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Chemical Safety & Risk Management – It’s More Than WHMIS

Written by: Rob Hallsworth

Published on: 9 September 2020

Originally Posted January 29, 2019

I was very fortunate to spend 22 years working in leadership roles with ExxonMobil where I learned a business can improve its overall performance by improving its chemical safety performance.

Key Concepts to Improve Safety Performance:

  • Understand people's needs. This is at the heart of an effective safety program.
  • Pay attention to safety through metrics, observations and conversations.
  • Develop a process to use the information you acquire to make improvements.
  • Use a Management System to sustain improvements and produce predictable results.

What About Chemical Safety?

The one area I did not manage well in my career was the use of chemicals in the workplace. Three years ago I joined forces with 2 other experienced, innovative experts to look at closing this gap.  We talked with hundreds of people and reviewed information on thousands of chemical products to understand what organizations are doing today and to identify the needs of the people who handle those chemicals.

We quickly learned that organizations are focused on WHMIS “compliance” which most define as updating their Safety Data Sheets. This is not the same thing as Chemical Risk Management which focuses on hazard identification, risk assessment and mitigation.

The main reason organizations find themselves in this position is they spent resources on contacting suppliers every three years to get updated data sheets. Then WHMIS “fatigue” sets in and organizations do not have the energy to tackle the next (even bigger step) of reading the safety data sheets in order to identify the hazards and develop risk mitigation solutions.

The result is people do not receive what they need -clear, simple instructions on how to handle chemicals safely.

Learn More

This series of six blogs talks about Chemical Risk Management and how any organization can make dramatic improvements in chemical safety with the same or less effort than is currently expended complying with WHMIS.  These blogs will cover the following topics:

  1. Chemical Risk Management – It’s More Than WHMIS
  2. Is Chemical Risk Management Important?
  3. Obstacles to Chemical Risk Management
  4. Simplify Chemical Risk Management
  5. Digital Technology and Chemical Risk Management
  6. Case Study - How 1 Company Improved Chemical Safety

If you have any questions on this blog or the series, please contact us. We'd be happy to discuss your chemical safety challenges.


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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.