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JANITOR & CUSTODIAN HAZARD AWARENESS. Taking the Safest Approach. The best way to prevent injuries is to (#1) remove the hazard altogether, or keep it isolated, away from workers, so it cannot hurt anyone. This way the workplace itself is safer!

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Taking the safest approach
Taking the Safest Approach

  • The best way to prevent injuries is to (#1) remove the hazard altogether, or keep it isolated, away from workers, so it cannot hurt anyone. This way the workplace itself is safer!

  • Removing the hazard can sometimes be the most difficult solution or take the longest time to implement. You may need other solutions to protect you in the meantime, like changing the way the work is done (#2) or using protective clothing and equipment (#3).


  • Chemicals like toilet bowl cleaners can splash into janitors’ eyes. What controls can be put in place

    to keep workers from getting hurt?

  • 1. Is there a way to remove the hazard?

    Use a less toxic product that causes fewer health problems. This is the safest approach.

  • 2. What improvement in work practices would help?

    Train workers on the importance of pouring chemicals from a low height to avoid splashing.

  • 3. What protective clothing or equipment would help?

    Use goggles to prevent any splashes from getting into the eyes.

With all cleaners

  • Read the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the cleaner.

    • This sheet explains what is in the product, how these ingredients may harm you, and how to protect yourself while using it. Many companies also have MSDSs on their website.

    • You can also find them at MSDS Search


They re responsible for a large variety of tasks


Sweeping and Mopping

Waxing floors

Cleaning bathrooms

Dusting furniture

Moving furniture

Emptying trash


Mowing lawns

Restocking supplies

Wiping counters


Unstopping drains/ repairing

Removing stains

Heating/Air conditioning


Insect control

Maintaining and cleaning doors and windows

Delivery/Pick up of items

Extra security

Weather emergencies

Lab spills

Helping with disabled cars

Minor repairs

Painting and carpentry

They’re responsible for a large variety of tasks:

Physical hazards1
Physical Hazards

  • Falls from ladders and elevated platforms

  • Wet, slippery floors

  • Falling objects

  • Moving or rotating machinery parts

  • Electrical equipment and wires

  • Hot equipment

  • Sharp objects, scrap metal, broken glass

  • Noise from machinery or cleaning equipment

  • High temperatures

Preventing falls from elevations
Preventing falls from elevations

  • Don’t work on an elevated floor or work location without guardrails in place.

  • Don’t stand on guardrails to gain extra height.

  • Don’t lean over railings.

Preventing slips trips and falls
Preventing slips, trips, and falls:

  • Wet, slippery floors are a major cause of slips, trips, and falls. To help prevent accidents:

    • Wear safety shoes with non-skid soles

    • Keep floors free from water or grease

    • Clean floors regularly

    • Use slip-resistant waxes on floors

    • Clean up spills immediately

    • Put up warning signs around spills or wet floors

Preventing injuries from machinery
Preventing injuries from machinery

Machinery with moving or rotating parts must be equipped with guards.

Become familiar with the hazards associated with particular machines.

Do not work with or around machinery in which safeguards have been removed.

Report to you supervisor about a damaged or missing safeguard.

Preventing burns from hot equipment
Preventing burns from hot equipment

  • Do not handle or touch hot (or those that may be hot) articles or surfaces with bare hands

  • If needed, wear heat-protective gloves

  • Organize your work area to prevent contact with hot objects and flames

  • Open hot water faucets slowly to avoid splashes

  • Report any faulty equipment to your supervisor

Biological hazards you may encounter
Biological hazards you may encounter:

  • Blood and body fluids

  • Pathogens

    • Viruses

    • Bacteria

    • Fungi

    • Parasites

  • Rodents and rodent droppings

  • Insects

Musculoskeletal hazards
Musculoskeletal Hazards

Musculoskeletal and repetitive motion injuries can occur from:

  • Overexertion (Heavy or awkward lifting)

  • Awkward postures (bent back, kneeling)

  • Repetitive movements (ex. Scrubbing)

Preventing musculoskeletal injuries
Preventing musculoskeletal injuries

  • Moving and storing items

  • Filling and emptying liquids from containers

  • Using hand tools

  • Handling laundry, trash, and other bags

  • Cleaning small items in large sinks

  • Loading or unloading laundry

  • Wet cleaning and mopping

  • Vacuuming or buffing

  • General cleaning

Use carts to store and transfer supplies
Use carts to store and transfer supplies

  • Carts should have wheel locks.

  • Handles that can swing out of the way may be useful for saving space or reducing reach.

  • Heavy carts should have brakes.

  • Balance loads and keep loads under cart weight restrictions.

  • Ensure stack height does not block vision.

  • Most products used to remove graffiti contain harmful chemicals.

  • These products may be liquids or solids.

