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You are Using Too Many Chemicals in Your Workplace

Written by: Rob Hallsworth

Published on: 10 February 2020

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!

This creates:

  1. Unnecessary safety and environmental risks
  2. Ineffective and time consuming training
  3. 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:

  1. Fatal if inhaled, if swallowed or in contact with skin
  2. May cause cancer; Suspected of causing cancer
  3. 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:

  1. Number of chemicals used in only one location – 427 (70% of products)
  2. Number of suppliers providing only 1 product – 101 (55% of suppliers)
  3. 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!


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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.