Have you considered substitution in your chemical management strategy?
The implementation of effective chemical substitution policies and management practices at the workplace can deliver significant benefits in terms of protecting the health and safety of workers. Substitution as a control measure should be part of a chemical management strategy.
Substitution is one way of eliminating or reducing the risks from chemicals to health and safety at the workplace. All hazards to the health and safety of workers should be identified and risks arising from them eliminated or controlled in order to prevent occupational accidents and work-related diseases.
Substitution is a way of reducing identified chemical risk by:
- replacing a chemical used with a less hazardous one
- using a safer physical form of a chemical, such as larger particle sizes or pellets
- changing a process or technology by using safer alternatives
Substitution can be used to reduce risk at any workplace where chemicals are handled, stored, or used. Substitution can be done to improve occupational health and reduce health hazards that lead to both acute and long-term exposure risks. It can sometimes reduce physical hazards and risks for fire or explosion, and finally there can be benefits to reduce environmental hazards and risk.
Substitution is a way of making the workplace healthier and safer. There are many reasons for substitution. Drivers for substitution can come from society pressure for healthy workplaces and the environment, as well as legislation, industry standards, supply chain demand, raw material availability as well as public opinion.
Reducing risk at the source is a good risk management principle and using safer alternatives that require fewer control measures such as personal protective equipment (PPE), alarms or engineering control like ventilation. You also eliminate the human factor to depend on controls being correctly selected, used properly, and in good working condition. Using fewer controls can also be a cost savings to an organization.
Substitution– can this work for your organization?
Here are some questions to guide you though a decision-making process if substitution can work for you:
How many chemicals are you using?
Is there an opportunity to consolidate similar chemicals? Can you reduce the number of chemicals for one job? Reducing the number of chemicals used on a job reduces the risk.
Do we have a responsibility to substitute?
Changing out chemicals if possible, that are classified as Carcinogens, respiratory sensitizers, and mutagens should be explored. It may also reduce the administrative burden for regulatory permits ad paperwork.
Are hazardous fumes or dust created?
Even if the materials or chemicals themselves may not be hazardous, you may be using them in such a way that there is a risk to workers. Changing the source of fumes or dust, the processes or working practices can increase safety and reduce cost.
Are chemicals used in large amounts?
The greater the quantity of chemical used the greater the risk. The greater the frequency of chemical use the greater the risk. Using a chemical alternative or different way of working can reduce the amount and frequency of chemical use.
What are the control measures used to reduce chemical harm and risk?
Think of all the controls in place from engineering controls, to administrative processes/procedures, and PPE to control risk. There is a significant investment in this practise. This can be significantly reduced by changing to less hazardous chemicals.
Are we adhering to our social license to do business?
Companies are under increasing pressure to be safe and sustainable. Changing to less hazardous chemicals is expected by consumers and the public in today’s market.
It needs to be acknowledged that not all chemicals and processes can be changed, and may even lead to unforeseen consequences, but even small changes can reduce health risks and increase safety. The tough part of substitution can be finding alternatives. This takes an ability to measure hazards and finding replacement products. In a future blog I will discuss strategies to evaluate and look for alternatives. Our CHAMP product has a substitution process with a library of alternative products with similar uses.