From Hippocrates to Digital Management: Chemical Safety Through the Ages

chemical safety
Chemical inventory management is made easier with digital tools and software. In today’s new regulatory environment, such technology will be essential for many companies.
Image Source: Flickr user CGP Grey.

One could argue that Hippocrates, popularly known as the “Father of Medicine,” was also the first person to discuss chemical safety issues when he wrote about lead poisoning in slaves1. Large numbers of deaths in the 1800s and 1900s, however, formed the basis of many of the regulations we know of today, such as the Federal Employer’s Liability Act and Workers’ Compensation Laws.

Then in the 1970s, a flurry of laws were passed and organizations formed to more comprehensively protect people from toxic substances. These included the Occupational Safety and Health Act (1970), the Toxic Substances Control Act (1976) and the Resources Conservation and Control Act (1976), which together addressed issues concerning the production and storage of hazardous wastes. More laws were then passed into the 2000s, with one of the most significant being the Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories (1990), which required labs to have “chemical hygiene plans.”2

A new bipartisan Chemical Safety Bill (also known as The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act) was introduced in March 2015 to further protect individuals against the health risks associated with chemical exposure. In essence, the new law finally provides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the power to “ensure the safety of chemicals and significantly strengthen health protections for American families.”3 The legislature does so by mandating safety reviews of chemicals “in active commerce,” and determining how safe new chemicals are before they’ve entered the market. Additionally, the bill limits the extent to which companies can claim “confidentiality” in disclosing information about certain chemicals.

In the New Landscape of Chemical Safety, Is Your Firm Following the Rules?

The new legislature is meant to protect consumers, especially given that the Toxic Substances Control Act established in 1976 significantly failed to properly categorize chemicals, and ultimately enabled the chemical industry to abandon research efforts to make safer chemicals.4 Given the new changes, all businesses should consider the use of digital chemical inventory management. Following are specific industries that would strongly benefit from the use of such a system in the current, fast-changing regulatory environment:

International Companies: A digital chemical inventory management system can help companies accurately track of chemicals and also ensure that users are up-to-date with regulations in a variety of local, state, federal and international jurisdictions. For multi-national companies or companies interested in trafficking chemicals from one part of the world to another, a digital system can help keep companies’ chemicals organized and help them stay on top of the regulatory rules from location to location, which helps ensure the safety of employees.

Producers of Chemical Waste: Those industries that require significant amounts of industrial processing (i.e. oil and gas companies) also produce significant amounts of industrial waste. As containers transport chemicals between potentially distant facilitates for use or disposal, a digital chemical inventory system helps managers track a container’s “movement history,” which also adds an extra layer of security. Information about disposal practices and SDS sheets also helps workers know where and how to dispose of toxic substances.

Food companies: In the processing and production of food, consumer fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy often come in contact with a variety of chemicals that include sanitation chemicals, pesticides, production chemicals, and more. In order to protect food supplies, these companies should similarly consider implementing a digital chemical management system in order to track the chemicals being used in a given plant, while also having this information easily accessible for regulatory purposes.

When it comes to digital chemical management systems, BIOVIA CISPro is a tool that helps companies to completely digitize their records regarding chemical inventory, while also helping them to abide by a variety of regulatory standards meant to ensure the safety of workers and community. To determine how BIOVIA CISPro can be used to organize your company’s chemical inventory, please contact us today.

  1. “Historical Perspective of Chemical Safety and Security,” n.d., http://www.csp-state.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Historical-Perspective-of-Chemical-Safety-and-Security.pptx
  2. “OSHA Fact Sheet,” August 2011, https://www.osha.gov/Publications/laboratory/OSHAfactsheet-laboratory-safety-chemical-hygiene-plan.pdf
  3. “Bipartisan Chemical Safety Bill Introduced to Strengthen Protections Against Health Risks,” March 10, 2015, http://blogs.edf.org/health/2015/03/10/bi-partisan-chemical-safety-bill-introduced-to-strengthen-protections-against-health-risks/
  4. “Chemical policy reforms,” http://www.edf.org/health/policy/chemicals-policy-reform

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