Manufacturers looking to get new employees up to speed quickly, safely to meet increased demand

Specialty chemical manufacturers are busy! That message came through loud and clear at SOCMA’s Specialty & Custom Chemicals Show. And while the show focused heavily on commercial activity, chemical manufacturers were also looking to maximize productivity to meet the growing demand for their products. But they can’t do that without a trained workforce, and in this present climate, many companies are having trouble finding skilled operators. 

The current industry dynamic made SOCMAs ChemOps Training a must-see demonstration on the show floor and in our Exhibitor Showcases. Executives were particularly interested in how ChemOps Training can help their teams quickly and safely onboard new operators. 

It’s our mission

Through SOCMA’s Technical and Safety programs, we’ve got this need covered. SOCMA is continuing to evolve to master workforce training and EHS management resources that are vital to a specialty chemical company’s success and longevity.

During regular meetings with members and conversations like those we had at the SOCMA Show, our team is listening to the industry’s challenges and continuing to adapt our programs accordingly. Companies want to know how they can ensure continuity in their EHS programs as employees change, and how they can train an inexperienced workforce. As the old adage goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” And invent we did. 

SOCMA’s Technical & Safety Team took a close, hard look at challenges and potential cracks in the system for employee onboarding and retraining and determined that our services could be the caulk that fills the gap. SOCMA is now the standard bearer of our mission – providing resources to improve safety, strengthen operations and empower employees. Through keeping our programs relevant, impactful and collaborative, two of our primary programs, ChemStewards and ChemOps Training, are proving to be invaluable tools as we meet continuing changes and fulfill the industry’s needs. 

ChemOps Training: Engage higher performance

Difficulty finding skilled employees and/or finding relevant training topped the list of challenges for almost all companies in 2021. But for specialty chemical manufacturers, SOCMA has developed a training program specifically for you. ChemOps Training, designed for the industry by the industry, has been adopted in more than 26 companies and has trained more than 1,000 users since June 2021. The ChemOps curriculum lays the foundational concepts new operators require in order to be competent, confident and contributing team members.

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2021 heralded a new era of ChemOps Training. This included additional curriculum, portal upgrades, reporting features, a new name, new logo and tagline. While users report the current training is great, especially the animated plant equipment videos, we are not finished yet! Motivated by continual improvement, we are building in more topics, animations and features. A few of the requested additions include:

  • Process Safety Management modules
  • Emergency Response module

As part of our development process, we engage with industry members, users and others to ensure our training leads to higher individual performance, maintaining relevance while also making our industry safer. 

ChemStewards: Championing vibrant and valued EHS&S security management programs

To minimize safety concerns while underpinning a safer working environment, the Technical and Safety team turned to ChemStewards, SOCMA’s environmental, health, safety, and security management program. With our industry experiencing increased challenges, we want our members to understand that SOCMA is their partner in building strong EHS&S programs. 

With a mission to foster and promote continuous improvement, we regularly ask ourselves, “How can we make this program relevant, rigorous, and supportive while not overbearing for industry?” Not only do we look within our own SOCMA team, but we also pose questions to members and auditors – “How can we make this program better to ensure ChemStewards continues as a vibrant and valued EHS&S program?” The top two priorities our members want to see in the ChemStewards program are:

  • A stronger, easier to use auditor checklist
  • More consistency between auditors

ChemStewards Auditor Checklist

With the goal of making ChemStewards stronger, and thereby strengthening industry programs, the Performance Improvement Committee (PIC) built on this momentum and utilized the above-mentioned responses to develop a new audit tool that guides both companies and auditors through the 16 EHS elements. The tool provides relevant questions and examples of documentation that fulfills each element’s requirements. It also allows side-by-side comparison of company self-assessments and auditor evaluation, highlighting discrepancies and making it easier to see strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, in 2021, the Technical & Safety team resumed onsite visits, with the new auditor tool in hand, to provide one-on-one guidance and in supporting Tier 1 companies building their EHS&S management programs and enabling them to move into Tier 2. 

ChemStewards Auditor Consistency

ChemStewards auditors also support strong EHS&S programs across SOCMA’s membership and are a critical element of the program. SOCMA members use their auditor’s objective guidance to identify program strengths and uncover weaknesses. This critical feedback loop grounds every company’s continuous improvement cycle. To bring more alignment between auditors, we reinvigorated the annual auditor training and allotted additional time for auditors to spend onsite. Providing an additional day allows auditors to look more thoroughly at a company’s EHS&S management program and ensure proper systems are in place. 

Continuing to evolve

Like all of SOCMA’s programs, Technical & Safety continues to evolve and stay in front of industry needs by working side-by-side with a variety of specialty chemical industry partners. Our team will continue to grow, evolve and fill in the gaps to make our industry stronger and safer.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions about our Technical and Safety programs. You can contact me at, or call (571) 348-5111.

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