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PRIO – A tool for Risk Reduction of Chemicals

Taking inventory

Taking inventory is an important start

In order to be able to take the correct measures at the right time, it is important to know which chemicals are being used in the business. This can be a matter of which chemical products are being used, but also which chemical substances are present in the material or articles that are being manufactured or bought in. The search function in PRIO is arranged at a substance level, so that it is necessary to draw up an inventory of the substances that are present in chemical products or articles that are used.

This inventory often results in some form of a list of chemicals. Shown here is an example of what such a list may look like (in Swedish): list of chemical products used in the company.

In order to prepare an inventory of the chemical substances in material and articles you can get advice from Articles and material.

In order to obtain an overview of how the company treats chemical issues it may be suitable to look for the answers to a number of basic questions. We start with some questions concerning the presence of chemicals in the business:

  • Is there a list of all the chemical products that are used in our processes?
  • Is there a list of other chemical products that for one reason or another are present or are used in our business? This may involve cooling media, pesticides, technical oils, cleaning agents or fuel.
  • Is there information concerning substances that are particularly hazardous that are included in other goods than chemical products?
  • Are there chemicals of concern in buildings and installations (e.g. PCB or asbestos in buildings, ground pollution)?
  • Are we aware of the flow of chemical substances through the business? How much are we purchasing? How much is being stored on individual occasions? Where do the chemicals go?

A list of chemicals is an important foundation

In the link above there is a proposal showing what a list of chemicals can look like. One should also be aware that in both the self-checking regulations and those of the Arbetsmiljöverket (the Swedish Work Environment Authority) there is a requirement for a list of chemicals. Many companies choose to add further information to their list, to be able to use it as a basic document in their work to achieve safer management of chemicals.

Practical advice concerning inventory taking and the list of chemical

Preparing a list of chemicals in accordance with the above table requires an input from the company. Information has to be obtained from both internal and external sources. Here is some practical advice:

  • The purchasing department must have some kind of overview concerning what has been bought in recently. It is however not certain that bought-in chemicals can be easily taken from their lists, but with a little effort, satisfactory information should be obtainable.
  • It is not unusual for various chemicals to be bought in by other means than the purchasing department. Spray cans, paint, cleaning agents and much else usually come in to the company via several different routes. It therefore behoves to physically take an inventory of the contents of cupboards and storage places to see what is there. Be ready for some surprises.
  • To be able to complete the centre section of the table (Contents) access is required to the safety sheets for all chemical products. Here you can read more about what safety data sheets must contain and how to use them.
  • Use the PRIO search function to complete the prioritisation levels.

Taking an inventory of the chemicals in a business often throws new light on chemical issues. Do we really have so many different chemical products? Who is actually purchasing the chemicals? Why are so many containers unlabelled or only carry handwritten text? Why don't we throw away safety sheets that are more than 10 years old? Which are the greatest risks?

There will almost certainly be more questions than answers, and to deal with these it is common for a company to set up some form of working group. This group often consists of such members as the production manager, health and safety representative, environmental co-ordinator, a purchaser, etc. The idea is to collect together all the expertise that can jointly decide how the risks associated with a particular substance can be handled.