Dry-cleaners store and handle a range of chemicals, many of which are hazardous substances; some may be flammable, others may be toxic (e.g. carcinogenic or sensitising) or corrosive. Many present an airborne risk as well as a risk from contact with the skin.
Dry-cleaners commonly use the following hazardous substances:
- solvents, such as perchloroethylene (PERC), aromatic hydrocarbon solvents (for example, stoddard solvent), carbon disulfide and ethyl ether
- bleaches, such as hydrogen peroxide and sodium hypochlorite
- spotting agents, such as acetic acid, amyl acetate, aqueous ammonia, hydrofluoric acid and oxalic acid.
Careful management of these is important to protect people and the environment.
Most dry-cleaners use PERC because it has a number of convenient properties. Its high grease solvency allows shorter processing times than other dry-cleaning solvents, giving improved productivity. It's also chemically and thermally stable under normal conditions of use in an enclosed dry-cleaning machine. Some properties are a disadvantage; PERC is both toxic and ecotoxic and can cause both immediate and chronic effects from over-exposure. Dry-cleaners must avoid inhaling solvent vapour, contact with the skin and eyes, or ingesting the solvent.
Using your substances and complying with the Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017
Often what you need to do to comply with the Regulations will depend on what and how much of each hazardous substance you have on site. The hazardous substances toolbox(external link) has been created to help you work safely with hazardous substances and to increase compliance with the Regulations. The Toolbox includes information on how to comply with key rules (controls), such as when you need a compliance certificate, signs and an emergency response plan.
The hazardous substances calculator(external link) can help you work out which key controls you need in your workplace.
Easy ways to reduce your compliance requirements (and costs) are to eliminate substances you no longer use, replace very hazardous substances with safer alternatives, and reduce the amount of substances you’re keeping on site.
Compliance certification requirements
Depending on the type and quantity of chemicals held at your site, you may require one or more of the following compliance certificates:
- location compliance certificate
- certified handler compliance certificate
- stationary container compliance certificate
If you are unsure about your compliance certification requirements, contact a compliance certifier for advice.
As a general rule, you should keep the quantities of hazardous substances stored on your site to a minimum. In this way the risks may be reduced and the need for compliance certification reduced.