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A new chemical management system, education of employees, and a large amount of patience are the key factors behind Husqvarnas successful systematic chemical work. In addition, everyone in the company have gained insight in the connection between chemicals and human health.
When Maud Stridh started her new position as work environmental engineer at Husqvarna in 2013, she realized they needed a more advanced chemical management system. The new system supports Husqvarnas risk assessment upon purchase of chemical products, and almost immediately found the possibility to replace a number of thermoplastic products with better alternatives. The problem with thermoplastics is that the thermosetting process requires use of hazardous chemicals.
- The supplier of the chemical management system helped us with product typing of all the products we were using in our production. It turned out we were using several products with CRM substances, and many more containing allergenes. Of course, we wanted to substitute those products with better alternatives, says Maud Stridh.
The products were used in different parts of the production. Husqvarna worked tightly together with their suppliers in order to find substitutes not containing hazardous substances. By this work, almost all the hazardous substances could be cleared out from the production. Maud Stridh estimates that between 50 and 100 substitutions could be done thanks to the extensive work.
In order to highlight the chemical management work, the handling of chemicals was incorporated in the daily business. A working environment representative was appointed in each department, to make sure the new procedures were complied with.
- The greatest challenges have been to convince the Product Development and Purchasing departments that we cannot include just about any chemicals in our products. Everyone must understand that it is no longer possible to go out and buy just any product, and that we must decline agents who want us to take in samples.
The chemical management system supports implementation of procedures for purchasing chemicals and risk assessment. There is also a “positive list” with products other companies have substituted, that helps the substitution work at Husqvarna, according to Maud Stridh. For a product to be approved for use at Husqvarna, and introduced in the chemical management system, it must be reviewed by four different persons in an application procedure.
Today, six years after the new chemical management system was introduced, the awareness about chemicals has been raised, Maud Stridh concludes. But getting there has required both time and expenditure.
This is a cultural change, and it takes time to change behaviors.
As a complication, it isn´t always easy to just replace one product with another. One example is found in Husqvarnas factory producing chains for chain saws. In order to keep the chain from rusting before it reaches the customer, it is treated with a rust-proofing agent. The product was found odorous and irritant and was thus considered unsuitable. The company sought for a long time and finally found a better alternative, that still had the desired function as the initial product.
- Functional substitution can be difficult, and therefore I am extra happy that they didn´t give up, but carried on until they succeeded, says Maud Stridh
When we ask Maud Stridh what has been the best on this journey of change, she answers:
- That everyone in the company has become much more aware about the link between chemicals and human health. By this extensive effort in educating the personnel we have been able to reduce the amount of hazardous chemical, and we will continue reducing them.
The final question: When will you be done?
- We will never be done. We must continue to find “nicer” chemicals and strive on with substitution.
Maud Stridh, work environmental engineer at Husqvarna, gives her best advice for succeeding in substitution of hazardous chemicals.
1. Introduce a chemical management system, preferably one that has a list of products that can be replaced with other better alternatives. This makes replacement work easier. The system Husqvarna uses today is called iChemistry.
2. Appoint an environmental representative, who is trained in the risk assessment of chemicals and keeps track of what is used in the business and introduces the issue of chemicals on the agenda in the safety committees.
3. Risk assessment of chemical products is important and routines are needed for how to buy completely new chemical products.
4. Join networks with other companies in your industry to share knowledge, there is often much to learn and be inspired by others who already work systematically with chemical substitution.
5. The reason why it is so important to work with the chemical issue is to promote a good working environment.