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Hazard identification in the workplace

Written by: Rob Hallsworth

Published on: 12 September 2022

WHMIS requires employers to ID all chemical hazards on the job

Occupational health and safety legislation in Canada requires employers to “take every reasonable precaution to ensure the workplace is safe.” That responsibility includes identifying the hazards of all chemical products their employees use on the job.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety specifically cites the following employer responsibilities for hazard identification and control under the WHMIS program:

  • Know exactly what hazardous products are present, and how they are used, handled, or stored in the workplace.
  • Identify the hazards associated with the use, storage, handling, and disposal of the hazardous products.
  • Determine who may be exposed to the hazardous products.
  • Develop procedures for
    • Safe use, handling, storage, and disposal of a hazardous product
    • How to protect workers who may be exposed
    • What must be done in an emergency that involves the hazardous product
  • Monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the [control] program.

According to the CCOHS, employers must consult the hazard summary found on each product's safety data sheet (SDS) and assess the information as follows:

"Review each SDS to make sure the information is complete and accurate. You may need additional information from other sources (such as journals, text books, local jurisdictions, etc.). Knowing the hazards will help you make informed decisions about use, storage, disposal, education, training, and emergency response.”

How hazardous are your hazardous products?

Every workplace is different and uses different products. Under the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) there are approximately 70 different hazards identified.

A typical workplace has about 40 of these hazards.

Does complying with WHMIS hazard identification and control requirements seem like an impossible task?

In fairness, if you are managing more than 50 SDSs, it is incredibly time consuming and complex to do it all yourself: you need to review each safety data sheet, cross-reference ingredient information with regulations, summarize your priorities, and THEN you can act on your priorities.

Employers often try to solve this problem by hiring students to compile this information, but students rarely have the necessary knowledge of the regulations. And hiring a seasoned professional to tackle this time-consuming job often becomes unaffordable.

SDS RiskAssist software makes it easy

The good news is SDS RiskAssist software makes identifying chemical hazards a breeze. It puts all the information you need at your fingertips.

SDS RiskAssist instantly sorts and prioritize hazards across your entire SDS catalogue/collection. It provides tools to:

  • Flag critical chemical hazards for your attention
  • Link to applicable health and safety regulations to simplify your research
  • Compare chemical products so you can choose safer options
  • Apply your customized work instructions to each SDS
  • Provide on-demand relevant WHMIS hazard training for employees

You'll know every hazard of every product in your collection – immediately – so you can invest your time and resources in implementing health and safety initiatives to make your workplace safer.

Common chemical safety hazards

Safety data sheets contain serious health hazard warnings more often than most organization realize. Our database of more than 80,000 SDSs reveals the 10 most common chemical safety hazards are:

10 Most Common Chemical Safety Hazards: Causes serious eye irritation. Causes skin irritation. Causes serious eye damage. May cause respiratory irritation. Harmful if swallowed. Causes severe skin burns. May cause drowsiness or dizziness. May cause an allergic skin reaction. Highly flammable liquid and vapour. May cause damage to organs.
SDS RiskAssist analysis of the top 10 most common chemical safety hazards from a review of more than 80,000 safety data sheets.

Be especially vigilant for these health hazard warnings

Employers should be especially vigilant in monitoring chemical product SDSs for the following 10 serious health hazard warnings:

10 Serious Health Hazards every employer should watch out for: Suspected of damaging fertility or the unborn child. Suspected of causing cancer. May cause cancer. Toxic if swallowed. May damage fertility or the unborn child. Toxic if inhaled. May cause allergy or asthma symptoms or breathing difficulties if inhaled. Toxic in contact with skin. Suspected of causing genetic defects. May cause genetic defects.

Customizing safety procedures

After you identify the hazards in your chemical product collection, you'll need to update your safety data sheets with specific instructions so employees know exactly how to safely store, use and dispose of each product, as well as what to do in an emergency.

As noted above, SDS RiskAssist makes it easy to apply your customized work instructions to each SDS. We also go a step further by summarizing critical information from the SDS in a clear, one-page brief — the SDS RiskAssist SafetySnap.

Safety procedures at a glance

Employees can rely on SDS RiskAssist SafetySnaps 24/7 to prevent hazard exposure. These concise summaries of all your SDSs, with your specific instructions and PPE requirements, eliminate hours of time reading SDSs and trying remember the information to keep safe on the job.

SafetySnaps make it easy to create a safety-first culture that reduces the risk of incidents that may compromise worker health and safety.

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You're a snap away from a safer workplace

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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.