One thing is certain in the environmental, safety and health management world: EHS software technology has made regulatory compliance more efficient. This is especially true for managing chemical inventories and safety data sheet (SDS) for workplace and lab safety. The need of mile high and mile long excel spreadsheets to manage your chemical inventory are gone. Also gone are the days of filing your safety data sheets in a file cabinet or three ring binder.
HISTORY OF CHEMICAL INVENTORY CONTROL
I remember in the 1980’s when three-ring binders were the greatest thing since slice bread for material safety data sheets (MSDS) and chemical inventory management. It was during this time that employers had no choice but to manage regulatory compliance with burdensome manual paper systems. In the mid-1990s, electronic management became a more viable option for companies to track their chemical inventory and MSDS.
Today, cloud-based SDS and chemical inventory EHS management solutions have become not only more powerful but more cost-effective. This allows companies of all sizes to benefit from electronic retrieval, storage and updating of safety data sheets and chemical inventory.
WHY THE FUSS ON CHEMICAL INVENTORY MANAGEMENT?
Why the big fuss on managing chemical inventories and cross-referencing them with global harmonized system (GHS) for labeling and Safety Data Sheets (SDS)?
Did you know that in the last four consecutive years, OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard was No. 2 on OSHA’s list of the most cited violations (http://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/top-10-large)?
The HazCom standard requires employers with workers exposed to hazardous chemicals in the workplace to:
- Maintain a written Hazard Communication plan.
- Have a written list of the chemicals present in the facility.
- Properly label chemicals in the workplace.
- Maintain safety data sheets and make them available to employees.
- Train workers on the OSHA standard and the specific chemical hazards to which they are exposed to while at work.
For certain regulatory requirements with Federal US government agencies such as OSHA and EPA along with local, state and county regulations, it is not only important to know the quantities of various chemicals that are on site at any particular time, but also the daily used consumption of a chemical must be tracked. In addition, an employer is to know the maximum storage amount of any chemical set forth by federal, state, county and or local jurisdiction.
Finally, and most critically, chemical incompatibilities for storage and disposal of chemicals reduce workplace and lab accidents and save lives, in addition to saving money. The use of EHS software assists in the management of chemical inventories and satisfies regulatory parameters.
Another point to consider for utilizing technology is to reduce the threats and dangers to the environment and personal safety by prior approval of chemicals for use in the facility. Being able to manage the chemicals used and stored on site with adequate, real time information could mean the difference on the threat severity to personal safety and the environment at the time of an unfortunate release or spill event. This is a key selling point to invest in technology that is capable of managing chemical inventories and cross-referencing them safety data sheets information.
Compliance to regulatory standards can cause headaches, if not migraines, for employers who have failed to effectively manage their chemical inventory and SDS’s. The great news is that the remedy to alleviate the pain is through the use of an electronic managing and cross function technology driven system.
Chemical Inventory & SDS Management technology
Most chemical inventory and SDS technology is secure, cloud-based software that allows you to manage each and every container in your workplace. Employees can search instantly for compounds by name, CAS registry number, or any number of your own custom fields. Chemical results are presented alongside other relevant information in search results. Mobile support and bar-code scanning through the camera on your smart phone eliminates the use of paper to manage your chemical inventory. This process provides real-time inventory data and retrieves and transfers directly to the database. It also aids in cross referencing SDS information to prioritize personal safety and environmental risks by severity category.
Cloud-based EHS software reduce the amount of time employers and employees have to spend maintaining documents and SDS, increase accuracy and reduce both direct and indirect costs. An online EHS system will also make it easier for employees, contractors and visitors to access critical health and safety information from any Internet connected device immediately, whether for an emergency, inspection, audit, or training purposes.
Furthermore, an online EHS system will track chemical containers throughout a facility and provide real-time chemical inventory access to employees, the employer, contractors and first responders. Lastly, an EHS software system will assist with complex regulatory reporting and cross-referencing tasks. One important note about a cloud-based EHS solution is that it can be backed by a technology provider that constantly and consistently procures new and updated safety data sheets who can also automate the updating of SDS active and inactive (archived) libraries. With these systems, incoming safety data sheets in the new GHS format are easily flagged and filtered.
The best online EHS systems have software capability that provide efficient chemical inventory management, including receipt, movement, usage, adjustments and disposal of materials using barcodes and smart phones and tablets for real-time data access. The database can track pure chemicals and mixtures to enhance regulatory reporting.
BENEFITS OF EMBRACING A CLOUD-BASED CHEMICAL INVENTORY SYSTEM
An online EHS management system enables you to do the following:
- Reduce time and cost of meeting regulatory compliance. For example, environmental reporting to produce Tier II and Form R/SARA TRI reports will have an advantage of a pre-populated chemicals according to chemical area
- Improve purchasing efficiency
- Have a centralize location of chemical inventory information. Redundant chemicals that are used across the facility require only one SDS that can be shared in the system
- Cross-reference chemical inventories with GHS information; physical and health hazards
- Improve transparency for on-site inventory and location specific information
- Reducing costly hazardous waste disposal
- Generate regulatory compliance reports
- Reconcile materials to the corresponding SDS in real-time.
Bottom line: there is no good excuse to not utilize today’s cloud-based EHS technology to enhance the management of your chemical inventory and SDS’s. The more complex your operational processes and diverse use of chemicals in the workplace, the more important it is to implement a cloud-based solution now.
The cross functional capabilities of a chemical inventory to SDS information is a must have for any organization that seriously wants to manage more efficiently and provide sustainability within its business.