Transitioning to Safer Chemicals:
A Toolkit for Employers and Workers
Step 1: Form a Team to Develop a Plan
Creating a systematic change in chemical use is best accomplished by establishing a team to develop a work plan and set goals. This step will help you develop your plan.
- How will workers be involved in the team and throughout the planning process?
- Who should be involved in developing the work plan and setting goals for transitioning to safer chemicals (e.g., managers, supply chain partners, customers, marketers, health and safety committee members, occupational health nurse or physician, occupational health consultant)?
- What goals should be included in the plan? Consider specific goals such as eliminate carcinogens, reduce the use of hazardous chemicals by a certain percentage in a set number of years, substitute chemicals of concern from government or sector lists, etc.
- What policies, tasks, responsibilities, deadlines should be included in the plan?
- What particular drivers should you be aware of in developing the plan (existing or new laws, consumer pressures, new science)?
- How will external stakeholders be involved?
Assemble an internal team to take responsibility for developing the work plan for transitioning to safer chemicals. Consider who should be involved in the team (e.g., existing safety and health committee members, workers, managers, union representatives). It is important to involve workers that perform various functions in your workplace (e.g., designers; engineers; and service, maintenance, and research and development staff). Also identify any external stakeholders who should be included in the planning process (e.g., designers; engineers; service, maintenance, research and development staff).
There is no one-size-fits-all method for developing a work plan for transitioning to safer chemicals. Setting goals is an important part of a work plan; these goals could be long-term, industry-specific, or chemical-specific. Your plan also may include company- or industry-specific policies on safety or chemical management, targets for chemical use, and approaches for prioritizing and managing chemical hazards. This will help make decisions easier when comparing different types of hazards and deetermining how hazards should be prioritized and evaluated.
There are a variety of examples of goals for chemical management. These range from long-term goals, to industry-specific goals, to chemical-specific goals. Some examples include:
"To act responsibly, Dell believes that if reasonable scientific grounds indicate that a substance (or group of substances) could pose significant environmental or human health risks, then Dell should avoid using the substances."Dell’s Chemical Use Policy
"Where there are reasonable grounds for concern that a chemical used in our product could be harmful to human health or the environment, we will always take appropriate precautionary measures."Boots Chemical Working Group
"We envision and strive to create a world in which all consumer products are produced using Sustainable Chemistry practices, ultimately using inherently safer chemicals and reducing or eliminating hazardous chemicals, in order to preserve human health and a clean environment."Outdoor Industry Association Chemical Management Working Group
"Commitment to collaborate and lead the apparel and footwear industry towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals for all products across all pathways in our supply chains by 2020."Footwear and Apparel Industry’s Roadmap to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals
"Reduce the use of carcinogens or mutagens at the place of work, in particular by replacing it, in so far as is technically possible, by a substance, preparation or process, which under its condition for use, is not dangerous or is less dangerous to worker’s health or safety."EU Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive
Developing a Work Plan
The National Pollution Prevention Roundtable’s 2025 Safer Chemistry Challenge Program established a seven step program that companies can use to eliminate or reduce chemicals of concern. Setting performance goals and creating an action plan are key elements of the program. As such, the program provides a simple and useful method for visualizing and operationalizing a company’s goals and work plan.
|Chemical||Reduction Goal||Achievments to Date||Action Steps||Timeline||Metrics||Alternative Assessment Tools Used|
|Methylene Chloride||100%||Have begun to research alternatives||Identify Alternative
Convert to alternative solvent
|Pounds per Year (Lb/yr)||Green Screen™; EPA|