Do you have Chemical Inventory Drift at your Facility?

Chemical inventory drift happens when facilities lack a chemical inventory management system and chemicals used in the workplace are set aside, begin to age, and ultimately become outdated and forgotten. Without a chemical management system these stockpiles of old chemicals become a disturbing problem.

How does this happen?

Universities, military bases, and manufacturing facilities are often described as a “campus” comprising of grounds and buildings spread out over a distance. Picture the multiple loading docks with placarded trailers backed up to them delivering all types of inventories. Delivery trucks drop off chemicals at the door or unload them at the dock and without a proper procedure in place, nearly anyone in the office can receive them. Those signing for the delivery are often not aware that Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are required but are rarely delivered with the chemicals. If SDS are obtained, overwhelmed Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) professionals assign data entry to administrators who lack hazardous materials knowledge or simply outsource the task. Such begins the problem of chemical inventory drift.

Separate budgets and individual departments are sometimes allowed to order their own chemicals for everything from laboratory experiments to vehicle maintenance. Complacency sets in and after working with the materials for so long, they are hardly even recognized as hazardous. But this can be avoided with a properly written, reviewed, and followed Hazard Communication plan (see Six Steps to a Successful Written HazCom Program) so that all employees working with hazardous materials know the process for receiving, labeling, storing and using hazardous materials. Even when multiple buildings or departments are allowed to order and receive their own chemicals.

Avoiding Chemical Inventory Drift

Facilities can begin to maintain an accurate list of inventories by conducting a physical audit of all chemicals on site. Then, when new chemicals arrive on site, they are set aside, an SDS is identified, and the product gets added to the existing inventory.  Again, this step is difficult if multiple locations are receiving chemicals as physically tracking chemical’s arrival, labeling and storage must be documented. With an inventory management system, like Chemical Safety’s Environmental Management System (EMS) a responsible party at each location or a roving chemical manager can track chemicals coming in, chemicals being used and chemical waste in the building.  With today’s technology, this can be done with a handheld device, tablet or smart phone. This oversight of the facility’s chemical inventory is critical for the safety and health of everyone at the facility.

When the standard operating procedure for receiving chemicals is not followed it can be disruptive to the goals of the business. Not having enough, not having the right chemical for a specification or not being able to locate the necessary chemicals can bring production to a grinding halt. They also pose a risk if they are not labeled and stored properly.

Facilities that are using office systems like email and spreadsheets to order, receive and maintain an inventory of chemicals are often faced with the challenge of missing chemicals or an overstock of chemicals which leads to excessive hazardous waste disposal costs.  EMS offers a software tool that accommodates all departments practices and centralizes the processes for chemical management yet provides control and visibility of the inventory across the entire campus.

EH&S professionals at Chemical Safety understand the complexities of chemical management and can help avoid chemical inventory drift. For a demonstration of Chemical Safety’s EMS technology contact us at or submit a demo request.