Abstract: In recent years, new regulatory guidance has spurred organizations to replace hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives. The factors and influences that shape decisions to transition to safer chemicals are of interest to decision scientists. Previous studies have examined the role that various factors, such as regulation, health impacts, and environmental impacts, have played in shaping such decisions. However, two key research gaps have been identified. First, existing semi-quantitative-based studies do not adequately capture the complexity of decision-making. Second, no in-depth qualitative study of a current substitution process, elucidating decision-making mechanisms at various stages of the design process, has yet been performed.The current research addresses these gaps. The first component of the study is an extensive survey of product and chemical manufacturers to elicit potential tradeoffs concerning final product design and redesign decisions. Such tradeoffs are characterized by a set of six factors affecting product design, which are further disaggregated into thirty-three attributes distributed across these factors. Statistical methods including Bayesian Dirichlet modeling and Principal Component Analysis were used to show: 1) two factors were statistically significantly different than other factors, 2) how features such as company size and time of decision affected factor weighting, and 3) that nine principal components explain 79% of the variance in the attribute scores. The second component of the study was a phenomenological assessment of a current substitution process: replacement of cadmium with Zn-Ni for aircraft components, undertaken by the U.S. Navy and Air Force. This study synthesized existing research in cognition, decision-making, and knowledge management. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants representing engineering, environmental, safety, and management disciplines. Qualitative analysis was used to identify and characterize the underlying mechanisms guiding the decision process, including external/internal influences, organizational structure and inertia, and innovative team problem solving.The results from this research contribute to theoretical knowledge in decision-making and cognition, as well as practical knowledge for organizations and policymakers. The broader implications of this research study include a realization that decision tradeoffs vary based on decision contexts, indicating that sector-specific future policy and guidance efforts are needed.
Keywords: Decision-making,Safer chemical and product decision framework,Safer chemicals,Hazardous chemicals in the workplace, Chemical substitution