Digital Technology and Chemical Risk Management

Consider a process of chemical risk management that follows a basic framework, uses digital technology and puts clear simple results at your fingertips.

The ACT Framework

Access to information is what most organizations are doing with WHMIS today. Education helps workers understand the symbols, hazards and signal words used within WHMIS along with what should appear on labels and safety data sheets.  Updating SDSs so that decisions about worker safety are made based on the latest information is an essential next step.

Control is the risk management part of the framework. It starts with using the SDSs to identify all the hazards. Then assess the risk that these hazards will cause harm and finally put in place the necessary steps to mitigate the risk.

Train is the process of ensuring that workers understand the mitigation steps, that the steps are sustainable and produce predictable results. Sustainability requires support and follow up from all levels. If we want supervisors to follow up they to need to be clear on the expectations. Managers set the expectations if they too have insight into the hazards and mitigation steps in their organizations. Good safety results come from the entire organization understanding chemical hazards and their specific mitigation steps.

Change the Platform

WHMIS started as a paper based platform. Binders full of data sheets. Some people still prefer this approach because you can physically see the sheets and anyone can access them – but no one reads them.

Today more people use electronic copies of the SDS as their platform. While they are easier to locate, the content is generic and you still have the problem that no one reads them

Digital technology allows you to create a data based platform.  It turns words into data which you can manipulate to zero in on the insights you need.  For example, you can look at all your products that can cause skin damage to evaluate your need for gloves. Plus, you can add your own information to the system –actionable instructions such as Wear Nitrile Gloves.

You can also send the information to other systems so that workers get answers where they need them. Take a sub-set of key information from your data and link it to your inventory system so when someone looks for a bottle of dichloromethane they see hazard information and PPE requirements along with location and inventory levels.

Or add data to your Learning Management System so that WHMIS chemical specific training is accessed and tracked through the same portal as other training

Create a Digital Transformation

A digital platform and a simple framework means that it is as easy to determine how to handle a chemical safely as it is to find the score in last night’s hockey game.

Picture opening an app on your phone and immediately finding an electronic document that lists the hazards and your company’s instructions for safely handling any chemical in your workplace. And that the document gave you that information in under 100 words. And that the safety data sheet was only another click away.

The App has plenty of other valuable information – a list of all the products in your workplace that can cause cancer or information for first aid responders.

A structured, simple and efficient way to gather hazard information and identify protective actions makes your organization safer. 

This is the fifth of six blogs that talk about Chemical Risk Management and how any organization can make dramatic improvements in chemical safety with the same or less effort than you are spending today complying with WHMIS.  These blogs will cover the following topics:

1.            Chemical Risk Management – It’s More Than WHMIS

2.            Is Chemical Risk Management Important?

3.            Obstacles to Chemical Risk Management

4.            Simplify Chemical Risk Management

5.            Digital Technology and Chemical Risk Management

6.            Case Study – How 1 Company Improved Chemical Safety

If you have any questions on this article or the series, please contact me directly at [email protected]