Synergist Q&A’s are conversations with OEHS vendors that participate in AIHA’s Professional Partner Program.
This month, The Synergist speaks with Paul Ruez, president of Chemwatch North America, a provider of chemical
management and MSDS authoring software.
Synergist® Q&A: Chemical Management
An interview with Paul Ruez of Chemwatch
How does Chemwatch work with the IH
Industrial hygienists are most often the arbiters of EHS
needs and the primary users of our products. Chemwatch
provides a set of tools and data to manage chemicals
and assess and control risk. This dataset includes regulations, thresholds of every kind and country, and chemical alert tools to notify the IH of chemicals of concern.
Our hosted system provides a single source location for
managing MSDS and chemical inventories with chemical
alert notification, and extracting data for reporting. Our
inventory system offers workplace-specific and control
banding risk assessments.
What are some of the challenges you see facing
industrial hygienists today?
IHs are often responsible for addressing issues beyond
their facility or even their country. Chemwatch helps with
this broader role because it is a global system. Our information, interface, MSDSs and labels are in 35 languages.
A second challenge is GHS (Globally Harmonized
System for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals).
GHS was a reality for Chemwatch several years ago
because we serve the Asia Pacific markets that bought
into it early. We had to build our own regulatory database, formats and country-specific reporting tools. The
benefit to the IH as a manager is that there is a centralized tool that serves global needs.
Industrial hygienists and toxicologists who have to
present their company’s products in today’s global
market confront GHS requirements for MSDS and labeling. The cost and challenge of satisfying country-compliant labels and MSDSs in multiple languages and
formats was prohibitive for all but the largest organizations. This year at AIHce Chemwatch will release AuthorITe Bluesky, a MSDS authoring and labeling system
that contains ingredient data, regulations, algorithms
for phrasing and a multilingual phrase library. Using
AuthorITe Bluesky, companies can log on and write,
update and even host their own MSDSs.
How does Chemwatch keep tabs on regulations
around the world?
We built and maintain our own list of regulations
called Galleria Chemica. Galleria is a product that we
license to clients. It also includes a database of chemi-
cal, physical and toxicological data that feeds our au-
thoring and research databases. One of the interesting
tables we are building contains extrapolated tox data
from substructure similarities. Many countries are ban-
ning animal testing, and to determine the hazards of a
new substance, we may have to move to structure-
How did Chemwatch develop its control banding
COBRA (Control Banding Risk Assessment), the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Chemical Control
Model, is mandatory in countries such as the UK and
Japan, and it’s becoming mandatory in many more.
The ILO’s model has been reviewed by many experts in
the field, and the general consensus is that it lacks frequency of use. Chemwatch has always recognized that
risk level may depend on how often the chemical is
used, or how often people come into contact with it.
Some chemicals (carcinogens, mutagens, sensitizers)
pose a great risk regardless of the frequency of use. In
order to create a unified model, we have incorporated
all variations and permutations in our calculation. For
example, a class 1 carcinogen poses the highest risk
even if it is never in direct contact with people, because
if it leaks, the vapors may be inhaled by people without
Chemical hazard assessment is the starting point of
every risk assessment. Chemwatch has classified over
250,000 chemicals, and adds hundreds weekly. Operating temperature, volatility/dustiness and scale of use
will determine the risk. Frequency of use is the last parameter taken into account. The Severity vs. Probability
matrix is the official model of assessing risk, in every
Because the chemicals are already classified, calculation algorithms are written and a huge amount of data
is available (about controls, PPE, containment, etc.),
users can complete risk assessments in under 30 seconds using the Chemwatch program. This produces a
one-page risk assessment summary report with colors
and icons identifying the hazard and the risk, as well
as controls required.