Maintaining an accurate chemical inventory is both a regulatory requirement for using, handling, and storing hazardous materials as well as a cornerstone for effectively communicating and managing chemical hazards present in the laboratory.
EHS provides additional resources and guidance to help laboratories prepare effective and comprehesive inventories of the hazardous chemicals present in research laboratories. EHS works to ensure that provided chemical inventory information is effectively interpreted to ensure accurate reporting to relevant regulatory entities and is available for first responders when responding to an incident in the research laboratories. EHS additonally helps laboratories to effectively leverage chemical inventory information to make safe and effective choices in the handling, storage, and overall management of laboratory reagents.
Schematic of Chemical Inventory System showing the inherent role of the chemical inventory to connect critical elements of hazard communication and hazard reporting and response.
How the Chemical Inventory Is Used
An accurate chemical inventory provides a number of utilities, such as those listed below.
- Efficient Ordering. An accurate inventory will help lab managers track the materials that are present in the laboratory and know whether additional supplies need to be ordered before duplicate/excess orders are placed.
- Locating reagents. Defining and logging locations where reagents are located make it easier and quicker for researchers to locate the reagents stored in the lab before orders are placed for materials already available in the lab.
- Deliberate disposal. An accurate inventory helps to identify materials that are no longer in use as well as tracking materials that have a limited shelf-life, including those that may become dangerous over time.
- Effective response. Chemical inventories provide valuable information to complement the Emergency Information Posters (EIP) to help fire and hazmat responders mount a safe and effective response to emergencies on campus.
- Compliance with hazardous material limits. Fire and building codes limit the amount of hazardous material that may be stored within a location based on a number of factors associated with the construction. The Department of Homeland Security has identified particular chemicals of interest which when stored above defined thresholds may require additional site security measures to be taken to protect against intentional release, theft, or sabotage. Accurate reporting of chemical inventories (both qualitatively and quantitatively) allow the life safety risk of hazardous material overages to be identified and remedied.
- Effective hazard communication. An accurate chemical inventory allows hazards associated with materials to be identified and communicated to potential users. The inventory also serves as a reference point to ensure comprehensive access to Safety Data Sheets.
- Safer storage practices. An accurate inventory can help to alleviate some of the work that can be associated with identifying areas where incompatible materials are being stored together and facilitate planning for how to utilize more effective and safety chemical storage and segregation practices.