Software is radically changing chemical management. But while the growing chemical safety software options available help more businesses keep their workers safe and workplaces compliant, the crowded space also makes it harder for those shopping for a solution to select one that best fits their needs.

Whether you’re a global company with hundreds of employees across many locations, or a single facility with a few dozen hazardous chemicals, there are several key features you must consider when selecting a chemical safety software solution. Following, we isolate those features and look at how they’re improving workplace safety and simplifying hazard communication compliance.

1) Intuitive user interface

When software is created with the primary focus to meet the needs of specific customers versus the needs of many customers, it can easily become too complex. And if software doesn’t work the way your workers expect it to or requires too much training to understand, the result is often abandonment of the technology entirely.

That’s why the best EHS software solutions have placed an increased emphasis on improving the user experience. Today’s reimagined user interface (UI) designs make it faster and easier for employees to find what they are looking for in just a few clicks, and require little to no training to use.

2) True cloud

By now you’ve likely heard the term “cloud” to describe EHS software. While the technology isn’t unique to the EHS industry, its’ benefits to hazardous chemical safety and compliance extend further than you might think. Software that runs off the cloud – often called software as a service (or SAAS) – stores account information on the provider’s servers, so it can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, and from any device.

For workplaces covered by OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom), this technology significantly streamlines employee Right-To-Know access by eliminating bulky paper SDS binders and replacing them with electronic binders and documents. With the cloud, a worker simply needs to search and locate SDS information on an internet-connected computer, laptop, tablet or mobile device. For companies with large workforces or remote employees, this consistent access to chemical information is critical for both fulfilling safety and employer compliance requirements.

3) SDS management & access

Managing SDSs is challenging for companies in countries undergoing GHS adoption transitions. In the U.S., OSHA’s first GHS revision to its HazCom Standard caused a major SDS churn that resulted in a 100-percent turnover of companies' active SDS libraries. At the time, many manufacturers were delayed in meeting their chemical reclassification and authoring obligations under the GHS-modified rule, which left end-users unable to fully transition their libraries. With OSHA indicating its intent to soon update HazCom to align it with GHS Revision 7 in the near future, this SDS churn and subsequent scramble to find GHS-aligned SDSs is expected to occur once more.

Electronic management of SDSs can help mitigate the impact of the SDS library churn. The key to compliance is starting with a complete and accurate chemical inventory and then updating your library to include an SDS for each chemical. A good software system can then automatically update the documents in your SDS library with newer versions as they become available, streamlining the document update process and helping you stay compliant.

4) Mobile access

Hazardous chemical safety and compliance from the field has historically been a challenge for businesses. Binders containing hard copies of SDSs are difficult to transport and maintain, and become an increasingly less dependable option for compliant SDS management and employee right to know access as regulations change. This is an area where mobile optimized SDS management software has been beneficial to allow field workers to access an entire SDS library from the convenience of a tablet or smartphone, even when offline, and quickly search for and find an SDS when connected to the internet.

5) Labeling capabilities

Labeling is a cornerstone of compliance with the GHS-aligned hazard communication standards. With an emphasis on consistency and comprehension, workplace container labels – also called secondary container labels – provide workers with immediate access to specific information regarding the physical and health hazards of the chemicals they interact with.

Good chemical management software helps companies implement consistent labeling that efficiently conveys chemical hazard information. For U.S. companies, the best solutions makes it easy to generate print-ready workplace labels that replicate the manufacturer shipped label using information taken directly from SDSs in your library.

6) Container mapping support

The more chemicals you use, the harder it is to accurately keep track of your chemical inventory. Look for software that provides expanded location structure capabilities that let you replicate global organizational hierarchies with ease. The best solutions offer sophisticated container-level chemical management tools and mapping features that provide a visual representation of the chemicals in your workplace, and use drag and drop controls to help you instantly identify, move and manage your chemical inventory on an image map of your facility.

7) Powerful cross referencing tools

In today's regulatory environment, staying ahead of changing laws requires vigilance. A sophisticated system with a regulatory cross-referencing engine and reporting options helps alleviate the complexity of meeting these requirements by automatically identifying and flagging products and ingredients in your chemical inventory found on various state, federal and international hazardous substance lists. It’s an easier way to better understand the material composition of your chemical products, simplify compliance reporting, and facilitate the use of more sustainable raw materials.