Originally published on 2/10/09, this story, which is especially relevant in light of the West Virginia chemical spill, is part of FacilityBlog’s Throwback Thursday offering.
By Glenn Trout
In the decade of all things eco-friendly, endless marketing campaigns inundate facility managers with ways to go green and save green. Despite the fluffy campaigns, many of these messages contain valid points, and as many facility managers know, a large building can have an enormous environmental impact.
Facility managers must respond to demands for sustainable buildings and strategies in order to reduce operations costs and reduce the building’s negative impact on the environment. While changes that make the biggest impact seem to receive the most attention, there are small changes facilities managers can make that aide in the development of an eco-friendly building and raise awareness around hazard communication, proactively mitigating hazardous risks.
Making the most of required compliance
Most facility managers are familiar with OSHA’s hazard communication standard (HCS) and the requirement to develop a hazard communication program for buildings that house chemicals on site. OSHA instituted this standard to make sure employees understand how to label chemicals for appropriate identification, how to handle chemicals properly, and what to do in case of spills or leaks.
As OSHA’s third most cited violation*, it is apparent that the HCS requires increased awareness. There are ways to reduce risk and liability while adopting an efficient and environmentally conscious solution.
For many facility managers, compliance with the HCS—especially in the area of MSDS compliance—is still a manual paper-based process. A disadvantage of paper based systems is that files are easily misplaced, misfiled, or never filed at all. In general, it requires a lot of overhead maintenance to keep up-to-date and complete.
Many facility managers are turning to solutions with a low environmental impact to achieve HCS compliance, specifically managing MSDSs electronically.
Reducing waste, raising awareness
This growing trend illustrates the need to increase efficiency, productivity, and operations while decreasing operational costs.
Reducing paper consumption not only lowers a building’s environmental impact, but minimizes building liability too. Typically, the manual process can use large quantities of paper. Using an electronic MSDS management tool eliminates the need to make multiple copies for multiple binders and removes duplicates within the same binder.
Since HCS compliance isn’t optional, facility managers can also use this opportunity to raise awareness around hazardous chemicals and how to properly handle them, directly mitigating potential risk to employees and the environment. When employees understand how to appropriately store, label, and use chemicals, the risk that an accident may occur due to improper handling goes down significantly.
Understandably, the HCS standard is often viewed as a tedious and laborious standard to comply with, but the bottom line is, it aides in protecting both employers and employees. Facility managers who maximize new technologies often spend less time and money worrying about unannounced site surveys and in the long run, foster a safer, more efficient, and greener work environment.
Trout has more than 15 years of experience in environmental health and safety. He is president of MSDSonline of Chicago, IL, where he oversees development and operations of the company’s suite of products and services.
*For the 2008 fiscal year, taken from www.osha.gov.
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