At the start of the project, Porsgrunn had 4,000 registered chemicals distributed among 44 businesses and 119 departments within healthcare, environment and urban development, education, and administration. The municipality action program aimed to reduce 10% of chemicals by 2023. Incredibly, after just six months, they had already exceeded this target and reached 16%.
Porsgrunn’s HR advisor Tove Sørensen, who is responsible for leading and implementing the project, said, “Some people probably thought that including the reduction of chemicals in the climate budget would only have a small impact.
“However, the fact that we got approval for this project has meant a lot to the employees. When I talk to the various businesses, they feel they are helping to make a difference that impacts health and the environment.”
Many of the region’s employees are directly involved in the project through training and practical implementation. Ewalina Pracon works as an assistant and safety representative at a local nursery, she said, “For me, the most important thing about this project is to be able to save the environment and create a safer environment for the employees and children.”
Greater awareness of the risks associated with chemical use has led to EHS improvements throughout the region. It has promoted safer alternatives and methods, such as replacing chemical products with microfibre cloths and water. A considerable number of workplaces were guilty of carrying unused chemical products due to inadequate purchasing procedures.
Elisabeth Bjørsrud, a nurse in the municipality’s ambulatory service, said, “With fewer products, there has been less to think and worry about. This is not only positive for our working environment, but for all those we help in their homes.”
Firefighters in the region have also benefitted from the project. Despite their increased workplace risk of hazardous chemical exposures linked to toxic smoke, EHS advisor for Grenland Fire & Rescue, Silje Fehn, believes the project has led to positives for firefighters beyond chemical safety.
Fehn said, “The most important thing about this project has been focusing on the health and safety of all crews. We have also significantly benefitted from coordinating routines for risk assessments and procurement across the different fire stations in the municipality.”