Chemical Management

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Bob Mitchell
Vice President

Chemical Management

The electronics industry has made significant improvements in tracking, reducing, and ultimately eliminating many potentially harmful chemicals from its products. With considerable success addressing product-related issues associated with chemical management, the industry has expanded its attention to process chemicals in the supply chain. Key concerns for facilities in the supply chain include protecting workers and the environment through proper care in shipping, use, storage and disposal of chemicals.

RBA Code of Conduct
Protecting workers and communities from exposure to hazardous chemicals has been a core component of the RBA Code of Conduct and Validated Audit Process since its inception. The RBA Code of Conduct requires:

“Worker exposure to chemical, biological and physical agents is to be identified, evaluated, and controlled. Engineering or administrative controls must be used to control overexposures. When hazards cannot be adequately controlled by such means, worker health is to be protected by appropriate personal protective equipment programs.” (Section B.4.)

“Chemicals and other materials posing a hazard if released to the environment are to be identified and managed to ensure their safe handling, movement, storage, use, recycling or reuse and disposal.” (Section C.3.)

Chemical Management Task Force
To further address the ongoing challenge of reducing risks and protecting workers in the electronics supply chain, the RBA has made chemical management a priority issue. In 2015, the RBA created a Chemical Management Task Force where members work to better identify and properly manage chemical risks in their supply chains. The Chemical Management Task Force has helped the RBA to:

  • Increase member awareness and involvement in the safe use of chemicals
  • Develop training and capability-building activities to reduce worker exposure
    • In-person training courses on Employee Health & Safety (EHS) and Industrial Hygiene
    • Online training courses on effective chemical management
    • Fact sheets for workers and managers on product and workstation cleaning, plating and etching, bonding and gluing, painting, chemical transportation, storage, labeling, and personal protective equipment
  • Explore how to phase out hazardous chemicals and pursue safer alternatives, where feasible

Partnerships
The RBA joined the Clean Electronics Production Network (CEPN), facilitated by Green America. This multi-stakeholder effort includes participants from the academic, government, NGO and business communities. The CEPN is working to prototype, pilot and scale effective monitoring and control systems to prevent worker exposure to harmful chemicals by empowering and engaging workers, tracking and measuring worker exposure, finding safer substitutions and enabling faster, easier process chemicals reporting. Several RBA member companies are also participating directly in the CEPN.

All of our chemical management work has benefited from significant feedback from well-respected NGOs and is being conducted in collaboration with civil society organizations.

Next Steps
At an RBA Leadership Circle event in June 2016, the Safe Use of Hazardous Substances and Chemicals was identified as one of four key focus areas that members want the RBA to address and continue to prioritize. We are educating members, their suppliers and workers through in-person trainings, online courses, webinars, and discussions at outreach meetings around the world and at our annual conference.

We anticipate that many of the concepts and ideas developed throughout 2015 and 2016 will help inform and potentially be part of the next RBA Code of Conduct review process, which kicks off in early 2017.

We recognize that there is still much work to done around the safe use of chemicals and reducing worker exposure. The RBA and its members are committed to staying the course, working with partners and making meaningful progress on this important issue.

 


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