PRIO – A tool for Risk Reduction of Chemicals

Purchasing

As a buyer you have many possibilities to affect and push development in a positive direction by wanting chemicals and goods that pose a lesser risk to people and the environment.

Greater consciousness when purchasing and negotiating is one of the most important driving forces to reduce the risks associated with chemicals and their use.

This is how you can use PRIO

On purchasing chemical products, each product should be accompanied by a safety data sheet (*1). In item 2 of the safety data sheet you will find information concerning some of the substances that may be included in the product. You can search for these in the database and obtain information concerning the substance properties, and whether it is either a substance which is due to be phased out or a prioritised risk reduction substance. If the product contains a substance which is due to be phased out, it should if possible be avoided. If the product contains a prioritised risk reduction substance, bear the following in mind:

  • The product's hazardous properties are not always the same as those of the substance it contains. The chemical product classification is in Item 15 of the safety data sheet.
  • Assess the risk in each individual case. Among other things, the risk depends on the amount, and how the product is used and handled.
  • Consult the person responsible for environmental matters or if necessary obtain other assistance to make a more comprehensive risk evaluation of this type.

To find out more about which substances have a certain property:

  • Search among the environmental and health properties that you are interested in. Before you use the result, read about the limitations of the pages you have found.
  • Learn more about the different substance group user areas and the environmental and health properties.
  • Find out which substance groups may be included in the articles and chemical products that are being purchased. Search in the substance groups to find examples of substances and their properties.
  • Learn more about which substances may be included in a certain type of product.

In the development of criteria for supplier assessment, the PRIO tool's environmental and health criteria can be used. Find out which substance groups are relevant to your company. Search for product types or substance groups that are relevant to your company. For each substance you will get information on its environmental and health properties.

One way to formulate the requirements for a supplier assessment can be to determine which properties should not be inherent in the substance in certain applications. Substances with properties covered by the tool prioritisation level for phasing out should be completely avoided.

For those properties covered by the prioritisation level for substances that have priority in risk reduction, you must decide yourself what is relevant from one case to another. Which risks the properties can give rise to depend on the exposure to humans and the environment. Depending on if and how the risks are handled, a substance that is at the "priority in risk reduction" level may continue to be used. PRIO provides a brief overview of how you can review the risks.

It is important not just to set demands, but also to have a good exchange of information concerning the possibilities of, for example, finding other substances with less hazardous properties that can fulfil the same functions as the undesirable substance. Remember to tell the supplier why you want information about a certain item and its contents, and what the information will be used for. Nor should you forget to give feedback to the supplier in respect of information and communications about the product or item's effect on the environment and health. It is a good idea to inform your supplier when you select one product instead of another precisely because of environmental and health reasons.

Prevent risks at the purchasing stage

It need not be complicated or difficult to set demands when purchasing or negotiating. Jut asking questions can take you a long way. Ask others who know about the area and use the aids that are already available on the market.

Find out what the company environmental policy is and what the environmental goals are. If your company is environmentally-certified it can be a good idea to look at which important environmental aspects have been identified. If risk reduction or the use of chemicals are prioritised in the environmental policy or the environmental goals, you can, perhaps in conjunction with the person responsible for environmental matters, and within the public sector preferably a lawyer, shape a purchasing policy that matches the environmental goals of your company. You can also review which chemical products you purchase and look for them in the PRIO database.

Those who manufacture, bring into Sweden or release a chemical product with hazardous properties on to the market are legally obliged to prepare and issue with it product information, in the form of a safety data sheet, that describes how the product will affect the environment and health. As a professional buyer you always therefore have the right to receive such product information about the chemical products that you buy in. Hence you must always ask for a safety data sheet! The safety data sheet must always be available in Swedish for the Swedish market.

Also discuss with the production department about their experience of how different products affect the working environment or the external environment. Perhaps a product is supplied in a different form or packaging? This can reduce spillage, which in turn reduces risk and saves resources. Chemical waste is in many cases a double cost, since both the purchase and waste handling must be paid for. If your company buys in a substance that is in the tool's prioritisation level for phasing out, the company's person responsible for environmental matters and the management must be made aware of this.

Ask about the contents of articles

Also when purchasing articles it can be interesting to find out more about what the product contains. The supplier can often help by providing more information about the contents of an article. In the case of articles that have been treated with chemicals which can cause harm to the environment and health, there is also an obligation to provide the information that customers need. Suppliers are legally required to inform about the contents of articles. Common groups of articles that may pose risks to health and the environment are for example toys and other goods that are attractive to children, clothing, other textiles, furniture, shoes, car tyres, building materials, electronics and jewellery.

How can I obtain more information?

  • Contact your trade association or your industrial research institute to obtain more information about the risks when using various substances, or substances that may be present in the products that are to be bought in.
  • Brief and simple explanations concerning various substances are in the National Encyclopaedia.
  • Ask suppliers for more information on which substances articles may contain.

In the brochure "Environmental Requirements for Chemicals in Products - a guide for purchasers" you can get more help concerning how you can work with demands when purchasing.

You can find more information about public procurement at www.msr.se

Note that the database only contains examples of substances that meet the PRIO criteria. In the case of all chemical substances you must always assess the risks in the particular usage. Even substances that are not included in the database or meet the criteria may have hazardous properties and/or give rise to major risks. PRIO helps you to set priorities in your risk handling work, but is not an all-embracing tool!
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*1 This applies to chemical products that are classified as hazardous to health or the environment, are inflammable or contain hazardous substances according to Reach regulation (1907/2006), articel 31.