By | February 17, 2017

Is worker safety in the cards for your staff?

It should be. That’s why Sphera’s here to help.

Traditionally, the Safety Data Sheet, or SDS, has been the main instrument for hazard communication on chemicals in the context of the Globally Harmonized System, or GHS. However, because of various regulations, the SDS has become more complex and therefore not suitable for workers who might be exposed to certain chemicals while executing tasks in the workplace.

That’s why for many years there has been a best practice in the European Union Member States for workers to be informed on how to handle chemicals safely through clear and concise worker instructions on a so-called Workplace Safety Card, or WSC.

WSCs are designed to provide essential health and safety information on chemicals in a clear and concise way. The goal is to promote the safe use of chemicals in the workplace. The WSC usually follows a fixed format that is designed to give a consistent presentation of the information, and is sufficiently concise to be printed onto one page for ease-of-use in the workplace.

The Dutch Labour Inspectorate promotes the use of a WSC (also known as a “WIK” or “Werkplek Instructie Kaart” in Dutch) as a best practice to instruct employees on hazardous products. In this way an employer can comply with the Dutch Workers Condition Act, or “Arbowet,” which states that: “The employer shall ensure that employees are given appropriate information about their duties and the associated risks and on the measures in place to prevent or limit these risks.”

Note: This article 8 (Information and Training) is the Dutch implementation of the article 12 obligation as written down in the European Safety and Health Directive (89/381/EEC).

According to the Labour Inspectorate, an employer should receive the substance or mixture specific information via an SDS or REACH Extended SDS and “translate” this information in workplace-specific information, taking into account the working conditions. This view is displayed in the image below.

Until now these WSCs were primarily based on generic exposure controls in the corresponding SDS. They didn’t include references to the specific worker’s conditions and risk management measures in the workplace where the WSCs were hazard-driven. The result was that the exposure controls such as ventilation and personal protective equipment were based on the highest potential exposures and therefore did not reflect the actual risk at the workplace.

With the REACH Extended-SDS the need to have “risk-based” WSCs has increased as the Exposure Scenarios have increased with the ever-growing number of hazardous substances prevailing in the workplace.

The concept behind the risk-based WSC is that it is based on the properties of the chemical substance or mixture, its hazard classification and the risks involved with the specific tasks carried out in the workplace. What’s more, WSCs can be complemented with company-specific use instructions. To ensure consistency between the SDS and the WSC, a rules-based SDS system like Sphera’s Intelligent Authoring solution is needed to support the multilingual generation of risk-based Workplace Safety Cards.

We are interested to hear how you are handling communicating hazard information to your workforce, What is working well? What is not? Have you adopted a risk-based approach? Learn more about how Sphera can help with WSCs.