Streamline Your Chemical Management with SaaS
SaaS solutions can pull SDS information directly from the chemical manufacturer or distributor, keeping your SDS management system compliant.
- By Christine Wyman McCarty
- Nov 05, 2020
As part of a comprehensive environmental, health and safety (EHS) program, preventing exposure to chemical hazards is critical to protecting your employees. Preventing chemical hazard exposure starts with a safety data sheet (SDS) management system designed to support the elimination, substitution, exposure control or use of hazardous materials. Many organizations focus their SDS management system on meeting the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard. However, according to OSHA, hazard communication and respiratory protection routinely fall in the top 10 workplace safety violations.
In order to meet the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, many organizations turn to physical binders to house SDSs provided by their suppliers. These documents include the properties of each chemical:
• The physical, health and environmental hazards
• Protective measures
• Safety precautions for handling, storing and transporting the material
While these binders can help track chemicals in use, this manual system also comes with major limitations. Binders make it hard to respond to workers’ questions, account for the location of materials, print secondary container labels and prevent exposure by automating purchasing approvals or managing inventory to support threshold reporting.
Savvier organizations, however, are now more effectively managing their EHS and chemical programs by leveraging Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms. As outlined in a recent report, 5 Reasons Firms Should Embrace SaaS for EHS Software, adopting a SaaS solution is now seen as one of the first steps an organization takes on the road to digitally transforming its operations.
When it comes to chemical programs, SaaS-based chemical management solutions can streamline chemical management by providing easy access to chemical intelligence, protecting employee safety and increasing reporting visibility.
More Efficiently Identify Approved Chemicals
Taking a proactive approach to chemical management is the most effective way to maintain workplace safety and compliance. This starts with a thorough, efficient chemical approval process in which your EHS team must first identify the hazardous materials and approve them for their designated use before new chemicals arrive on-site.
With a manual, paper-based system, you would have to fill out forms outlining the chemical, usage and regulatory data and then physically take the forms to the appropriate managers and departments for approval. Of course, this takes considerable time and can pose problems if you can’t connect with the right manager.
A lack of a centralized system also slows down your organization’s scientists and product developers when they need to confirm whether they have approval to work with certain chemicals. Chemical information isn’t saved in one location documenting past approvals, so you can’t easily access previous records to fast-track approvals and ensure compliance. In some cases, these scientists and product developers would have to first search dozens of lists to find the specific chemicals by their Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number.
But with SaaS solutions, your organization can automate the chemical approval process and keep both your EHS and product development teams working with little interruption. A member of your EHS team instead enters the chemical information into a digital form. This form can instantly verify international, regional, local and pending regulatory compliance as well as provide health, safety and storage requirements.
Some software solutions even provide a prescreening tool to allow you to screen CAS numbers against various regulatory and company-specific lists. Plus, you can analyze requested materials and potential chemical combinations against regulation and substance-level ingredient data.
More Effectively Prevent Employee Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals
Besides speeding up the chemical approval process with digital forms, this kind of instant visibility also helps prevent hazardous chemical exposure that often leads to expensive compliance violations. When collecting data manually, organizations can easily end up with hundreds of multiple-page SDSs, which makes it difficult to identify potential risks.
For instance, if a pregnant employee asks about potential exposure risks, your EHS manager would have to sort page by page to find what chemicals pose a threat or require PPE. Not only does this take a significant amount of time, but it also makes it easy to overlook a potential chemical hazard, leaving your organization liable and employees at risk.
Sharing cross-department knowledge regarding hazardous, banned or incompatible materials takes only minutes using a robust SaaS platform. Rather than waiting on an answer and continuing to work in a potentially dangerous environment, your employees can find out right away whether their safety is at risk.
Quickly Access an Up-to-Date SDS Library
In remaining compliant with the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard and the Globally Harmonized System, organizations must have an SDS outlining 16 different classifications for each on-site hazardous chemical to alert employees of potential handling and environmental risks. With so many required classifications, constantly changing regulations and ongoing product modifications to capture, a paper-based binder system makes it difficult to maintain an up-to-date, compliant SDS library. Not only must EHS teams monitor all these changes in a manual system, but they also must physically enter the new data into their records and then reproduce all updated SDSs across facilities.
SaaS solutions, however, can pull SDS information directly from the chemical manufacturer or distributor, keeping your SDS management system compliant. EHS teams can also quickly access SDSs across your organization’s multiple facilities or single out SDSs at one location, while digital storage allows multiple people to access SDSs at once and perform fast searches.
These tools considerably cut the time EHS professionals spend tracking down hazardous chemical information and ever-changing regulations. Instead, your EHS department can focus on creating a safe work environment rather than tedious data entry and administrative duties.
Even more importantly, these tools are crucial in emergencies. When an emergency hits, you need to act right away. You don’t have time to search through pages and pages of binders and can’t afford to make decisions based on inaccurate information. With a SaaS-based chemical management system in place, your organization is better prepared to keep employees and first responders protected and the environment safe during a crisis.
Leverage Easier, More Accurate Reporting With Chemical Inventory Management
As part of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, organizations must report on the storage, usage and releases of hazardous substances to federal, state and local governments that meet a certain weight threshold to help agencies plan for chemical emergencies. To do so, your organization needs a well-documented chemical inventory management system in place.
However, a manual chemical inventory system lacks the necessary visibility to ensure your organization properly reports its inventory. While a manual chemical inventory system may include an archive of every chemical’s SDS, those SDSs don’t specify whether the amount of each chemical on-site triggers the threshold for reporting.
With EHS software’s automation capability, it can track a wide range of chemical information, including the product name, chemical name, quantity, ship-to location and even material composition. By monitoring such precise measurements of all chemicals, your organization has the clarity needed to maintain a safe environment, provide accurate reporting and avoid costly regulatory penalties.
Considering today’s constantly changing regulations and the need to keep employees and the environment safe, your organization must run an efficient chemical management system. Manual, paper-based systems may have worked in the past when options were limited, but the latest SaaS platforms empower organizations to provide better safety protections and more accurate reporting.