Organization and Management of Workplace’s Chemical Inventory List

Some of the biggest challenges for any industrial or laboratory operations manager are connected to the environmental regulations and the management of chemicals. The second is the prevalent one.

When it comes to the management of chemicals, one task, in particular, maybe the hardest. And that is the compilation and management of the workplace’s chemical inventory list. Tracking all of the chemicals, their location and documentation in real-time can present a considerable hustle and time-consuming activity for anyone. Inefficient chemical inventory management is wasting your company’s time and money. Instead of using most of their time on chemical inventory tracking, your employees should use their time on other crucial tasks. Additionally, you should avoid paying huge fines and penalties prescribed by the authorities and associated with poor chemical inventory management.

To better illustrate the challenges of chemical inventory, let’s look at the life cycle of a single chemical in a facility. The initial purchase of the chemical presents the first direct cost for the company. If it is purchased with an urgent deadline due to poor consumption and stock management, additional fees will likely be added for the express delivery. Following the traditional system or procedures, it will be documented and added to the inventory list by a designated person upon the chemical’s arrival. Administration of safety data sheets, training of employees, filing of reports, and so on all require additional time and funds.

The same chemical might be needed in multiple locations more often than not. The consumption and storage levels become harder to track. Consequently, this could lead to unwanted stockpiling of chemicals with different expiration dates, creating future problems connected to the handling of waste and waste packaging. Having excess chemicals on-site increases the costs of handling chemical waste and increases the safety risks and risk of being non-compliant.

Many chemicals are governed by strict laws that regulate the total volume for consumption and storage. Not managing them properly can lead to the substantial fines applied during safety inspections. Having chemicals in more places and quantities usually means a greater risk of dangerous chemical spills and workplace injuries. The need for more storage space creates more costs, especially in the case of chemicals that need special storage arrangements. Refrigeration, for example, increases electricity costs. Finally, when chemicals expire, they require the proper disposal. Paying for the disposal of unused or even unopened products is quite a misery in itself for any serious business.

From the get-go, every chemical accumulates these hidden time and money costs. Having a systematic way of managing the chemical inventory will leave your employees more time to focus on other tasks and projects. In the end, poorly managed chemical inventory can lead to substantial monetary losses at the very least. Besides fines and penalties, additional losses might be connected to waste treatment or worker injuries. This is why it is crucial to have an accurate chemical inventory system regardless of the size of the inventory.

What are Chemical Inventory List requirements?

Together with the implementation of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals around the globe, many countries have implemented requirements for chemical inventory. Companies need to compile an accurate chemical inventory list at their workplace. They need to track, update and keep the latest revisions of the SDS’ for all hazardous chemicals at their workplace. The list should help users quickly find the SDS for each chemical. The SDS contains information relevant for the workers who handle the chemical and the first aid or emergency responders and firefighters. It provides information about physical and chemical properties, hazards, precautionary, first aid and emergency measures, personal protective equipment (PPE) and disposal. In case of an emergency, employees should quickly get a hold of the information they need to mitigate or avoid potential injuries.

The chemical inventory list is not a one-time thing. It must be constantly updated, reviewed and reported to authorities in prescribed intervals. The interval for the reporting varies between countries but is usually done annually, quarterly or biannually.

Chemical Inventory Management

Chemical regulations worldwide require all businesses that use, store, or transport hazardous chemicals to keep an inventory list. Companies are also usually required to designate one or more employees to manage this list.

The purpose of these requirements is to mitigate the risks or prevent serious injuries or accidents. And also to help the company’s employees to understand the risks, protective and emergency measures. Every worker should have access to the SDSs and understand how to use them in a crisis.

In many companies, chemical inventory is recorded on a piece of paper which is then put in a binder or on the shelf, or a digital spreadsheet put in a digital folder somewhere on the designated person’s computer. This approach generally is considered to have a couple of significant flaws.

With each purchase of new chemicals, the binders or folders need to be opened, and the relevant information needs to be added. Similarly, finding the correct folder or binder might become troublesome if the SDS has been updated. In case of an accident, spillage or fire, the relevant safety information should be ready at hand for the safety personnel. The said information is usually stored in the same binders and folders and is not easily accessible. Companies using any hazardous chemicals that often change can have trouble keeping up.

Next is consumption and stock management. If your daily tasks revolve around chemicals and their use, you need to keep track of the consumption and storage levels. This means that in real-time, the inventory keeps changing minute by minute. Following the expiration date is also important and adds a level to track.

This is why paper records are no longer considered adequate for most modern businesses, regardless of size. Today, many companies turn to specialised expert SDS management software to ensure compliance. This frees up the company’s time and resources. The best-practised software solution should provide a digital inventory management system to track the chemicals from their receipt to disposal. It should provide immediate access to safety information, SDS or other relevant data for all the chemicals from the inventory. Web-based chemical inventory systems should have all this data available for any worker at any place and at any time. The optimised search options should help employees easily navigate and find the required information.

As your company and business grow and your chemical inventory expands, make sure you follow it up by selecting and implementing the right chemical management inventory system.  

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