What situations does this document cover?
This OSH Answers document covers cleaning and sanitation activities in schools and other workplaces, excluding health care environments.
Hospitals and other health care facilities have special concerns and will usually have in-house infection control procedures in place. If you work in a health care setting, please ask your supervisor or infection control officer for more information.
What are some general tips to remember about sanitation?
It is important that all facilities are free from garbage, debris, filth, and potentially infectious materials.
- Follow procedures and safe work practices recommended by your employer.
- Check product labels and safety data sheets (SDSs) (if available) to know the potential hazards and safe work practices for all cleaning and disinfecting products you use.
- Participate in Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training when working with hazardous products.
- Wear personal protective equipment and clothing recommended by your supervisor.
- Use cleaning products appropriate to your workplace and according to the supplier's recommendation to ensure proper cleaning.
- Always clean and wash surfaces/areas thoroughly before disinfecting them.
- Use disinfecting agents or diluted bleaches (e.g. sodium hypochlorite) to disinfect areas as required.
- Wash hands regularly and thoroughly with warm water and soap, after removing gloves. Always wash your hands before you eat, drink or smoke; or after you have used the toilet.
- Report to your supervisor all spills, incidents, etc.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke while using bleaches, cleaning agents, disinfecting agents, or other chemical products.
- Do not leave open containers of bleaches, chemical products, disinfecting agents, paints and solvents in the washrooms or other areas used by other staff, students, visitors or other members of the public.
- Do not mix cleaners and disinfectants unless the labels say it is safe to do so. Mixing products (such as chlorine bleach and ammonia cleaners) can cause serious injury.
What are some tips about cleaning blood and body fluids?
Use these suggestions when you may come in contact with blood or body fluids visibly contaminated with blood (for example, when you can see blood in vomit). It is important to follow these tips as blood may spread certain illnesses.
When cleaning and decontaminating blood-contaminated areas:
- Wear gloves and use disposable towels or other means of cleaning (e.g., using brooms or shovels) that will stop direct contact between you and the blood or body fluids.
- Decontaminate the area with an approved disinfecting agent or a 1:100 solution of household bleach (that is, dilute 1 part bleach with 99 parts water).
- Wash and disinfect all the equipment used when you were cleaning.
- Throw out all soiled cleaning materials in a leak-proof plastic bag. Dispose of this bag according to local/public health regulations for the disposal of infectious waste.
- Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, after removing gloves.
- Change gloves after each task or exposure.
- Dispose of your used gloves as you would for contaminated materials.
What are some basic hand washing guidelines?
- Wash hands regularly especially after each exposure.
- Wet, soap and lather for at least 15 seconds.
- Wash and scrub under the nails.
- Rinse thoroughly and dry using a paper towel or an air dryer.
- Turn off taps with a paper towel.
- Protect your hands from touching dirty surfaces.
Please see Hand Washing for more information.
What should you know about biohazardous waste?
Occasionally, you may encounter discarded hypodermic needles, syringes, condoms, objects, materials or fluids that may be contaminated with blood and body fluids. You must use special precautions when handling such materials/objects. Often these biological wastes are contaminated with "germs" or other micro-organisms which can make you ill. Major concerns are the spread of hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS.
- Ask your supervisor for training to be able to:
- understand potential hazards
- be familiar with regulations
- Consider all biological wastes as infectious.
- Handle all contaminated wastes carefully to prevent body contact and injury. For example, carry objects or waste bags away from your body to reduce the chance of coming in contact with a sharp object.
- Wear puncture-resistant gloves and safety boots appropriate for the situation.
- Try not to touch a sharp object such as a needle. Use a dust pan or shovel to move it.
- Dispose of sharp objects and infectious waste in a puncture-resistance container such as a bucket with a secure lid and lined with leak-proof, puncture-resistant plastic.
- Put a biological hazard symbol on the container if it does not have one already.
- Wear puncture-resistant or leather gloves and empty waste paper baskets (or other containers) by holding container on the outside. DO NOT empty or carry the container by putting your fingers on the inside.
- Call your local public health department or police for further assistance.
- Do not load the container beyond its capacity.
- Do not compact infectious waste. This process may spread the contamination.
- Do not mix infectious waste with regular garbage or trash.
- Do not reach your hand into any waste container, receptacle, or pile of waste which may contain hazardous waste.
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