Vapors from isopropyl alcohol can irritate, ignite: hazard alert

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Tumwater, WA — Vapors from isopropyl alcohol solutions and disinfecting wipes can irritate workers’ eyes, nose and throat; cause dizziness and headaches; and build up in the air and easily ignite, warns a new hazard alert from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

Employers with workers who use solutions or wipes with IPA, also known as rubbing alcohol, to clean and disinfect surfaces must ensure the facility has proper ventilation.

According to the alert, two recent incidents involving exposure to potentially hazardous levels of IPA in the air occurred at separate workplaces in the state. One involved pre-saturated wipes (70% IPA), while the other involved over-the-counter rubbing alcohol (70% IPA) and pre-saturated wipes (55% IPA). In both cases, ventilation was poor and several workers were exposed to IPA levels in the air that were higher than the 15-minute short-term exposure limit.

Occasional, brief use of IPA products usually isn’t a concern, Washington L&I says, but prolonged use and exposure – especially in enclosed areas – can create risks for workers. Employers can reduce the risk by:

  • Establishing a written hazard communication program that addresses chemical exposures.
  • Measuring personal exposures to ensure they’re below regulated limits.
  • Training workers to identify hazards associated with IPA use.
  • Providing personal protective equipment such as goggles, face shields, appropriate respirators and emergency eyewash stations.
  • Posting warning signs around equipment and/or entrances where overexposures could occur.

McCraren Compliance assists employers in protecting their workers, starting with a comprehensive Work-site Analysis, Hazard Prevention, Controls, and Safety & Health Training.

Please contact us today at 888-758-4757 to learn how we can provide mine safety training and consulting for your business.

Cleaning vs. disinfecting/sanitizing: What’s the difference?

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A best practice to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory infections is routinely cleaning and disinfecting/sanitizing surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

That’s because recent studies have found that SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 – can remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. To effectively remove and eliminate the virus, however, workers need to understand that the terms “cleaning” and “disinfecting/sanitizing” aren’t interchangeable, NIOSH Director John Howard pointed out during a March 31 webinar hosted by the National Safety Council in conjunction with the agency.

“Cleaning is getting the dirt out,” Howard said. “Sanitizing is what’s used in public health a lot to get down to a certain level of bacteria – sometimes 95% is killed. Disinfection is killing everything. That’s where you want to aim.”

CDC’s explanation goes a step further:
Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. It doesn’t kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
Disinfecting/sanitizing refers to using chemicals (e.g., Environmental Protection Agency-registered disinfectants) to kill germs on surfaces. This process doesn’t necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
Sterilization describes a process of destroying or eliminating all forms of microbial life and is carried out in health care facilities by physical or chemical methods.

Among CDC’s tips to clean and disinfect surfaces:

  • Wear disposable gloves.
  • Clean surfaces using soap and water, then use a disinfectant.
  • When using EPA-registered disinfectants, follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product.
  • More frequent cleaning and disinfection may be required based on level of use.
  • Surfaces and objects in public places (e.g., shopping carts and point-of-sale keypads) should be cleaned and disinfected before each use.

People using household cleaners, disinfectants in unsafe ways during pandemic, survey finds

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Photo: Floortje/iStockphoto

Washington — Washing foods with bleach, applying household cleaning or disinfectant products to the hands or skin, and intentionally inhaling or ingesting these products are among the “non-recommended, high-risk practices” nearly 2 out of 5 U.S. adults say they have tried to prevent contracting COVID-19, results of a recent survey indicate.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including the agency’s COVID-19 response team, looked at data from an online survey of a nationally representative cohort of 502 U.S. adults. The survey – conducted May 4 – included questions about general knowledge, attitudes and practices related to the use of household cleaners and disinfectants, as well as about specific information regarding cleaning and disinfection strategies for preventing the transmission of COVID-19.

Among the 39% of the respondents who reported they had engaged in these high-risk, unsafe behaviors within the past month:

  • 19% applied bleach to food items, including fruits and vegetables.
  • 18% used household cleaning and disinfecting products on their hands or skin.
  • 10% misted their body with a cleaning or disinfectant spray.
  • 6% inhaled vapors from household cleaners or disinfectants.
  • 4% had drank or gargled diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, or other cleaning and disinfectant solutions.

Overall, 77% of the respondents didn’t know they should use only room-temperature water to dilute bleach solutions, and 65% were unaware that they shouldn’t mix bleach with vinegar.

One-quarter of the respondents reported experiencing at least one adverse health effect, which they believed resulted from the use of disinfectants or cleaners.

“COVID-19 prevention messages should continue to emphasize evidence-based, safe practices such as frequent hand hygiene and frequent cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces,” the researchers said. “These messages should include specific recommendations for the safe use of cleaners and disinfectants, including the importance of reading and following label instructions.”

The survey results were published online June 5 in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.