Navigation Menu+
Commercial Flooring News

Make Sure Your Protection Is Up To Scratch

Robert Olifent on working with chemicals and machinery

Don’t forget the course on carpet and upholstery cleaning run by the National Carpet Cleaners Association on March 23-24 at the NSPCC training centre, Leicester. Phone 0116 271 9550 to book a place. Other upcoming courses are listed on the website:

Working with chemicals and machinery can present potential hazards to the carpet cleaner on a daily basis. To help you minimise these risks I have compiled a guide to safeguard both you and your customer.
Although much of the advice is common sense it can be all too easy to overlook during a busy schedule, sometimes resulting in accidents and health problems.

1 . Always open lids on powder substances and detergents slowly and with care in order to minimize airflow rushing in to the container and creating chemical dust entering the respiratory system, or eyes.

2 . Do not open powder detergents in draughty or blustery conditions that could enable chemical dust to become air borne and enter the respiratory system, or eyes.

3 . Do not leave lids or caps off chemical detergent containers under any circumstances.

4 . Do not leave chemicals or detergents
unattended, particularly bearing in mind children and pets.

5 . Do not put your nose near neat chemicals in order to identify them (powder or liquid).

6 . All products used must be clearly and correctly labelled.

7 . Place a padlock on your spotting kit keeping it locked when not in use.

8 . Print off floor signs with your details on to warn of slippery floor hazards.

9 . Keep a bone spatula handy (or something similar) to work in spotting agents as opposed to using your bare finger. Although your finger may be the ideal spotting tool that you never forget to bring with you, remember that the chemicals you use are absorbed through the skin.

1 0 . Always wear protective gloves when using chemicals and detergents. Continuous skin exposure to even mild detergents can cause dermatitis in many people. It is worth mentioning that people working in the cleaning industry are statistically at higher risk of dermatological disorders.
Solvents are easily absorbed through the skin into the body and could potentially cause long term irreversible damage (particularly petroleum derived solvents).

1 1 . Consider the effects of volatile cleaning substances on both yourself and your clients’ health. This includes solvents, solvent based detergents and traffic lane cleaners.
Many people, such as the elderly, or people with respiratory problems, may be particularly sensitive to any sort of airborne foreign substances including deodoriser perfumes and sanitisers etc.

1 2 . Always exercise protective measures when dealing with blood, urine, and bodily fluid contaminations, i.e.:

• Wear protective gloves. I Site portable extraction equipment
outside, or in areas of good ventilation, in order to prevent bacteria contaminants re- circulating via the

vacuum vent.

• On completion of the task, clean and disinfect gloves, machine tank, tools and change any possible

infected clothing.

• Dispose of waste water in the appropriate place (toilet) and not into storm drains.

• I Wash yourself thoroughly with a bactericidal soap. Serious viruses such as Hepatitis can live outside of

the body for some time and continue to be infectious.

• Do not eat or drink whilst in the process of dealing with bodily contaminations.

• Consider wearing a respirator filtration mask to prevent breathing in volatile organic compounds (VOC’S). Change filters on a regular basis. Keep mask in a sealed polythene bag when not in use. Carbon filter cartridges carry on working when exposed in the atmosphere – this in turn reduces their life significantly.

• Treat any infected areas with a bactericide/ disinfectant, leaving for fifteen minutes prior to cleaning in order to reduce bacteria and create a safer working environment.

1 3 . On completion of HWE cleaning, get into the habit of cleaning through the waste tank by jetting out the water from the clean tank in and around the waste tank. This simple process will inhibit bacteria build up in the machine, and bad smells, when taken to the following day’s job.
Additionally it will prevent the distribution of VOC’s in to your working environment (client’s home) which is to your own benefit as much as your clients.

1 4 . When more thorough cleaning to the waste tank is required, treat it with the same caution that you would exercise when cleaning a public toilet. Bear in mind what has been going through the tank, and take care when touching the ball cage, as often these have very sharp edges which can easily tear through neoprene gloves, causing a nasty cut and high risk of infection.

1 5 . I mentioned a couple of times that the wearing of gloves is recommended, but one other thing that may be overlooked is that these gloves themselves can be full of bacteria inside.

When we wear protective rubber gloves we sweat and shed our skin into them, this in itself will start to smell relatively quickly as the bacteria builds up. If you have any abrasions, or cuts, on your hands this can quickly become infected by using unclean gloves and the odour from these bacteria laden gloves can often linger on your hands substantially.

Suggestions are as follows:

• Use larger gloves to enable the hands to breathe.

• Wear washable lining gloves underneath the main gloves.

• Turn the gloves inside out after use in order to dry and air them.

• Wash gloves regularly.

1 6 . Ensure that you carry all the relevant COSHH data sheets for the chemicals that you use.

1 7 . Keep a specially marked/sealed container in which to place solvent contaminated cloths/swabs for disposal. Putting these loose in your vehicle leaves occupants of the vehicle open to vapour exposure.
Much of the above information is basic common sense; however, it does no harm in reminding each other of good practice and the potential serious consequences of not following these simple guidelines to ensure safety.

Robert Olifent is a retired carpet cleaner and former director of the National Carpet Cleaners’ Association.

T: 0116 2719550

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at