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The power of a question

Written by: Rob Hallsworth

Published on: 22 August 2017

Updated: December 29th, 2020

A leader in any organization (director, municipal councillor, C-suite executive, owner, manager) can quickly demonstrate to others what is important to the organization by asking a question. No matter how complex the issue, process or problem, a simple question asked of the right people will provide valuable insight as to how the organization is dealing with the situation.

The following 3 questions are examples of who and what a leader could ask about WHMIS and the organization’s handling of hazardous chemicals.

A good question

Asked of the Senior Operating Leader – “How are we doing with compliance to the WHMIS regulations?”

You would probably get a response something like this – “We have assigned resources to keeping all our safety data sheets (SDSs) up to date, all employees have access to the SDSs and have taken on-line WHMIS education including a written test which they must pass”.

From this you know that your direct reports are aware of WHMIS and have taken steps to comply with the legislation. You don’t know if these steps are effective or if they help to ensure that people are working safely with hazardous chemicals.

A better question

Asked of a Front Line Supervisor – “Are employees properly trained in handling hazardous chemicals?”.

This response could be along the following lines – “Everyone has been trained and I reinforce the training in tool box meetings and in my one-on-one conversations.”

It would be good to hear from the supervisor that they are reinforcing the training, but it is not clear from this question if employees are getting and following the right information.

The best question

Asked of a Chemical Handler – “How do you know what gloves to wear when handling this bottle of Methanol?”

If their response is “We wear nitrile gloves, which we dispose of after every use. That information was part of our training and is also displayed on the department glove chart which is posted on the safety board” – you know that your organization has taken the complex information within your WHMIS program and turned it into simple, actionable statements that chemical handlers can access and follow.

Transform chemical safety with a question

Leaders can also demonstrate company values by being able to answer questions that are important to workers.

Consider a chemical handler who asks – “I am planning a family and am concern about my health while working with chemicals. Which chemicals must I avoid handling?”

As a strong leader, you would like to be able to say something like – “We have assessed all of our chemicals and you can easily review the problem ones at this location. Please let me know which of those may appear in your workflow and let’s create a plan for alternative work.”

With continuous changes to chemicals, worker health and regulations, getting to the point where leaders and workers can confidently answer the best questions is no easy feat. To achieve this, you need a platform that allows you to build a library of knowledge around the chemicals you manage. Like a virtual bookshelf, this accessible platform becomes the place that all in the organization can go to have their chemical-related questions answered in clear everyday language.  That’s SDS RiskAssist!

Contact us if you you would like to learn more.



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SDS RiskAssist an Ontario-based company that uses the power of technology to give employers control and understanding over the otherwise pervasive and worrisome use of chemicals. SDS RiskAssist enables workers to know why chemicals are being used, what their benefits and hazards are and how to use them safely! Workers can access this knowledge via mobile or desktop SafetySnaps™, from anywhere in the world. SDS RiskAssist is the winner for 5 years running, of Readers’ Choice Awards by Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine (2018-2022); the 2019 Innovation Guelph Startup of the Year Award; the 2019 Quinte Business Achievement Award (Trailblazer category) and The Ottawa Network’s 2020 Bootstrap Award (SaaS category). We support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, working with our clients to take action for a sustainable planet.

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