Saturday, December 22, 2012

Do You Have a MSDS Binder?

            Imagine the scene – red flashing lights on the car behind you make you pull over. Why? You weren't speeding. What’s the problem? At closer inspection you realize it’s not the police, sheriff, or even a state trooper. It’s the DOT (Department of Transportation). What do they want? They may be double checking your ladders, seeing if interior loads are properly secured, and not obscuring the driver’s vision. Certainly they will be checking on the chemicals you have in your vehicle and at this point four letters will be vital - MSDS.

            Material data safety sheets are a system for cataloging information like reactivity with fire, water, other chemicals, chemical compounds, or chemical mixtures. They also provide information on the products safe use and potential health hazards associated with the product you are using. Proper clean up procedures in case of spills are also part of these sheets. They should be present wherever these chemicals are being used. OSHA requires MSDS sheets be made available to employees for potentially harmful substances handled on the job.

Are You Ready?
            As professional window cleaners we deal with a wide variety of chemicals. For instance, besides whatever soaps we use for cleaning windows we may have various acidic cleaners for hard water stains; glide additives for our cleaning solution; and agents for removing cement, sealers, or heavy grease deposits. Maybe we offer other services like gutter whitening, roof cleaning or power washing. Now there are chemicals like bleach, gutter whitening cleaners, muriatic acid, and a plethora of other agents too numerous to list. If we use them or carry them on our work vehicles by law we need to have a MSDS for each product. So depending on the services we offer there could be a small novel in MSDS sheets we need to keep track of. How do we do it efficiently?

The MSDS Binder
            The most efficient way to keep track of our MSDS sheets is to organize them into a binder and have a binder for each work vehicle and one for the shop where we store extra chemicals. So once we know how many binders we need the next step is to make them.
Let’s take some time now and go through the steps needed to make your own MSDS binder –
Step 1 – to get a MSDS sheet we have a couple options. If we are purchasing our chemical from Window Cleaning Resource they have a downloadable MSDS on the product page of their online store. Otherwise a simple Google search under the heading “MSDS for “and then the name of the product we are using. Once you’ve downloaded the MSDS for each product I recommend making a folder on your computer to hold them all. Then it’s simply a matter of printing out a copy of each product’s MSDS for each work vehicle and one for the shop.
Step 2 – You’ll need a 3 ring binder and 3 ring sheet protectors (we use Avery #75530). Put each products MSDS in a sheet protector and then put that in the 3 ring binder. We label the binder MSDS on its spine and then Material Safety Data Sheets on the front cover.
Step 3 – Repeat step 2 until you have a filled binder for each work vehicle and shop area where products are stored.

Better Safe Than Sorry
            Once we have our binders made and in place make sure we and all employees understand how to use them and where they are located. Granted some of the products we use are fairly common and safe to use. However, there are some that if used improperly can be deadly. That’s why you should include a discussion of MSDS part of your company’s safety meeting schedule. While we hope we never have to need the information in a MSDS it’s simply a case of “better safe than sorry”.

For more educational topics go to Window Cleaning Institute

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I've started a window cleaning school

I really appreciated the education and help I received when I started in this industry and have always tried to give back whenever I could. Recently I was encouraged to start a school to help cleaners with the basics of window cleaning. After going over the inevitable questions like - who am I to teach a school, will anyone need this, and should I charge others to learn? - I decided to go ahead and start a school.
To be fair though I will answer the questions that I had to begin with.

Who am I to teach a school? I've been cleaning windows for almost 9 years as A New View and for 3 years I ran a janitorial company where we did some window cleaning (albeit with difficulty). I've spent the last several years doing educational videos for window cleaning and helping several local cleaners with everything from tool selection to technique issues.

Will anyone need this? Thankfully I'm a visual learner and have been able to pick up window cleaning through watching videos and reading on the various forums. I realized however that there are many who need hands on education to develop their skill set. Thus the need for a school where they can do just that. Added to that is the fear some have of "training their own competition". That fear can make a cleaner leery of offering any help to people in their area trying to learn how to clean windows.

Should I charge others to learn? While it would be great if I had the extra time to take off from my business and teach this class I don't have that option. So I have to charge for the time I take away from my business. That being said I have tried to keep the fee as reasonable as possible.
I have started a new blog that provides instruction on this new school at

For more educational topics go to Window Cleaning Institute