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Vol. 34 No. 5
September-October 2012

The Project Place | Information about new, current, and complete IUPAC projects and related initiatives.
See also

Global Chemical Safety and Sustainability

A regular project of the IUPAC Committee on Chemistry and Industry (COCI) is to coordinate a symposium and workshop on the Safety Training Program during the IUPAC Congress in order to accomplish the following:

  • communicate to the public and IUPAC leadership on recent activities by Fellows of the program in their home countries
  • evaluate the effectiveness of the program in terms of fellows’ home country activities
  • learn from invited speakers who are experts in health, safety, and environmental matters
  • solicit ideas for improvement in the program and for possible expansion to incorporate new host companies and new regional trainees

The fifth in the series of IUPAC Safety Training Program workshops was held at the IUPAC Congress in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 1 August 2011. The 2011 STP symposium and workshop, entitled, “IUPAC Safety Training Program: Global Chemical Safety and Sustainability,” was a full-day event at the Congress. The Safety Training Program enables experts from developing countries to learn more about safety and environmental protective measures by visiting and working in plants of IUPAC Company Associates in the industrialized world. IUPAC administers the program to disseminate state-of-the-art knowledge on safety and environmental protection in chemical production. The beneficiaries are expected to use the training in their home countries to improve health, safety, and environmental practices.

The symposium portion included several expert speakers from industry, academia, and government who covered a number of topics relevant to advancing the application of chemical safety practices in developed and developing countries: practices to improve chemical safety in schools and in industry, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry; chemical security; and Responsible Care.

Iwona Maciejowska of Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland, and EuCheMS vice chair for Eastern Europe spoke on an EU project, Project CHLASTS, that provides materials for chemical safety in educational laboratories. Maciejowska discussed the need for more chemical safety training for teachers and students in European schools. She noted that there is often insufficient information on safety in textbooks and that students were often not prepared to work with toxic or dangerous substances. She described how Project CHLASTS was established to engage teachers and students in an ongoing safety dialogue. The project, which includes 15 partner institutions from 9 countries, involves legislation, safety procedures for labs, waste disposal procedures, and a practical guide for teachers entitled “Safety in the Chemical Laboratory.” Produced in CD form in eight languages, the guide includes several appendices with guidelines for teachers, such as a list of incompatible chemicals. More information about the CHLASTS project is available at <>.

Safety Training Program Fellows during the panel discussion: Fabián B. Benzo (left), Tersoo Charles Gwaza, Esma Toprak, and Godfred A. Nyarko.

Maria I. Rivera, senior safety specialist with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in Puerto Rico, spoke about laboratory safety in the quality-control facilities at Pfizer. Rivera described the company’s approach to safety in the industrial workplace, emphasizing identifying hazards, assessing risks, and establishing corporate safety initiatives. She presented many detailed examples, including chemical inventory, storage, equipment maintenance, personnel training, and compliance with federal regulations. In all cases, Rivera noted, commitment to safety by all staff is critically important to achieving success.

COCI Member Bernard West of Westworks Consulting, Ltd. in Canada, spoke on “Responsible Care—a Process for Chemists,” a global voluntary program designed to make the chemical enterprise safe and environmentally positive for the entire “life cycle” of a chemical, from research lab to manufacturing to the supply chain to the consumer to disposal of waste. Responsible Care, he said, is based on the ethic of “doing the right thing regardless of what the law says,” creating inherently safe products and processes, collaborating with a variety of partners to implement, and taking all of these aspects into account in decision making.

West outlined the three components of Responsible Care: accountability to stakeholders, operations (over which chemical producers have direct control), and stewardship (a collaboration among suppliers, customers, and distributors). Corporations in 60 countries now adhere to Responsible Care, and there has been a 60 percent reduction in occupational health and safety incidents since 1991. In 2008, West noted, 33 percent of member companies reported zero incidents. He pointed out that Responsible Care is aligned with the strategic goals of IUPAC and with the Safety Training Program. West then described his COCI project on case studies in Responsible Care. The first case study was summarized in the May-June 2011 CI, p. 6. and a second is in progress.

Nancy Jackson, president of the American Chemical Society and manager of International Chemical Threat Reduction in the Global Security Center at Sandia National Labs (USA), spoke on the Chemical Security Engagement Program. Sandia National Laboratories assists the U.S. Department of State and other federal agencies in solving problems related to international chemical security. With the U.S. Department of State, Jackson has developed the Chemical Security Engagement Program, which raises awareness of chemical safety and security among chemical professionals and enables the practice of safety and security in the research, teaching, and commerce of chemicals. Explaining that chemical security threats exist across national boundaries, Jackson described how chemists and professional societies can become involved and active in the program. She noted that Chemical Security Engagement Program staff have run a number of training courses around the world in the past several years.

The afternoon workshop session focused on the activities of several recent Safety Training Program Fellows who work in industry and university settings in Africa, Latin America, and the Near East. All of the speakers were enthusiastic about their training experiences and follow-up, and all clearly have had an impact in their home countries.

