Opinion

Understanding the use of chemical products in facilities management

By Tunde Obileye

The use of any chemical product to perform maintenance or replacement activities requires paying attention to the instructions for its use and understanding what the product is meant to achieve. Facilities managers have the task of working with their various maintenance teams to ensure only the most appropriate chemical products are used.

There have been an increasing number of niche products aimed at meeting specialist needs in the area of chemical supplies and maintenance. This is clearly a positive development for the facilities management companies and their clients, ensuring that the necessary chemicals exist to deal with the vast array of cleaning requirements faced by individual sectors. Additionally, a key element of any facilities management business agenda is health and safety, it is, therefore, important that suitable chemicals are available to respond to specialized cleaning tasks. There is however an inevitable flipside to the coin where the potential pitfalls of stocking too many products and over-caution towards health guidelines or issues cannot be ignored.

The abundance of chemical products in the market can make facilities manager’s informed procurement choices a cumbersome task as the sheer volume of options available is overwhelming. Without all the time and resources to research the various chemical options available, facilities management companies or their clients often opt for a set of products that can complicate cleaning solutions.  They can find themselves stocking an excessive number of niche cleaning products when in-fact one or two combined chemicals would do the job to a very high standard. I have come across situations in which several types of chemical were used for essentially very similar cleaning tasks when a balanced consideration approach was all that was required to make a sound decision. Mixing the wrong combination of chemicals can create harmful toxic gases such as mixing acid-based toilet cleaners with products containing sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and the risk of such mistakes occurring is multiplied when a business has cultivated a build-up of products.

The most effective way for facilities managers to counter these problems is to seek multi-purpose chemicals whenever possible, simplifying the range of cleaning products used and consequently reducing associated health risks and financial implications. In this case, the supplier can play a major part in ensuring facilities managers avoid the implications of stocking too many cleaning products. The suppliers can assist the facilities managers by introducing the latest products that could benefit them and more importantly reduce their existing set of cleaning solutions. The best informed facilities managers recognize the importance of not only striking a balance between keeping a wide range of chemicals without overlapping the tasks they are capable of performing, but also of reviewing the balance on a regular basis to leave the door open to the latest market products. What this means therefore is that manufacturers and suppliers have become increasingly information access points for facilities management companies seeking to stay ahead of their cleaning processes. With knowledge about relevant health and safety information, facilities managers are able to make an informed choice about the best cleaning solutions for their clients. This helps to remove over-caution about the use of products that may be best suited to a business.

Training key staff will also reduce the risks that may otherwise be associated with the use of chemicals and eliminates the chance of wrongly mixing certain products. Fewer products mean there is less risk assessment required and this reduces the chance of staff overlooking important safety recommendations that apply to chemicals. Training can then focus on a genuine understanding of each product.

It is important that service providers promote a deeper understanding of what chemical options are available so that the process they have in place for tasks that involve the use of chemicals is simple, efficient and above all, designed to achieve the desired results in line with their clients’ expectations.

Tunde Obileya is the CEO of Great Heights Group- a total Real Estate Solutions Company operating in Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

A UK trained lawyer, he has vast experience in facilities management methodologies and best practices.

He is a certified member of the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM)

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