Working safely with bleach
Bleach is a chemical that is diluted and used as a cleaning agent to kill bacteria, fungi and viruses. Handling bleach requires caution and care because it’s corrosive, which means it can irritate or burn the skin and eyes, according to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety.
When mixed with certain chemicals or cleaners, bleach can create toxic gases that may cause lung damage and even death.
Employers should take precautions to help keep workers safe from bleach-related hazards, CCOHS notes, including:
- Substitute a less-hazardous product when possible.
- Teach workers how to safely use and store bleach and what to do in case of an emergency.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label or Safety Data Sheet.
- Never use bleach in a container that doesn’t have a legible label.
- Know how to properly dilute bleach. For example, always pour bleach into water – never the other way around.
- Never mix bleach with other products, particularly other cleaners that contain ammonia.
- Work in a well-ventilated area. Use fans and keep doors and windows open.
- Wear personal protective equipment, including respiratory protection, gloves, goggles and faceshields.
- Know that not all gloves can protect workers in every situation.
- Wear clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, that covers your skin in case the bleach spills or splashes.
- Keep bleach stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat. Close the lid tightly after use.
- Keep away from metals.
- Refrain from eating, drinking or smoking while using bleach, and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after use.
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