Tersoo Charles Gwaza of Shell Petroleum Development Company, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, spoke on process-safety campaigns as a vital link in improving safety culture and performance at work. Gwaza received safety training at Sasol in South Africa. He stated that the increasing global dependence on energy has put more pressure on oil and gas production, so that the need for best safety practices cannot be overemphasized. Current projects and programs at Shell include sharing process safety best practices and knowledge from process-safety incidents, a website and chat forum aimed at reviewing process-safety initiatives, training modules on hazardous-area awareness for staff working in high-risk facilities, sharing of information about incidents with staff and contractors, and community-outreach programs aimed at creating awareness of domestic and road transport safety. These initiatives have proved valuable in creating a good safety culture in the workplace, Gwaza said, and some of the activities have positively impacted local communities as well.

Godfred A. Nyarko of Tema Lube Oil Company Ltd., Tema, Ghana, reported on “Building Health, Safety, and Environmental Culture—Key to Excellent HSE Performance.” Nyarko received training training at Mitsui Chemical Co. in Japan. He stated that visible leadership and workforce participation are the two pillars that drive workplace HSE excellence. Initiatives that have yielded excellent HSE performance in the workplace, communities, and with other stakeholders included annual chemical safety training for laboratory staff and HSE training for the company’s contractors, a potential incident reporting award scheme, establishing a company Emergency Brigade responsible for all incidents, HSE operational and legal/regulation requirement documents, co-ordinating the company’s ISO 14001 (EMS) Certification Program (2009–2010), and promoting an organization-wide weekly HSE Toolbox Talks Program. The HSE Toolbox materials are also being used at some churches for congregational education on HSE. Nyarko said he overcame an initial organizational view that “safety costs money and why bother,” and he now has good support.

Fabián B. Benzo of the Facultad de Química, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay, spoke on “Promoting HSE through the IUPAC Safety Training Program.” Benzo received training at Mitsui Chemical Co. in Japan at the same time as Godfred Nyarko. He has disseminated the Globally Harmonized System of chemicals labelling through events in Uruguay and Paraguay and has started implementing the OHSAS 18000 standards in a local chemical company. Benzo has also recommended safety measures for static-electricity risk control in a plant producing powder products, and suggested the HAZOP method in the project phase of a production plant. At the university’s school of chemistry, he has introduced safety containers designed to protect flammable liquids from static electricity, and he has taught courses on laboratory safety to undergraduates and graduate students. He is now developing a Uruguayan regional focal point for international chemical safety training.

Esma Toprak of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey, spoke on “The Pathway of Developing Occupational Health and Safety Management in Turkey.” Toprak received safety training at BP Chemicals in the USA. Toprak stated that Turkey has an active chemical industry, but occupational safety and health problems exist. She described chemical safety training across Turkey, highlighting health and safety management. Universities can be the best place from which to disseminate HSE information to industry and academic institutions, she said. In safety education, occupational health and safety experts, university student volunteers, and others visit companies, schools, and homes, distributing printed materials such as case studies. These efforts build on the momentum of the International Year of Chemistry, Toprak noted. Although occupational safety and health practices are developing in Turkey, intensive efforts are devoted to improving OH&S management, including sanctions and penalties. In addition, to mitigate and reduce damage due to earthquakes, preventive measures are being taken such as strengthening buildings. Cooperation between Turkish government ministries is leading to projects for developing educational materials and integrating them into the curriculum to develop safety awareness. Occupational health examinations of workplaces are being carried out to reduce absenteeism and improve productivity.

The workshop closed with a panel discussion among the speakers and the workshop audience. This led to a number of ideas for the development of the Safety Training Program and its continuation. COCI members posed the following questions and topics to the program’s fellows:

Do you find that your role is more policeman or team player?

Answers among the fellows varied across the spectrum, where some found that at the start of their efforts they had to take a “policeman” role, but there was clear agreement that over time they became regarded as team players.

What did you find most useful in your training?
Some examples included safety manuals in each lab with instructions, task reviews for new activities, and methods and tools generally in use at the host company facilities.

What was the biggest obstacle you found in implementing improvements at home?

Budgets and regulations, workforce skepticism, the ”not invented here” factor, and overcoming established mindsets and cultures not conducive to safety improvements.

What advice would you give to new trainees?

Keep open eyes and ears, not just for yourself but for the benefit of your employer and your community, and keep an open mind to new ideas.

What advice would you give to IUPAC? How can the Safety Training Program serve its trainees better?
Find more host companies and arrange for them to take several trainees at a time; use the workplaces of current fellows as training sites for new trainees; and develop regional training around the areas where fellows live and work.

COCI is now actively developing options to increase the scope of the Safety Training Program. The next workshop is planned for the IUPAC General Assembly in Istanbul in 2013.

This report was prepared Bernard West and Mark Cesa. For more information contact Mark Cesa <[email protected]>.

Page last modified 5 September 2012.
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