Chemicals

Safer Chemicals: OSHA Outlines the Benefits

Yesterday, we outlined the steps in the process of transitioning to safer chemicals. Today, we review reasons why using safer chemicals whenever possible is a good idea.

American workers use tens of thousands of chemicals every day. While many of these chemicals are suspected of being harmful, only a small number are regulated in the workplace.

As a result, says OSHA, workers suffer more than 190,000 illnesses and 50,000 deaths annually related to chemical exposures. Workplace chemical exposures have been linked to cancers, and other lung, kidney, skin, heart, stomach, brain, nerve, and reproductive diseases.

OSHA says that establishing a chemical management system that goes beyond simply complying with its standards and strives to reduce or eliminate chemical hazards at the source through informed substitution provides the best protection to workers who may be exposed to chemical risks.

OSHA admits that transitioning to safer alternatives can be a complex undertaking. That’s why it has developed the step-by-step toolkit to provide employers and workers with information, methods, tools, and guidance on using informed substitution in the workplace (see yesterday’s Advisor).


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OSHA says that by using the safer chemicals toolkit, businesses can improve worker well-being through eliminating or reducing hazardous chemicals while creating other benefits, including:

  • Cost savings—Reduce expenses and future risks.
  • Efficiency—Improve performance
  • Industry leadership—Invest in innovation to stay competitive
  • Corporate stewardship—Advance socially responsible practices.

The toolkit can be used by all types of businesses—it is for manufacturers using chemicals in their production processes as well as for businesses that use products containing chemicals in their everyday operations.

For example, service-oriented workplaces (such as janitorial companies, auto body repair shops, and pathology labs) and construction work sites often use products containing chemicals that could present hazards to workers.

Workers also can use this toolkit to better understand chemical use in their workplace, find opportunities for using safer chemicals, and engage with their employers throughout the process of identifying, evaluating, and transitioning to safer alternatives.


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