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‘Haz-Com Helper’ popular

A locally produced software program to help mining companies comply with federal rules for hazardous chemicals has proved so popular that the Spokane Research Laboratory has issued a new version for other industries.

The “Haz-Com Helper” first debuted in 2003. The free software was initially designed to help small mining companies comply with new federal rules for chemicals, said Doug Scott, a research physical scientist at the Spokane Research Lab. When lab employees noticed that half the requests were coming from other types of industries, they developed a new version, which was released this year.

“It’s a software tool that makes writing your Hazardous Communication plan a snap,” Scott said.

The Spokane Research Lab has given away nearly 3,000 compact discs with the software, and hundreds of people have also downloaded it from the lab’s Web site, he said. The government lab specializes in research related to mine safety.

The fill-in-the-blanks software takes users through a series of prompts. The two versions are designed comply with either OSHA rules or Mine Safety and Health Administration regulations.

Federal regulations require companies that use hazardous chemicals to have written plans for labeling and storing chemicals, and training and protecting workers.

When Alden Zove, who runs a Pennsylvania landscape firm, first looked at the rules, he was overwhelmed.

“There’s a lot of information required,” said Zove, president of Cedar Run Landscapes. “It looked like it was going to take weeks and weeks of effort to compile this.”

He turned the task over to one of his employees, who found the Haz-Com Helper though a Google search.

“He downloaded the software, and within three hours, he had a plan printed out,” Zove said. “It took a great burden off our shoulders.”

The program also helped the company identify which chemicals the government considers hazardous, Zove said. “We thought of pesticides and insecticides,” he said. But some of the others – like gasoline and lubricants – weren’t on the company’s initial list.