If you are not a chemical company, your WHMIS SDS Management system is likely completely separate from the way your organization manages chemicals. Chemical use is very likely fragmented across departments and locations and, while essential to your success, a very low priority for supervisors and managers.
The result is you are wasting time and money while putting the health and safety of your employees in jeopardy.
Four Steps You Are Taking Today
Regardless of how you do it, if your organization uses chemicals you are taking the following 4 steps:
- Selecting and purchasing the necessary chemicals
- Providing WHMIS training to employees
- Using an SDS Management system – paper or electronic- to “make safety data sheets accessible“
- Asking employees to use the chemicals in support of your organization’s objectives
For most organizations these 4 steps are not linked together, but are carried out by different individuals using different systems.
Purchasing could be a Supervisor using a credit card or a centralized procurement group. Typically, there is no one reviewing all of the following: the supplier base, common chemical usage, application costs and the hazards of the desired chemical.
WHMIS training could be online or an in-house course but either way it’s a prepackaged course with a multiple choice test that does not consider what has been purchased or how a product is used.
SDSs are placed in a binder or maybe provided by a hosting service at the time of purchase. No one reads them. Meaning, there is no understanding of the most common types of hazards or what protective measures should be used.
Employees are asked to use the selected chemicals. But are they trained on how to use the product effectively while considering health and safety hazards or is it assumed that employees can find the required information and make the decisions themselves?
Example – selecting a disinfectant for COVID-19
Consider the following example. In an effort to manage the risks associated with the coronavirus, a supervisor identifies the need to disinfect hard surfaces in the workplace. They ask procurement to buy a Health Canada approved disinfectant. Procurement considers 2 different products, both of which are effective at killing the virus – household bleach and hydrogen peroxide wipes. The bleach costs $2.69 for a 3.6 litre jug. The wipes cost $34.37 for a package of 160. Given the emphasis on costs procurement selects the bleach.
What a worker must do
Let’s consider what has to happen to use the bleach to disinfect for the coronavirus. Each day a dilute solution of the bleach needs to be prepared. The bleach then needs to be sprayed onto the surface being disinfected and remain wet on the surface for 5 minutes. After that the surface must be rinsed and dried. The employee doing this work must be protected from the 2 hazard statements on the bleach SDS – Causes serious eye damage and Causes severe skin burns. They must also be aware that if mixed with an acid (even vinegar) bleach will produce chlorine gas.
Had the hydrogen peroxide wipes been chosen there would be no daily preparation, the wet time would be 1 minute, no rinse or drying steps. The product has no WHMIS hazards, no concerns in terms of mixing and it breakdowns to form oxygen and water.
The true cost of the disinfectant
In dollar terms, the cost to clean a table top must consider chemical cost, worker time and PPE requirements for a total of approximately $8 with bleach versus $3 with the wipes. The wipes are not 12 times more expensive, they actually cost 60% less. But you only know this if you consider all 4 steps required to safely, effectively and efficiently use the chemicals.
How integrating your SDS Management system is a better way
Chemicals are important products used by workers in your organization. They can have huge impact on employee wellness and occupational disease. To improve knowledge, safety and lower costs, connect all 4 steps using a better SDS management system. Now the Joint Health and Safety Committee reviews the SDSs, directs Purchasing to select the best option for the organization and ensures any safe handling protocols are in place for easy and relevant training of personnel, if needed. Workers use safer products, have easy access to SDSs and handling protocols and the organization saves time and money on training and PPE.
Contact us to get started with a focus on the original WHMIS objective – reduce the risk of illness or injury to workers resulting from the use of hazardous products. And save time and money in the process!