual handling: If you’re self-employed you need to take care with lifting, i.e. keep you back straight, do not twist when lifting etc. If you employ technicians, you need a company manual handling policy and the technicians must be trained in manual handling. Otherwise it could be very difficult trying to defend a claim against your company.
2. Electric shocks: In the UK we have one of the most dangerous electrical supplies. A 240 volt electrical shock can kill a person in 55 milliseconds. The consumer unit circuit breakers (if fitted) will not protect you as they do not work quickly enough.
You should fit Residual Circuit Devices (RCDs) to all your equipment. PAT testing is not a legal requirement.
However there is a legal requirement for maintenance of electrical equipment at work, and one way to prove that electrical equipment is being maintained is to have items PAT tested.
3. Slip hazards: Restrict the work area from residents and pets. Warning signs should be used, but why not have signs fitted to the sides of equipment where possible. Preferably dry carpets whilst you are onsite.
4. Trip hazards: Re-route cables and hoses wherever possible; keep your workspace tidy as work progresses.
5. Exposure to hazardous substances: The regulations covering this are the Control of Substances Harmful to Health regulations, COSHH 2002.
You must not expose people or technicians to harmful substances; this applies to all substances not just chemical usage.
When using chemicals always follow the MSDS, never mix chemicals.
l Asbestos: Many carpet cleaners will probably not come into contact with asbestos or Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs).
However, if you carry out flood restoration work you could encounter asbestos, or ACMs. There is a legal requirement for technicians to be trained in asbestos awareness and have refresher courses every 12 months.
l Risk assessment: If you employ less than five people you still need to carry out a risk assessment, but it need not be written down. But if it’s not in writing it may be difficult to prove if someone is injured. Take a few minutes to write down the risks and control measures required.
l Generally: Please be careful in your daily work. Unfortunately there are people all too ready to make personal injury claims. Don’t be the fall guy.
l NOTE: NCCA runs an excellent Health & Safety course for carpet and upholstery cleaners. The next course is on September 19. Ring for details. n T: 0116 271 9550
Steve Scotter was a carpet cleaner and a member of the National Carpet Cleaners Association for many years. He now works for NCCA corporate member, Hydro-Dynamix as a NEBOSH qualified Health & Safety manager.
This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.