Proper Management Can Ensure Correct Storage and Prevent Chemical Hazards in the Laboratory

biovia-flammableOrganizations can minimize chemical hazards in the laboratory by implementing a digital management system. Image source: Flickr CC user Upupa4me

Several highly publicized chemical accidents have dominated headlines in recent years. Incidents like the West fertilizer plant fire and the Tianjin warehouse explosion have served as costly reminders about the repercussions of improperly storing dangerous materials. Additionally, the resulting damages to public health and property have begun to attract the attention of elected officials.1

But while tragic events like these receive the most media attention, the factors that lead to such large-scale accidents also contribute to smaller, more pervasive risks in research and manufacturing facilities. The unfortunate truth is that many chemical hazards in the laboratory can be avoided, with almost 25% of chemical accidents the resulting from improper storage.2 With many organizations relying on outdated and inefficient chemical management systems and paper safety data sheets (SDS), the knowledge sharing required to ensure proper storage and safe handling can be difficult to execute. To lower the risks of chemical accidents both large and small, companies should utilize modern chemical management solutions that support safety and training strategies within their facilities.

Improper Chemical Storage and Handling Can Put Laboratory Workers at Risk

Further investigation into chemical accidents often uncovers improper chemical storage and handling at the root. This common mistake can take on multiple forms, such as keeping flammable materials in the incorrect type of safety cabinet or mixing incompatible chemicals in the same area. This can increase the risk of fires or explosions.

In addition to the inherent danger in fires and explosions, laboratory workers also face other chemical hazards in the laboratory:3 Workers can suffer from chemical burns, allergic reactions from skin absorption and irritation of the eyes or respiratory tracts from inhaling fumes. Proper storage and handling of chemical hazards in the laboratory can also prevent occupational risks, but the key to doing so remains with training.

A Digital Management System Supports Employee Training in Safe Chemical Handling

Preventing chemical hazards in the laboratory requires that organizations train their employees in the correct handling of dangerous materials; SDS management is an integral part of this process. The difficulty in achieving this often rests in the number of hazardous chemicals found in many facilities. Keeping current with the most updated safety data for hundreds of hazardous materials can be a daunting task—one that is made more overwhelming by the fact that many organizations still rely upon outdated chemical management systems. Often, SDS information is in paper form, which is exceedingly hard to update or widely communicate across multiple facilities simultaneously.

Modern management solutions help organizations minimize risks and increase laboratory safety by offering a platform that collects chemical inventory and safety information in one centralized digital location. When utilized effectively, the following safety protocols become simpler to pass on to employees and execute in facilities:

  • Correct storage of hazardous chemicals: Rather than maintaining chemical safety binders that fall out of date quickly and are stored in inaccessible locations, digital chemical management systems allow employees to access this information more easily. Armed with up-to-date chemical safety classifications through a digital chemical management system, materials can be stored in the appropriately rated safety cabinets.
  • Separation of incompatible materials: Beyond storing hazardous chemicals in the proper cabinets, laboratories also need to segregate incompatible materials. Just as storing a flammable chemical in a wooden cabinet can cause a fire, keeping incompatible materials in close proximity can lead to an explosion. By utilizing a digital chemical management system, which is interwoven with safety data information, laboratories can track material location and ensure that they are kept separate from potential risks.
  • Proper safe handling: While correct chemical storage and segregation can prevent laboratory hazards, proper handling can protect workers more effectively. Digital chemical management systems can allow users to access SDSs within your on-site inventory management system. As a result, laboratory workers can utilize  safety information and learn the appropriate safe handling procedures for specific chemicals such as required PPE or ventilation.

 

 

Chemical hazards in the laboratory can lead to accidents. Even the largest chemical accident can originate from small safety oversights that add up over time. Unfortunately, the reliance upon outdated, paper chemical management systems often exacerbates this problem. As companies increase in size and span multinational borders, using inefficient systems to manage enormous chemical inventories is no longer a tenable option. To minimize the risk of accidents, organizations need to adopt modern chemical management solutions that enable employee training and safety.

BIOVIA CISPro is a digital chemical management system that helps organizations streamline their chemical inventory management and increase workplace safety. It offers tools that allow accurate inventory tracking, location status via barcode labeling, and integrated electronic SDS management. A centralized location enables laboratory workers to access information from any time and place, overcoming hurdles found in older management systems.

On December 14th, 2016, Dassault Systèmes BIOVIA and SiteHawk LLC.will present a webinar demonstrating the integration of their digital SDS and digital chemical management solutions:

“Synchronized Management of Chemical Inventory and SDS – The CISPro and SiteHawk Integration” will provide a comprehensive overview of the benefits of integrating the best-in-class chemical inventory management capabilities of BIOVIA CISPro with SiteHawk’s best-in-class electronic SDS management solution. This integration helps reduce stress surrounding laboratory workflows and makes concerns over finding the information you need history. See first hand how this chemical management system, integrated with SiteHawk, works in a laboratory or facility setting. Please contact us to learn more about how this system can assist you in your efforts to better manage your chemical inventory and request a demo.

  1. “Houston officials want action on chemical hazards,” September 21, 2016, http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Houston-officials-want-action-on-chemical-hazards-9238281.php
  2. “Guidelines for Safe Chemical Segregation,” July 7, 2016, http://www.labmanager.com/lab-health-and-safety/2016/07/guidelines-for-safe-chemical-segregation#.V-PrHvkrLIU
  3. “Are You Prepared for the Top 5 Laboratory Hazards?” July 12, 2016, http://ehstoday.com/protective-clothing/are-you-prepared-top-5-laboratory-hazards