With all the government regulation — local, state and federal — we live with today, environmental, health and safety is filled with complexities. One of the issues that companies of all sizes seem to grapple with is establishing a solid, value-adding chemical request and approval process. If you don’t have one, it’s an oversight that is costing you time, man-hours and money — exposing your company to undue risks and liabilities.

But your organization’s lack of a formal approval process probably puts you in the majority. Of the (OSHA) estimated 3 million U.S. companies that deal on a regular basis with hazardous chemicals, most simply don’t have a sound formal (much less, automated) material request and approval system. The good news is, selecting an easy-to-use, customizable software or Web-based solution can seamlessly streamline your request/approval processes — bringing great benefits to your organization, including increased safety, reduction in chemical inventories, and money saved.

Two main components

If your corporation is like most, the chemical acquisition process starts when a requestor asks a manager, such as a production or maintenance manager, an EH&S director or a purchasing manager, for approval to acquire a chemical product. With any good, intuitive material request and approval software, closed-loop feedback is provided between the requestor of the material and the EH&S professional who assesses the request.

A high-quality request and approval application should feature two major components:

  • Material Request protocols, and
  • Chemical Review and Approval protocols.

The request portion of the software should enable a user to request approval for using material at his or her location. The requestor may enter product-specific information, such as: the requestor’s name and request location; any applicable contractors and vendors; estimated product usage; locations of use; handling methods; and more.

Information from the requestor is used as the basis for the review and approval process. The reviewer may enter such data as MSDS information, hazard list information, PPE required, usage restrictions, regulatory-list applicability, and approval or disapproval.

High visibility

Managing your inventory electronically with a software or Web-based request and approval solution enables you to do everything remotely. You can flag the next person in the chain. The entire process is sped up, saving time and money. Without being burdened with juggling and maintaining hardcopy request-and-approval forms, you have access to simple-to-use, reliable electronic data, providing complete visibility.

A high-quality solution should provide visibility into:

  • PPE information, which should be included in your Material Request and Approval application. This allows you to establish what the PPE needs are before the chemical comes on site.

  • All the information that goes to the approver, in summary form;

  • The vendors that are pre-approved for your purchases;

  • Handy hazardous-list review (defining risks in your workplace based on chemical make-up).

    Open communication

    To ensure a comprehensive communication channel and help prevent the lack of adequate response, the software should also have the power to automatically email messages to requestors and approvers, identifying tasks that are active and needing follow–up. This includes links to assist in completing the task.

    An automatic email notification should be flexible, sending messages to a user or group of users when:

  • A user submits a request (the appropriate persons are notified of the request);

  • The request status is set to pending (all persons responsible for one or more tasks are notified);

  • A task that has dependencies is marked as completed (all persons for newly available tasks are notified);

  • A request has been closed, meaning “approved or rejected” (notification is sent to the submitter and requestor);

  • An open request is closed and one or more tasks remain open (persons of the open task are notified);

  • A completed task is changed (the persons of all dependent tasks are notified);

  • An open task is closed (notification is sent to the approvers).

    Streamlined operations

    Ideally, a comprehensive material request and approval solution should be highly customizable, scalable and affordable. Once you’ve effectively implemented this program, when a chemical is approved for use in your company, you’ll have all the data associated with the material safety data sheet (MSDS), the locations and partners.

    No matter how complex or seemingly hopeless your requests and approvals seem now, a software or Web-based request and approval solution can help you streamline your operations. You’ll be assured that the chemical toxins are not coming back on your site since you’ve got a formal approval process.

    Implementing a software or Web-based material request and approval solution will enable your organization to achieve greater profitability while creating a safer, more environmentally friendly operation. You can effectively implement a better management program by using your purchasing and storage data to analyze and audit your current systems. This will provide visibility into your organization’s chemical management habits, as well as provide the opportunity for you to implement alternatives to better manage these systems.

    At the rate that improvements have been made in these management-applications, there has never been a better time to put technology to work for your organization in hazardous chemical management than exists today.

    SIDEBAR: Making a list…

    With a comprehensive software or Web-based material request and approval solution, you can custom create:

    • A unique watch-list of chemicals not allowed on-site;
    • An accepted list of chemicals; and
    • An approved-vendor list.