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Substitution step-by-step

Take a systematic approach to gather and evaluate information for implementation of an alternative

1. Define the Problem

Describe both hazards and useful properties of the candidate to substitution. Ask your suppliers and/or use reliable sources to check hazards. Describe the function of the substance and the conditions needed to make it work at the desired performance level: operational parameters (pH, temperature, etc), quantity, equipment. Substitution might imply changing some of these, too. Prioritize substitution considering applicable legislation or policies of your company and your customers.

Find out about the possibilities for financing your substitution project. The funding options depend on your sector and the type of project.

See Support for the substitution process – hazards identification

See Support for the substitution process financing

2. Set substitution criteria

Set criteria to eliminate alternatives that are not safer or not safe enough. When establishing criteria check what substances are on a priority/’black list’ of legal bodies or companies or see which of the hazards you have identified were used by others in defining substances of concern.

See Database of restricted and priority substances

3. Search for alternatives

Search on internet, ask authorities, professional associations, NGOs, trade unions. Look for alternatives already elaborated and implemented, this may lower the innovation costs and risks. You may also ask your supplier to formulate a safer alternative. But first, search within your own company.

See Database on safer alternatives

4. Assess and compare alternatives

Assess all alternatives with the same method/tool for comparability. Consider hazard criteria set at point 2. Analyse costs (can you afford it?) and cost/benefit. An all-risk reduction solution is the ideal alternative. However, most solutions are more suited for some of the risks than for others. Select the alternative which is safer, feasible and fits the nature and dimension of your problem.

See Evaluation Methods & Tools

5. Experiment on pilot

First try substitution on a smaller, pilot scale. Plan the technological and organisational changes needed. Pre-evaluate risks with an appropriate methodology. Assess substitution as regards functional performance, impact on workers, environment or consumers. Pay special attention to possible shift of risks and the necessary control measures. Consult employees.

See Support for the substitution process – exposure and risk assessment

6. Implement and improve

Think what other measures would be needed when implementing substitution at full capacity. Update your supply chain and inform your downstream users. Collect extended feedback from workers and clients. Identify points to improve. Promote your achievements.

See Support for the substitution process – management

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