Safetip #50: Pilot a Chemical Alternative Before Adopting It

October 12, 2016
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

This week’s Safetip is about OSHA’s toolkit for transitioning to safer chemicals. OSHA’s 7-step toolkit gives 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. Previous Safetips about the toolkit include:

Pilot the Chemical Alternative

Before completely switching to the safer chemical alternative, OSHA recommends that you apply the change on a smaller scale, especially if you are making a complex change. This allows you to test and evaluate the alternative in order to identify successes and failures, and recognize potential problems. For example, for some alternatives you may need to conduct a field testing program to make sure the alternative meets performance expectations and product quality requirements, and that any unexpected changes in use patterns or exposure are identified.

All workers who will be impacted by the change should be involved, in order to make the process more effective. You should discuss when and how to make the change, and ensure that workers are trained and feel comfortable working with the alternative chemical, product, or process before testing begins, OSHA says.

During the pilot or field testing of the alternative, workers should be consulted to assess the performance, cost, and safety and health impacts on the work environment. It is also important to identify and evaluate any potential problems that may occur, including shifts in risks or new hazards brought by the alternative (e.g. environmental impacts, fumes and gases). As a result of the pilot testing, changes to the choice of the chemical alternative may be necessary.

Here’s a summary of the key questions that should be asked as part of the pilot testing:

  • Does the alternative perform well?
  • Does the alternative change working conditions?
  • What training do workers need to safely and effectively use the alternative?
  • Are there any unforeseen effects or trade-offs of using the alternative?
  • Is there a secure supply of the alternative?
  • How could the alternative be implemented on a larger scale?

Visit Enablon Insights again next Wednesday for a brand new Safetip!

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.

Verdantix Report Smart Innovators: Product Stewardship Solutions