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Prevent Occupational Disease Using Your Company’s Own Data!

Written by: Lisa Hallsworth

Published on: 28 July 2020

Using Workplace Data for Good - Cancer Prevention

Data has long been the basis of good science. Remembering our earliest science experiments, until our hypotheses were confirmed by data, they were really just educated guesses.

Workplace Data for Good

Today, data is easier to gather than ever before and the challenge is how to effectively present and use it, for the greater good.

To gain high quality data about the role that workplaces play in Ontario’s cancer statistics, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MOLTSD) commissioned a study by Dr. Paul Demers, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC). The resulting report entitled Using scientific evidence and principles to help determine the work-relatedness of cancer, was shared by MOLTSD earlier this month and is a sobering read.

What We Learned

Based on the data analyzed, 44% of Ontarians will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime and 24% of us will die of cancer.  In 2020 alone, the study estimates that 2900 Ontarians will be diagnosed with cancer because of work-related exposure to one or more of 16 confirmed carcinogens. Of the 16 carcinogens studied, 10 are WHMIS-regulated chemicals that can be controlled in the workplace (asbestos, diesel exhaust, crystalline silica, welding fumes, nickel, chromium VI, arsenic, benzene, PAHs and formaldehyde). According to data from CAREX Canada, over 1.1 million Ontarians are currently being exposed to these known carcinogens at work.

The Good News

The study optimistically states that over half of these cancers can be prevented and Rillea Technologies believes that this is where employers can do good!  Employers have financial incentives to keep workers healthy and they can make changes within their own workplaces faster than any regulating body or the scientific community combined. Employers can leverage their own chemical data to identify the risks of exposure in their workplaces and act to reduce the risk.

While the study gives valuable provincial-based data, how do employers know if their workplaces are high-risk for cancer? Some of the carcinogens are obvious like diesel exhaust, others like formaldehyde and benzene are not. These ingredients can form part of a chemical product with a branded or general name. To find the harmful ingredients, the employer must read the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) safety data sheet. Gasoline is a well-known example of a product that contains benzene, yet one would never know it from the name.

Use Your Data for Prevention

Wouldn’t it be great if employers could just economically search their chemical data to find, not just carcinogens but lung, reproductive, skin, environmental and other hazards? Wouldn't this be low handing fruit in the prevention of illness? Well you can! SDS RiskAssist takes your WHMIS SDSs, turns them into data, compares that data to known health, physical and environmental hazards and presents it back to you in easy-to-understand language.

Using Rillea Tech’s own data from over 115 workplaces and across many different sectors, we know that on average, 12% of chemical products used in the workplace are WHMIS-classified as probable or suspected carcinogens. Before gaining access to their data using SDS RiskAssist, our clients were largely unaware that they were managing these hazards. Now their hazards are known and the risk to workers and the environment is being reduced.

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WHMIS, Worker, Workplace Health

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SDS RiskAssist wins 6th Readers' Choice Award
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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.