By Jason Good on May 21, 2015
Tags: Data Collection
Handling hazardous chemicals can be a matter of life and death, and failing to manage them properly can have a hefty, negative impact on your bottom line. With the final phase-in deadline for all parts of the new Hazard Communication (HazCom) standard of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) coming in June 2016, the time to review, update, and streamline your practices is now.
One of the most important tools in any HazCom management plan is the no-frills, straight-forward checklist. While many of us use checklists to stay organized at home, what makes them an effective tool for meeting HazCom compliance?
For one, using something simple (checklists) to stay on top of something complicated (HazCom) just makes sense. In addition, checklists can help you systematically ensure that your safety procedures are clear, effective, and easy for your employees to access and follow. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides a helpful template HazCom checklist from which you can build. Know, though, that this checklist is not one-size-fits-all, and you’ll need to tailor it to the needs of your organization and the employees handling or interacting with hazardous chemicals.
Also keep in mind that OSHA’s templates are paper-based, and new and increasing regulations are making it more difficult to get by with paper and hard copy filing. Paper forms take time and labor, and often require a staff person to manually key in information from the forms to a computer. A far better option is to transition to mobile checklists, which can be easily created, are always accessible, and can speed up and simplify the compliance process and increase accountability.
Consider the many ways mobile HazCom checklists (available as mobile apps) can improve how you manage hazardous chemicals in your workplace:
Hazard identification and risk assessment
Is your company properly mitigating the potential for employee exposure? Checklist apps can help. With the data your employees aggregate, you’ll have a digital record of the fact that your company keeps wash fountains and showers within safe distance for emergencies, marks chemical piping systems to acknowledge their contents, and has a safe location for respirators. Digital checklists can be created for specific tasks, such as helping mine operators guard against silica exposure, or for more general responsibilities like providing overall chemical management guidance.
In the event of a spill or other HazCom emergency, how does your team manage the response? By clearly listing the steps they need to take, along with the information they need to gather, an emergency response mobile checklist can help your employees keep a cool head, while also responding correctly and creating a digital record of their response.
Labeling has undergone a major overhaul in the new OSHA regulation, and is a crucial element in HazCom safety. Does the chemical have a product identifier (chemical name), a signal word (such as “danger” or “warning”), a pictogram (skull and crossbones for acute toxicity or a flame for flammable gases), relevant hazard statements (“Toxic if inhaled” or “May cause cancer”), etc.? Applying a checklist to these requirements every time can simplify compliance.
Making sure employees who are new to chemicals are properly trained is vital to avoiding accidents and exposures. Even seasoned employees will need a thorough refresher to understand the new OSHA regulation. A training mobile checklist can ensure that you’re uniformly instructing all of your employees on the same best practices for chemicals management and communication.
Preparing for an inspection
When your company is about to undergo a formal inspection, it’s always beneficial to double-check that your processes are up to date and running smoothly. Apps can be designed to track chemical storage, for example, or to help you meet spill prevention, control, and countermeasure (SPCC) standards. Overall, you want your outfit operating at 100 percent during an inspection, and checklists can help you stay on top of all aspects of your safety program, including HazCom compliance.
With the final deadline for full compliance of the new HazCom standard slightly more than a year away, now is the time to prepare your workplace. You don’t have to overhaul every aspect of your safety program and operations, but you do need to fully understand the new standard — and create systems to help you comply with it. For a look at everything the new standard entails, download our eBook, “Are You Ready for OSHA’s New HazCom Standard?”