Monday, June 23, 2014

Step 2: Examine Current Chemical Use - Inventory

First, you should work with your team to develop an up-to-date inventory of all the chemicals used in your workplace, including chemicals used during production, performing service tasks, and during cleaning and maintenance operations. This should include information about how the chemical is made, handled, stored, disposed, or transported. You should also describe the function the chemical performs, as well as the physical form of the chemical, the frequency and duration of the chemical use, and the quantity of the chemical used. It is important to understand whether the use of the chemical is actually necessary in your operation. The safety data sheets (SDSs) required for hazardous chemicals under OSHA's Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(1)) can provide a helpful starting point for your inventory; however, ensure your inventory is updated so that it includes all uses of all chemicals in your workplace, and ensure your supplier has provided you with a manufacturer’s SDS for each chemical. Incomplete SDSs or SDSs that do not include information about ingredients below a certain concentration are good examples of why all chemicals, not just those classified as "hazardous," should be inventoried in this step. The chemical use inventory can be as simple as a list or spreadsheet or as sophisticated as a process flow diagram. A process flow diagram graphically illustrates the chemical inputs, products, and non-product output streams for a particular manufacturing process and may point out upstream changes that could help reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals. While it may be easier to compile information about chemicals used in the processes in your workplace, it is also important to know which chemicals are contained in products used by workers and the hazards associated with them. Workers in non-manufacturing industries – such as cleaners, plumbers, floor installers, and construction workers –encounter chemicals in such products on a regular basis.

Next, you should identify the hazards associated with the chemicals used in your workplace. This should be a rapid evaluation of the hazards using existing resources, rather than an in-depth assessment requiring interpretation of toxicological test results or other scientific literature. Cross-referencing chemicals in your workplace to those on restricted substances lists and reviewing the hazard categories listed on safety data sheets can help you identify the most hazardous chemicals. Other chemical databases, such as ChemHAT and RISCTOX can help you quickly identify the hazards associated with chemicals you use in the workplace.

Key Resource

Chemical Hazard and Alternatives Toolbox (ChemHAT)

ChemHAT helps workers and employers understand whether a chemical can impact their health and whether safer alternatives exist.
The chemical information provided by ChemHAT allows you to rapidly understand the types of health effects related to a chemical and the strength of those effects. This information can help you examine your chemical use and identify which hazards you should eliminate or reduce first. ChemHAT also provides information on existing case studies of safer alternatives. This information can help you quickly understand where the potential for substitution exists and what alternatives you should consider evaluating further.

Key Resource

SubsPort Website

Restricted and Priority Substance Database

Lists of restricted and priority substances can provide a good starting point for identifying the most hazardous chemicals in your workplace. These lists generally include chemicals that are currently restricted by a government body anywhere in the world, as well as chemicals of concern that are not yet regulated. Through SUBSPORT's Restricted and Priority Substance Database, you can simultaneously search 32 lists of substances that are legally or voluntarily restricted or are recommended for restriction due to their hazards. The database includes lists from international agreements, EU regulatory lists, governmental lists, non-governmental organization and trade union lists, and internal company lists.

Key Resource

RISCTOX: Toxic and hazardous substances database


Databases that compile multiple sources of chemical information can help you quickly understand the hazards associated with the chemicals used in your workplace. RISCTOX is a database of over 100,000 chemical substances that provides clear, organized, and concise information about health and environmental risks. The database includes data on a substances’: classification by the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), specific health risks, specific environmental risks, and environmental and health-related regulations.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this informative article. Despite years of training on Hazard Communication, employees often ignore the hazards of chemicals in the workplace. The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires that employees who work with potentially hazardous chemicals receive information about how to use these substances safely. This includes knowing how to read and understand the newly revised Globally Harmonized System (GHS) labels and 16-section Safety Data Sheets.