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Buying Into Safety

At work, procurement officers need to be “power shoppers.” In addition to seeking the best price for requested goods and materials, they also need to evaluate the safety impact of products. Lines of communication should be established between procurement officers and safety officers in their agencies. Generally safety officers have identified common and potential hazards throughout their facilities as well as are familiar with accident experience, safety codes and standards, safe work practices and hazard controls. Safety officers can provide insight on how certain items can contribute to accidents and injuries, and can assist the procurement officer in making informed decisions.

Procurement officers should become familiar with agency specific hazards such as specialized machinery, hazardous materials and process hazards. It is important for procurement officers to understand the different types of personal protective equipment, and the hazards presented by hazardous chemicals, material handling devices (i.e. industrial lift trucks and overhead cranes), and even office furniture in order to purchase the appropriate materials and equipment. Examples include:

  • Safety glasses or goggles of poor quality can lead to eyestrain and headaches for employees.
  • Safety shoes not compliant with current safety standards might not afford the proper levels of protection to prevent foot injuries.
  • Carrying boxes manufactured from wood may be cheaper then similar plastic containers, but they could also contribute to more hand injuries from splinters and heavier weights.
  • Office chairs without certain features can contribute to back injuries and leg numbness, and might be more prone to tipping over in a typical office environment.

A team of agency personnel headed by the procurement officer should be established to assist on significant purchasing decisions. Team members might include safety officers, engineering and facilities staff, workers compensation specialists, and employees who will use the products. This team should work with knowledgeable vendors to investigate product options and specifications. Consider developing a purchasing checklist that will review the safety aspects of an item. A sample checklist is attached to the end of this article. It can be modified as needed to fit your specific situation.

At a minimum, current safety standards and codes should be researched for equipment and supplies to be sure purchased materials are in compliance. Whenever possible, specify safety features in purchase orders and then verify that items meet the specifications when received. Require that appropriate manuals and operating instructions are included with machinery and equipment. Require training for employees when appropriate. Specify the type of shipping and packaging to be used if it impacts the safe handling and storage of materials. Consider how the quantity of materials ordered may impact safe storage. Is adequate storage space available and does the receiving agency location have appropriate equipment available to move and store the material?

Here are some other specific items to consider:


Evaluate substitutes for hazardous chemicals and review storage, handling and disposal requirements for those chemicals. Specify appropriate warning labels and material safety data sheets (MSDS) for all chemical purchases. Is proper personal protective equipment available to the employees who will receive the chemical? Understand the hazards presented by chemicals that are flammable, reactive, corrosive, toxic or radioactive.

Fire Safety

Favor fire resistive or non-combustible supplies when ordering building materials and supplies. For floor and wall coverings, drapes, mattresses and some types of furniture look for low flame spread ratings. Insure that equipment has been evaluated by independent testing organizations like Underwriters Laboratories (UL) for compliance. Consult with the safety officer for information about state and local building codes, and current fire protection practices recommended by nationally recognized standards making organizations like the National Fire Protection Association and Factory Mutual.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Items of protective clothing and equipment should meet National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. It is especially important to make sure that new PPE purchased conforms to any updated ANSI standards that have been incorporated into the Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) regulations. OSHA now specifically refers to ANSI Z87.1 for Eye and Face Protection, ANSI Z89.1 for Head Protection and ANSI Z41.1 for Foot Protection. Respirators must be certified by NIOSH and used in compliance with the conditions of that certification.

Office and Workstation Equipment

When purchasing office equipment, consider the ergonomics of each piece. Furniture should be adjustable to accommodate different sizes of people. Computer workstations should be adjustable or have adjustable keyboard and mouse trays. Monitors should be large enough to reduce eyestrain, with built in features to reduce screen glare.

Workstation chairs should swivel and have a five-legged base for improved stability. You should be able to adjust the height of the seat, and have good back support. Consult with your purchasing team to evaluate the different types of furniture available to establish the most favorable design within the requirements of your budget.

Procurement officers play a major role in providing a safe environment for an agency and its employees. To be effective, procurement and safety officers need to work as a team to enhance safety within their agency. A procurement officer who is knowledgeable about workplace hazards and controls is the ultimate “power shopper!”

Pre-Purchase Safety Checklist

This document can be used to confirm that the health and safety requirements have been considered prior to purchasing hazardous equipment or chemicals.

Description of items to be purchased:__________________________________________________

Purchase Requisition Number:_______________________________________________________

Person Requesting Purchase:________________________________________________________

General Considerations

Have you completed an analysis of the technical data and other information relevant to health & safety prior to purchase? Yes_____ No_____

Do other agencies or organizations use similar equipment/processes? Yes_____ No_____

If the equipment or materials are hazardous, can you use a less hazardous alternative? Yes_____ No_____

Have you considered how you will dispose of the excess material of waste? Yes_____ No_____

Did you ask for a MSDS sheet? Yes_____ No_____

Have you requested operating and maintenance manuals ? Yes_____ No_____

Do the purchase specifications include the requirement to comply with OHSA regulations and other relevant safety standards? Yes_____ No_____

Have you consulted with employees potentially affected by this purchase? Yes_____ No_____

Do the employees at the receiving end have the appropriate personal protective equipment for working with this product ? Yes_____ No_____

Do you have a process in place to verify the goods received with the purchase specifications? Yes_____ No_____

Specific considerations for this purchase

Have you considered safe storage for the goods? Yes_____ No_____

Have you considered safe transportation of the goods – will the supplier handle this? Yes_____ No_____

Have you considered the safe maintenance of equipment/plant? Yes_____ No_____

Have you considered the potential training, instruction, work practice changes and supervision needs for this proposed purchase? Yes_____ No_____

Pre-Purchase Safety Checklist – Page 2

Have you considered any signage requirements? Yes_____ No_____

Have you requested all appropriate labels and warnings ? Yes_____ No_____

If the product is a chemical, is there a spill containment plan in place for the receiving location ? Yes_____ No_____

Have you considered any licensing requirements, permits to operate or registration of equipment / goods if required by legislation? Yes_____ No_____

Have you considered any potential emergency procedures associated with this proposed purchase? Yes_____ No_____

Are there specific agency safety programs regarding this proposed purchase? Yes_____ No_____

Have you considered the need for Personal Protective Equipment? Yes_____ No_____

Have you identified the hazards associated with this purchase and assessed the risks? Yes_____ No_____

Any other requirements relevant to employee health & safety in your agency? Yes_____ No_____


Procurement Officer: Date:

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