Assessing chemical hazards made easier with new tool for JHSCs

Aug 21, 2019

Assessing chemical hazards made easier with new tool for JHSCsA new tool will soon be available free of charge through WSPS to help joint health and safety committees (JHSCs) assess chemical hazards during their monthly workplace inspections. “When looking at chemical product safety data sheets (SDSs), it’s hard for the JHSC to see which workplace chemicals are of immediate concern and how to take preventative measures,” says Jaskaren Randhawa, WSPS Research Program Specialist. The Chemical Hazard Assessment Prioritization (CHAP) tool will allow a JHSC to prioritize chemical exposure hazards based on their impact on health.

How the tool came about

The study behind the new tool was carried out by researchers at Ryerson University, with support from WSPS, the Public Services Health & Safety Association, five national and provincial unions, and Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers Inc.

JHSCs from six companies - two manufacturing and four smaller workplaces - were recruited to test the tool, which enables workplaces to rank their chemicals within one of five bands (from A = low hazard to E = extremely high hazard). The ranking depends on the hazard statements found on the SDS. The banding can help JHSCs prioritize hazardous chemicals for replacement, additional controls, or better personal protective equipment.

The JHSCs in the study also took an hour-long training program designed to help JHSCs understand:

  • SDS information on health effects
  • how to rank chemicals based on these health effects
  • the difference between a risk and hazard assessment
  • how to use the new CHAP tool

The manufacturing companies, which use a number of chemicals, found the tool useful. However, the smaller companies with few chemicals found using the tool time consuming. Based on this feedback, the researchers have created an electronic version of the tool using an EXCEL spreadsheet with drop down menus.

This new version of the CHAP tool will be piloted this fall, and may be available - along with the training program - by the end of the year.

When to use the CHAP tool

Workplace inspections must be carried out by a worker member of the JHSC once a month. These inspections help to identify all hazards, including possible chemical exposures, so that the workplace can take steps to prevent or mitigate workplace injuries.

“Use the CHAP tool during an inspection will help the JHSC worker member determine whether the identified substance is a hazard,” says Jaskaren. “The CHAP tool can outline specific recommendations so that employers can fulfill their legal obligations.”

How WSPS can help

Improve your workplace’s ability to identify and assess hazards, and implement a hazard control program, by:

  • signing up JHSC members for classroom training and e-courses on
  • speaking with a WSPS occupational hygienist about inspecting, monitoring and controlling workplace carcinogens: 1-877-494-WSPS (9777)
  • accessing free downloads, including a health and safety action plan form