If Chemical Accidents Aren’t Recorded, Did They Really Happen? Proactive Measures for Lab Safety
There is an old saying that goes, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” This is especially true when it comes to tracking chemical and chemical accidents.
That is why it is disappointing to discover that according to a news report, “Even the best national data on chemical accidents is wrong nine times out of ten.” It turns out that data collected by the government regarding chemical safety statistics is surprisingly inaccurate. The lack of information means that we are probably underestimating the real number of vulnerable areas and potential accidents that might occur each year. But what can be done about it?
Let’s explore three ways that laboratory managers can increase their own understanding about the chemicals and chemical accidents within their laboratory:
1. Refrain from using spreadsheet software to track chemicals
Personally, I think that popular spreadsheet software is among the most versatile software ever created. It can be programmed, changed and formatted to address everything from financial planning to employee scheduling. However, when it comes to chemical management, it should not be the first, second or third choice because it is only as accurate as the data that is entered into it. This means that, unless people are constantly updating spreadsheets with their chemical usage, it remains inaccurate. In addition, spreadsheets are usually stored on an individual’s hard drive, making them inaccessible to others. All of this makes it cumbersome to use as an effective and efficient chemical tracking tool.
Instead, chemical tracking is best accomplished with a chemical inventory management system, especially one that uses barcode tracking. The functionality provided from a best practice system allows chemicals to be quickly checked in and monitored throughout their entire life cycle so that accuracy is maintained.
2. Track locations of chemicals
Besides knowing what types of chemicals are currently in your laboratory, it is also important to know where they are located and how they are stored. With this information, you can be proactive in ensuring that individuals who handle and work with the chemicals understand the associated risks and the steps necessary to mitigate possible accidents.
Like the first suggestion, the best way to track chemical locations is to use a chemical inventory management system. Most systems have some functionality within their database that allows location information to be tagged and tracked.
3. Document incident investigations
Commercial airline travel is one of the safest modes of transportation. Any accidents that have occurred within the past 50 years have been investigated to determine exactly what went wrong and what could have been done differently to help avoid the same problems moving forward.
If a similar philosophy existed across laboratories, compliance officers would investigate and document any circumstances that led to an accident. These would then be studied to identify corrective actions to help ensure the accident never occurs again. This would go a long way in making sure statistics are more accurate, and spur a decrease in the number of accidents.
As laboratory managers, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not necessary to wait for a national, state or city mandate to take action. We need to be proactive when it comes to the protection of our employees.
Don’t let your laboratory become a false chemical statistic reported to the government. Implement a chemical inventory management system like Accelrys CISPro and consider the steps outlined above to ensure that your laboratory, personnel and the surrounding community are safe. For more information, please visit our website.