Workers in Many Sectors
Hazardous Materials – 10 Things You Don’t Know (But You Should)

Written by: Rob Hallsworth

Published on: 2 December 2020

Screen shot of sample dashboard from SDS RiskAssist

Using digital technology, I have read more than 15,000 SDSs in over 100 different workplaces. The technology has allowed me to see the challenges and opportunities that a typical employer faces when using hazardous materials. The following are examples from a typical workplace chemical collection:

  1. A typical workplace has 120 chemical products. That is over 2,500 pages of SDS information. It would take one person 60 hours to read it.
  2. Of the 120, approximately 30 products are not hazardous. That’s right employers can immediately save 25% of their effort training employees on workplace chemicals.
  3.  Causes Serious Eye Damage is the most common higher risk hazard. Fortunately, it is one of the easiest to protect against through the use of safety glasses, goggles or face shields.
  4.  There will be about 20 products that are cancer causing. These would be great ones to consider eliminating.
  5. Approximately 5% of Canadian adults suffer from asthma and it is the most common occupational lung disease! The collection of chemicals likely contains over 22 chemicals that cause asthma. Employers should know what these chemicals are.
  6.  If the Fire Department inspected the facility would the employer know what chemicals are flammable? With aerosols and liquids, there would be over 30 items. Safe storage and handling of these is critical.
  7.  Skin hazards are found in 75% of the hazardous materials. They range in severity from Maybe Harmful to Fatal. Employers should quickly be able to identify the most serious hazards. And ensure they have the right type of gloves available!
  8.  Occupational Exposure Limits restrict how much workers can be exposed to. The collection would contain over 100 ingredients that have regulated limits. Some such as expanding foam products, that contain isocyanates with exposure limits as low as 0.005ppm. Ventilation, respirators, and testing may be required.
  9. There won’t be a lot of green house gases in the selection of products. But, if there is a dust cleaner, often used to clean electronics and keyboards, it can contain HFC’s. That small spray bottle can impact global warming as much as burning 140 litres of gasoline.
  10. A handful of suppliers account for half of the purchases. But chances are 30-40 suppliers only provide 1 item. An opportunity to streamline and save $$$ on procurement?

Contact us to get started with looking into your hazardous materials with a focus on the original WHMIS objective – reduce the risk of illness or injury to workers resulting from the use of hazardous materials. And save time and money in the process!



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SDS RiskAssist is brought to you by award-winning Rillea Technologies, 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 ensures workers know why chemicals are being used, what their benefits and hazards are and how to use them safely! RilleaTech’s 10-step chemical management process guides employer action to mitigate their risk and ensure workers have the right knowledge to prevent harm. Workers can access this knowledge via mobile or desktop devices as often as needed, from anywhere in the world. SDS RiskAssist is the winner of 2018, 2019, and 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards by Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine; 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). Rillea Technologies supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, working with our clients to take action for a sustainable planet.

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