Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Systematically evaluating hazardous products and transitioning to safer alternatives

Seattle City Light

Seattle City Light, one of the nation’s largest municipally-owned electric utilities, has successfully developed and implemented a chemical use reduction policy and procedure for moving to safer products and processes. Under this policy, the utility is required to reduce the overall use of hazardous materials to the extent practical, to phase out the use of products that pose human health or environmental risks, and to increase the use of safer alternatives. To implement the policy, Seattle City Light reviews new products, as well as its existing chemical inventory, based on chemical acceptability criteria developed by the utility. The approval process uses this hazard evaluation to place the product into tiers and determine whether it should be classified as a preferred product. Only products that have made it through this approval process can be utilized by the utility in its operations. After the selection and implementation of preferred alternatives, Seattle City Light frequently conducts evaluations of product performance in particular applications, collaborating with workers to determine the impact of the alternatives on shop floor operations.
Seattle City Light Through this ongoing process, the utility has been able to identify and transition to preferred products in a variety of applications. For example, when Seattle City Light reviewed its welding operations in steel shops, the utility identified a substitute for the use of thoriated tungsten electrodes, which expose workers to radiation. Seattle City Light utilized an alternatives assessment developed by the American Welding Society to select and replace these electrodes with ones containing lanthanum, a less toxic alternative that can be used in a wide range of applications. This move reduced worker exposures, as well as met the performance needs of the operation, without significantly increasing costs.

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