Our first client proudly provided us with the documentation for the chemicals they used in their manufacturing facility – 255 items. Today they use 91 different chemicals. And they are not alone. Across the board, in over 100 workplaces, we have seen organizations use more chemicals then they need to!
- Unnecessary safety and environmental risks
- Ineffective and time consuming training
- Overspending on chemicals
Unnecessary Safety and Environmental Risks
One educational organization we work with had 62 different chemicals in a lab that were accessible to staff and under graduate students. After reviewing the hazards and the regulatory requirements for handling these chemicals they eliminated 10 products. Here are some of the hazards that were eliminated:
- Fatal if inhaled, if swallowed or in contact with skin
- May cause cancer; Suspected of causing cancer
- May cause allergy or asthma symptoms or breathing difficulties if inhaled
Additionally, 4 of the products eliminated contained Designated Substances which are chemicals considered so hazardous that worker exposure is controlled by Ontario Regulation 490/09. The Designated Substances in use included isocyanates, mercury and silica.
Ineffective and Time Consuming Training
A client in the medical field had 175 Safety Data Sheets in a binder in the front office. They provided employees with annual WHMIS training so they could read the SDSs and make decisions about safe handling. Feedback from employees indicated no one read the sheets. This was highlighted when 2 employees were asked why they used a soap with the hazard statement “Suspected of causing cancer”.
They had no idea of the hazard. They stopped using the product immediately.
Today, this organization has 125 products. They have reduced WHMIS training time by 50%, yet people are aware of the hazards because they can easily access the information they need on a laptop or mobile device. And management knows people are looking at the information because they can see how often their workplace specific 1-page summaries are reviewed.
Overspending on Chemicals
A municipal client has 5 locations that perform the same activities. They use over 600 different chemicals across these locations. A total of 185 suppliers provide the products. Using data from the Safety Data Sheets for each location, the Department Superintendent was able to evaluate their procurement practices:
- Number of chemicals used in only one location – 427 (70% of products)
- Number of suppliers providing only 1 product – 101 (55% of suppliers)
- Number of different spray lubricants used – 7
The organization has begun the work to reduce the number of products and suppliers to take advantage of bulk purchasing opportunities and standardized workplace activities all while selecting those products that are the safest for their employees.
Safety Data Sheets are often viewed as a burden that must be managed periodically by some unfortunate person in the organization. In fact, they are a gold mine of information that can be used to make your workplace safer while saving you time and money. Contact us to get your organization started with reducing your workplace chemicals!