KemiGuiden - the Chemical Guide: an e-tool supporting chemical risk management in micro and small enterprises

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Ann-Beth Antonsson, Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Eliana Alvarez, Swedish Environmental Research Institute

Introduction

Chemical risks are among the most difficult risks to manage, especially for micro and small enterprises, MSE. In a pilot study[1] managers and safety representatives in enterprises of different sizes were interviewed. Small enterprises had two main questions they wanted to get support for: What regulations apply to us? and especially What do we need to do to comply with the regulations? Large enterprises often had more subtle questions and unlike MSE often had experts working with safety and health.

Starting from this pilot study, the e-tool KemiGuiden was developed and launched in 2003. KemiGuiden was developed especially to be adapted to MSE and to support MSE in complying with the regulatory demands concerning chemical risks. The Chemical Guide is especially developed for down-stream users, not manufacturers or suppliers of chemical products.

Methodology

The Chemical Guide has been developed to support different kinds of needs of MSE. On one hand, KemiGuiden can be used as a diagnostic tool and provide tailored feedback. For this purpose the MSE answers a set of questions about the chemicals they use and their current chemical risk management. Based on their responses, tailored advice is given. There are four different interactive guides serving this purpose, the first one is a “quick start” (7 questions) which focus on core topics in chemical risk management, the second is My Chemical Guide (with a maximum of 64 questions, many of the questions are however omitted due to responses to some of the previous questions as this guide is interactive) The result from this guide is a detailed diagnose of what is required according to current OSH and environmental legislation regarding chemicals and in combination with the responses about what the enterprises already does in their chemical management, advice is given on actions needed for compliance with regulations. The third guide is a Reach Guide (9 questions), sorting out what actions were needed when Reach came into force. The fourth guide is Allergy Risk (8 questions) and is about minimizing the risk of allergies and eczemas due to the most common exposures.

Even if the Chemical Guide´s main focus is on OSH, it also includes information about environmental requirements regarding chemicals. The inclusion of environmental issues in the Chemical Guide was a strategic decision. MSE do not always distinguish between OSH and the environment and it was considered an advantage for MSE to be able to comply with both OSH and environmental legislation through one tool. Being able to use the environment in the marketing was also considered a competitive advantage.

The guides provide tailored advice and may be used when working with chemical risk management. However, many companies may have other needs, e.g. after meeting requirements from inspectors, safety representatives or employees or when facing new problems, e.g. with pregnant workers or finding asbestos when renovating premises. For these situations, the entire content of the Chemical Guide (which is the basis for the feedback with tailored advice when using the interactive guides) is collected in a dictionary. Anyone can access and use the information in the dictionary and select whatever information is considered interesting.

The advice provided is focused on good practice which means that the advice is mainly about what is needed to comply, rather than presenting the requirements as such for e.g. common hazardous substances this means that concrete and down-to-earth advice is given on what control measures to apply. Information about the requirements is provided at the bottom of each “page”, as this kind of information just is used to show that there are requirements that justify the advice given.

The content in the Chemical Guide was developed by Ann-Beth Antonsson and Eliana Alvarez at the Swedish Environmental Research Institute. The production of the website was made together with Prevent, who published the website and has the responsibility for managing it. The development was made in close cooperation with a reference group with representatives from the social partners and the Swedish Work Environment Authority.

Results and further development

The content of the Chemical Guide has been developed to support chemical risk management. The main headings are

  • Certain activities and professions, e.g hairdressers and welding.
  • Certain chemical products, e.g isocyanates, quartz (described as “stone dust”, in order to use workings that can be expected to be understood by laymen) and lead.
  • Vulnerable employees, pregnant women, minors, working alone.
  • Routines that needs to be in place, e.g. SDS, purchasing routines, safety instructions.
  • Control measures (the hierarchy of control).
  • Notifications and permissions needed for certain chemicals.
  • Transport.
  • Manufacturers of chemical products and the Seveso-directive.

The Chemical Guide was launched as part of the EU campaign on chemical risks in the autumn 2003. Since then, the website has had a steady and increasing number of visitors, starting with around 2 000 and currently around 4 000 visitors per month. The website has continuously been updated to comply with changes in the regulations. In addition, some major changes have been made. The quick start was developed after a few years, to serve as a more simple start to the chemical risk management. The good practice advice has been moved and is now placed on the top in the table of content, as this kind of advice is what MSE often ask for and are able to use. Currently an interactive risk assessment tool, KemiRisk, adapted to MSE is developed and the intention is to make this tool a part of the Chemical Guide, as the assessment of chemical risks is difficult and especially difficult for MSE.


References

  1. Alvarez de Davila E, Antonsson A-B, Frostling H. Vilket stöd behöver företag och organisationer inom kemikalieområdet? En förstudie. (What support does enterprises and organisations need regarding chemical management? A pilot study) IVL-rapport B 1511. Stockholm 2002.

Contributors

palmerk