Free Resources for EHS Pros to Better Evaluate Chemical Risks

Today more than ever, it’s crucial to know as much as possible about the chemicals stored and used in R&D and production facilities in life sciences, healthcare, higher education, and other industries.

Nationally, chemical safety is a major challenge: experts claim there is one chemical-related accident every two days nationwide. In fact, there were an estimated 825 chemical accidents in the United States between 2021 and late 2023, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).

The risk of chemical incidents is obviously serious—and the consequences of these events can be disastrous. So, to support safety and compliance within the lab and production environment, managers should know as much as possible about the quantities and qualities of their on-site chemicals.

One key resource of information, as we’ve written, is an on-demand chemical safety data sheet (SDS) library. The SDSs outline all basic information about a chemical and its potential risk—along with the remediation instructions needed to address exposure. The chemical manufacturers are legally required to provide them, so they are readily available.

Chemical Inventory Knowledge Cuts Risk

However, ultimately, the best and most comprehensive road to chemical knowledge begins with creating a full inventory. It will enable a single source of readily accessible chemical inventory truth across all facilities in any given R&D or production network. Rapid access to the most accurate, current inventory data enables:

  • Regulatory compliance with local, state, and federal chemical guidelines
  • Safety for team members and the public at large
  • Efficiencies in procurement, storage, and usage

As this blog has noted, to get the most from such a program requires extensive planning, training, system integrations, and more. A successful and complete inventory solution should:

  • Integrate into an SDS digital library
  • Enable rapid search and quick information retrieval
  • Be accessible via cloud-enabled mobile devices by all relevant team members
  • Connect to business solutions such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms

Such a modern, data-driven solution will make chemical inventories transparent. However, rolling out such a system requires due diligence—and is typically best enabled by partnering with an experienced chemical inventory management vendor. Other safety measures can include installing a chemical monitoring system, as we’ve previously noted.

Devil in the Chemical Inventory Details

A chemical inventory system isn’t just a matter of lists of chemicals on the shelves or in storage closets (even a cumbersome spreadsheet or paper-based manual system can provide that). A proper, data-rich solution will offer context and guidance to stakeholders, as well.

For instance, it will quickly and reliably inform managers about the maximum allowable quantity (MAQ) of any chemical or combination of chemicals they may have at their facility—or across facilities in a higher education or corporate campus.

Should there be an incident, this knowledge will enable the best possible reaction plan from both internal staff and emergency first responders. With an accurate inventory and related chemical composition data, responders can quickly and efficiently react to contain any spilled or leaked chemical. 

Overall, this will prevent harm to workers, the community, and operations as a whole. It will also enable your facility to avoid noncompliance citations and associated penalties.

Free Resources to Boost Chem Inventory Programs

We of course believe that the more chemical information a manager or team member can access, the better. A chemical inventory management solution and program are essential. However, stakeholders can freely supplement their knowledge-base and enhance their inventory operations by accessing free industry and governmental data, as well.

The various available resources will:

  • Enable better chemical risk evaluations
  • Improve safety in chemical storage and usage
  • Empower emergency responses with rich, accurate information

Below, we list just several resources as a starting point for your supplementary research:

Chemical exposure limit information: It’s important that managers understand threshold limit value (TLV) guidelines. The TLV is one of several so-called occupational exposure limits (OELs). These OELs define the acceptable concentration of hazardous substances in a lab, production, or other work environment. The nonprofit American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) offers its own TLV recommendations—and these are usually stricter than those from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). While not legally binding, the ACGIH guidelines are a great resource for limit guidance.

Federal government resources: The United States government's agencies also provide free guidance. For instance, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers a Pocket Guide to Hazardous Chemicals, a wellspring of industrial hygiene and occupational health information. (This includes OELs for many various chemicals.) Available in print or online (including via smartphone app), the chemicals are indexed by name or Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number. Additionally, OSHA is a valuable and unique information source—for example, the agency's 29 CFR 1910 Subpart Z: Toxic and Hazardous Substances guidelines provide some hazardous chemicals with their own standards.

California-specific guidance: The Golden State, as we’ve noted, is a major life sciences, healthcare, pharmaceutical, industrial innovation, and manufacturing giant. Its universities are among the top R&D institutions globally. Appropriately, California has unique chemical exposure guidelines. And when it comes to OELs (mentioned above) it also has lower permissible exposure limits (PELs) than those from industry bodies or the federal government. To learn more about the state’s specific rules, managers can visit the Cal/OSHA site.

Need a Chemical Inventory Knowledge Partner?

There is a wealth of knowledge resources to assist you in maintaining your chemical inventories safely and compliantly. However, this knowledge must be actionable—team members must be capable of accessing and applying it, on the fly, if needed.

Need to ensure you have a modern, robust chemical inventory management system that leverages all available chemical data to support regulatory guidelines and best practices? Then talk to Triumvirate Environmental: We can help you through all phases of chemical inventory management program implementation—from planning to full rollout all the way to ongoing support.

Contact Us