Safetip #41: Hazards, Performance & Costs of Chemical Substitutes
OSHA’s 7-Step Process to Transition to Safer Chemicals
OSHA has developed a 7-step toolkit to provide organizations with information, methods, tools and guidance on using informed substitution in the workplace. The toolkit can be used by manufacturers using chemicals in their production processes, and companies that use products containing chemicals in their everyday operations. The first step for transitioning to safer chemicals consists of forming a team to develop a plan, while the second step consists of examining the current use of chemicals. Once alternatives have been identified (step 3 of the toolkit), it is time to assess and compare them to make an informed decision.
Compare Chemical Substitutes After Identifying Them
OSHA recommends assessing and comparing chemical alternatives across three criteria: hazards, performance and costs.
Before comparing hazards, the relevant hazard criteria must be selected. Hazard types that should be considered for the evaluation include: acute health hazards, chronic health hazards, safety hazards, and use hazards. After the individual hazards have been identified, chemical substitutes can be compared against each other to determine the least/most hazardous ones.
Alternatives should then be compared based on their performance. The first step of the evaluation consists of selecting the relevant performance criteria (e.g. durability, longevity, maintenance requirements, noise level, operating temperature, etc.). The relevant parameters could vary from one application to another. Suppliers and customers may also need to be consulted to identify the critical parameters for evaluation, but also to gather information about the performance of alternatives under evaluation.
Finally, alternatives should be assessed and compared based on costs. OSHA says that a full cost-benefit analysis of all the alternative options is costly and not required. But it is nevertheless important to thoroughly consider relevant cost impacts, both positive and negative. Completing an economic analysis also helps to make the business case for transitioning to safer alternatives. The evaluation should include direct costs, indirect costs, liability costs, and less tangible benefits (e.g. increased sales due to improved product quality, increased worker productivity).
Once chemical substitutes have been compared for hazards, performance and costs, it is time to select a safer alternative.
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For additional information on product stewardship solutions that can help you manage chemicals as part of a process for transitioning to safer chemicals, download Verdantix’s report Smart Innovators: Product Stewardship Solutions.