At the heart of any procedural framework for managing environmental compliance is an accurate inventory of the HAZMAT present the facility. By developing and then building on an inventory, managers can extend the knowledge gained from the inventory to make better day-to-day decisions. A accurate and up to date HAZMAT inventory allows for:
- the implementation of specific processes across multiple locations;
- assignment of responsibility to appropriate individuals who can identify the hazards associated with products used in the workplace; and
- tightened purchasing policies and procedures so the organization can control which chemicals are coming into each facility helps to reduce risk, cost, and liability.
A good HAZMAT inventory will contribute to the bottom line, and the basics are easy to understand and implement.
HAZMAT Inventory 101 – here is some general advice on setting up an inventory program for your workplace:
- Getting Started. To start an inventory program, conduct a full inventory at the beginning of the year and modify the inventory throughout the year to reflect new purchases and disposed items. A follow-up inventory should then be initiated at the beginning of the next year to validate assumptions on chemical usage and turnover. Generally, if there is more than a 20 per cent change, either in the number of unique products or in the total quantity held in storage for the previous year, you should consider conducting another full inventory for each storage site.
- Selecting an Appropriate Team. The inventory team might include a combination of EH&S staff, department/facility managers and professional consultants. An EH&S professional will provide the best inventory because they can quickly and easily identify hazardous products and chemicals. However with sufficient training non-EH&S staff can learn to read product labels as a method of HAZMAT identification. Vicinia Corporation developed a sustainable inventory approach in order to provide a more cost-effective alternative to consultant led inventories: using HAZMAT experts to train personnel at the organization to conduct the inventories themselves while providing project management and on-site support.
- Recording Useful Information. At a minimum, each product or chemical record should include: the location of the material; the container size; the quantity of the material on hand; the name of the product or chemical; the name of the company that made the product or chemical; and, any part number or description assigned by the manufacturer. This basic information will allow one to match the item to a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which can provide data needed for reporting and critical exposures.
- Establishing an Inventory Schedule. The frequency with which to review the inventory of chemicals and other HAZMAT will depend on the size of the business, the number of locations/departments that handle hazardous materials, the sophistication of purchasing and approval processes, and the expected turnover of chemicals and other HAZMAT. Ideally, the person who is responsible for the hazardous materials in the department/facility should take a master inventory annually.
Once an inventory is complete, it’s important to associate each item in the inventory with a manufacturer-specific MSDS and keep the inventory list and MSDSs available for easy access by employees. MSDS provide vital information for exposures and the specific characteristics of the chemicals in a product or mixture. As products change, or MSDS become outdated, ensure your organization has a process in place for acquiring new or updated MSDS.
By focusing efforts on gathering and analyzing the right information, it is possible for any organization to streamline costs associated with HAZMAT management (acquiring, tracking, storing, shipping, and disposing of hazardous materials that a facility handles, stores, uses, and produces) without compromising regulatory compliance, environmental performance, and workers’ health and safety.
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