  • Liquids include cleaning solutions in:

    • bottles,

    • sprays, or

    • special towels that come pre-soaked with chemicals.

  • Solids used to remove graffiti are usually in the form of a paste.

Chemicals can get into your body in four main ways
Chemicals can get into your body in four main ways: chemicals.

  • Breathing (Inhalation)

You may be breathing

chemical vapors or fumes from the products you use, even if you can’t see or smell them.

From your lungs, chemicals can get into your blood. They then travel to many organs in your body, where they can cause damage.

It is easier for chemicals to increase to a harmful level in the air inside an enclosed area such as a bus.

SKIN …… chemicals.

You may accidentally get chemicals on

your skin. Even if you wear gloves or protective clothing, chemicals can sometimes soak through to your skin.

Chemicals can also get onto your skin

when you are removing wet gloves or


Chemicals can be absorbed into your

body through your skin. Some chemicals go through the skin very

fast, and others slowly. Your blood

then carries the chemicals throughout

your body.

Some chemicals can hurt your skin

itself and cause irritation or serious burns.

EYES….. chemicals.

Your eyes can be seriously injured by chemicals.

Chemicals may splash into your eyes, or you may accidentally touch your eyes when you have chemicals on your hands.

Chemical vapors in the air can also harm your eyes. If you remove graffiti outside and it’s windy, the wind can blow chemicals into your eyes.

If you remove graffiti overhead, chemicals can drip into your eyes.

Swallowing ingestion
Swallowing (Ingestion) chemicals.

  • Sometimes people swallow

    chemicals that have

    gotten into their food or

    drink, or onto their


  • You can swallow

    chemicals if you eat

    drink, or smoke if you

    don’t before washing your


Can you tell by the smell
Can You Tell By the Smell? chemicals.


  • Don’t depend on smell to tell you if a product is safe or unsafe.

  • Many chemicals are very toxic even though they have no odor or smell good. Other chemicals have a strong smell but are fairly harmless.

  • Some people have a better sense of smell than others. Also, you may get used to the odor and lose your ability to smell certain chemicals if you are around them for a while.

Health effects of chemicals
Health Effects of Chemicals chemicals.

  • Many chemicals can hurt your body. With some chemicals, a small amount can harm you. With other chemicals, it takes a much larger amount to harm you.

  • Effects of chemicals can be either:

    • short term - cause symptoms right away (like a burn or a cough).

    • long term - damage your health slowly. You can use them for months, or even years, before symptoms show up.

Health effects of chemicals1

Brain and Nervous System chemicals.

Vapors of some chemicals can cause

headache, dizziness, drowsiness, lack of

coordination, or nausea.


Some chemicals can burn your eyes or cause redness, watering, or itching.

Nose, Throat, and Lungs

Some chemical vapors can cause a runny nose, scratchy throat, coughing, or shortness of breath. A few can cause asthma and other allergies. If you become allergic to a particular chemical, you may have an allergic reaction every time you use it.


If you get certain chemicals on your skin, they can cause redness, itching, dryness, cracking, flaking, or burns.

Blood-Forming System

One class of chemicals, ethylene glycol ethers, can damage the bone marrow, where blood cells are formed. They can also damage the red blood cells themselves. This can cause anemia.

Liver and Kidneys

A few chemicals can cause permanent liver and

kidney damage.

Reproductive System

Some chemicals can damage eggs and sperm, or

cause birth defects. This is not common.


Certain chemicals, such as methylene chloride, can cause cancer.

Health Effects of Chemicals

Other hazards of removing graffiti
Other Hazards of Removing Graffiti chemicals.


Hazards from extensive:

  • standing

  • bending

  • reaching

  • scrubbing

  • repeating the same motions many times

    You can often prevent injuries by:

  • using better equipment, such as longer handles or padded grips

  • working in a better position

  • taking frequent breaks to stretch

Resources used for this overview

Removing Graffiti Safely chemicals.


Developed by the staff at:

Occupational Health Surveillance and Evaluation Program (OHSEP), Occupational Health Branch,

California Department of Health Services

Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP), Center for Occupational and Environmental Health,

School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley.

WISHA Core Safety Rules (WAC 296-800)

(Basic safety and health rules needed by most employers in Washington State)


Additional Safety Rules

(Fall protection, ladders, machine safety, lockout/tagout, electrical, hearing conservation, etc.)


Look for more in-depth modules on many of the topics covered in this module at :


Workplace Safety and Health


Resources used for this overview:

Additional resources
Additional Resources chemicals.

  • MSDS Search


  • Cleaning Fact Sheets


  • WISHA has many workplace health and safety regulations, which are called standards. For example, there are standards that require employers to:

    • Provide necessary PPE, safety equipment, and training at no cost.

    • Limit workers’ exposure to chemicals, noise, and other hazards.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about safety and health and how to prevent injuries and illnesses.