Issue 9 of the Global Food Safety Standard from BRCGS references non-food chemical management several times. An important example of this is Clause, a section that outlines BRCGS expectations surrounding the storage and handling of chemicals.

“Processes shall be in place to manage the use, storage and handling of non-food chemicals to prevent chemical contamination. These shall include, at a minimum:

  • an approved list of chemicals for purchase
  • availability of material safety data sheets and specifications
  • confirmation of suitability for use in a food-processing environment
  • avoidance of strongly scented products
  • the labelling and/or identification of chemicals at all times
  • a designated storage area (separate from chemicals used as raw materials in products), access restricted to authorised personnel
  • use by trained personnel only
  • procedures to manage any spills
  • procedures for the safe, legal disposal or return of obsolete or out-of-date chemicals and empty chemical containers”

To help you secure compliance in this area, we have put together a comprehensive guide to the management of the cleaning chemicals at your site. From lining up the correct documentation to finding the best PPE, it will help you to enhance your current process – identifying both the things you are doing right and the areas where changes need to be made.

1. Establish a chemical inventory

Create an inventory of the cleaning chemicals being used at your site. List the quantities you work with, the area they are being stored in, the operatives trained to handle them, the processes they are used for, and the associated risks of each chemical. You should also include the efficacy of the chemicals, along with any tests they have passed. Once you have completed your inventory, you will need to produce a COSHH assessment that details the necessary controls to keep your operatives safe. This could be anything from protective clothing to the temperature at which the chemicals need to be stored.

2. Consider your chemical supplier

When selecting a chemical supplier, your decision should be based on the overall level of service you receive.

Paying a little extra to work with a specialist supplier should grant you access to additional services such as expert advice and training resources. Some suppliers even offer auditing, visiting your site to check that your cleans are safe and effective. The right supplier will also stay abreast of changes in legislation, redeveloping their formulae to ensure your business remains compliant. This should come in handy when it comes to adhering to Clause, specifically the expectation that sites will maintain “procedures for the safe, legal disposal or return of obsolete or out-of-date chemicals and empty chemical containers.” When using a reputable chemical supplier, you will find that the return of chemicals and containers is part of the service. This will not only leave you with one less task to manage, but will also help you to secure that all-important audit compliance.

The final step is to coordinate with your customers, as a lot of the major supermarkets and retailers will have rules of their own in terms of which cleaning chemicals can and cannot not be used. This will include the efficacy of the chemicals, along with any tests they have passed. For example, a biocidal chemical will need to pass an EN1276 to be used in a food processing site. There are also restrictions surrounding ‘strongly scented products’, as they can easily taint food items. Such chemicals are warned against in Issue 9 of the BRCGS Global Food Safety Standard.

3. Safely store your cleaning chemicals

When cleaning chemicals are first delivered to your factory, they will typically arrive in kegs/barrels or an IBC (intermediate bulk container). They may also be deposited directly into large external holding tanks that are already on site. The chemicals will then be supplied around your site via a ring main, diluted with chemical dosing units. Alternatively, they will be used in mechanical or hand-operated spray units.

During this process, your focus should be on the secure storage of the chemicals. If your site uses kegs or barrels, acid and alkali products must be adequate segregated, ideally in separate locations. This is incredibly important, as if the chemicals were allowed to mix, this could lead to serious health and safety hazards, such as chlorine gas. Kegs and barrels should also be held on bunded pallets to reduce the risk of chemicals leaking into the environment and becoming a serious hazard.

If your site uses IBC and holding tanks, they will need to be locked off, only accessible to trained staff with authorisation. You should also pay attention to how effectively the dosing units are locked off when they are not in use. If the dosing points are in a high traffic area where there is a risk of damage to your site’s units and pipework, you need to ensure there is adequate guarding around them. Click here to read our guide to establishing a successful Lock Out Tag Out Program at your site.

Finally, you need to ensure any neat or diluted cleaning chemicals are clearly identified – remembering to identify both the chemical and the dilution. Tuffx Tags can be used for this task, as they are extremely durable and come in eight different colours. IndeliMarking could also be of use, creating a lasting impression on equipment such as your Trigger Sprays.

4. Educate your operatives

Training is one of the simplest ways to protect your business. Every site should have designated operatives who have the training and experience to handle cleaning chemicals, with these chemicals safely locked away, only to be accessed by a few trusted individuals. This isn’t an area that can be overlooked, as Chemical Handling is an official health and safety requirement for any operatives tasked with this responsibility.

You will then need to educate your entire team on safe and effective chemical management. Even the operatives who aren’t required to work directly with chemicals should be involved, as they will need to understand the importance of deferring to someone with the right training if they are ever faced with a restricted chemical.

Visual Management and Safety Signs will also play an important role, acting as constant reminders of the controls in place. They will also help you to connect with agency staff who may only be on site for a couple of days, along with operatives who do not have English as their first language.

Auditors and customers alike will expect to see evidence of your commitment to safeguarding your operatives, so remember to keep a record of all your training procedures, as well as a documented list of command and up-to-date Cleaning Instruction Cards.

5. Evaluate your PPE

The next step is to ensure the Specialist PPE at your site is chemical resistant, designed to withstand the most demanding factory environments. This equipment should include washdown and chemical garments, along with protective eye wear, footwear, and gloves. It is essential that you carry out a visual inspection of your PPE every time it is worn, completing an integrity check to ensure it is safe to use and doesn’t need to be replaced. Chemicals can find their way through the tiniest of gaps and have the potential to cause a lot of damage when they do, so you need to encourage your operatives to raise any concerns immediately. You should also pay close attention to the treads of the boots being worn, as the average Hygiene Team will be climbing onto ladders and equipment, so will be put at risk of trips and falls by worn treads or chemical burns caused by tears and holes.

Your PPE will need to be kept clean, so make sure you speak to your supplier about the best way to do this. After all, incorrectly cleaning and drying your PPE could make it less effective or shorten its lifespan. Finally, your PPE will need its own designated storage zone. This will help to prevent cross contamination and will make it easier for your operatives to find the equipment they need.

6. Prepare for spills and accidents

Certain cleaning chemicals cause burns and respiratory problems if they are handled incorrectly. They also represent a cross contamination risk if their concentration is too high. This makes your approach to handling spills and accidents absolutely crucial.

When dealing with the former, you will need a Hazardous Materials Incident Kit, containing essential equipment such as spill tape, a chemical pad, and chemical resistant gloves. It is also interesting to note that although allergens are technically food items, they are actually classed as chemicals, so your Hygiene Team will also benefit from a dedicated Allergen Spill Kit.

If your site is at risk of a more significant chemical spill, you may need a larger kit to deal with this requirement. One option is a Shoulder Pack with an absorption capacity of 45 litres. Alternatively, you could use a Wheeled Containment and Absorption Kit with an absorption capacity of 250 litres.  

Last but not least, when it comes to handling accidents, you will need a British Standards First Aid Kit, featuring sterile wipes, bandages and dressings. An eye wash station and burns kit will also help to keep your operatives safe. 

That brings us to the end of our guide to using and storing cleaning chemicals at your site. We hope that it has acted as a helpful reminder of the points you need to cover in order to safeguard your operatives and customers, along with the future of your factory. 

Here at Klipspringer, we supply the Spill Kits, First Aid Kits, PPE, and Safety Signs mentioned in this article. We also have over twenty years of experience in supporting food and beverage production sites. If you would like any help with chemical management solutions, you can contact us on 01473 461800 or Alternatively, you can fill out the contact form below and one of our friendly team members will be in touch. 

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