Chemical Management Can Help Eliminate Dangerous Mysteries

Chemical Regulations

chemical management
A modern chemical management system can take all the guesswork out of how to handle an environmental clean-up. Image source: Flickr CC user Jeffrey Smith

 

The other day, I stumbled across a series of photographs detailing an abandoned industrial complex in Hungary. The underground plant began its life as a gunpowder factory before moving on to produce organic chemicals, solvents, and pesticides. By the early twenty-first century, however, the complex was abandoned and much of its equipment sold for scrap. I can’t imagine the ensuing environmental clean-up. After almost a century of producing materials for both military and civilian use, who knows what chemicals were left behind? I’d be amazed to discover if their chemical management system survived throughout the decades.

This type of clean-up is hardly unique. Abandoned chemical factory sites are often marked for such cleanups, in the hopes of revitalizing surrounding properties. Given the current economic climate, people want to find ways to generate new jobs in these areas. Making old places suitable for productive use again certainly fits the bill. One initiative, the Superfund program, has cleaned up more than 800 sites. More than half of these locations have been redeveloped, leading to more than $65 billion dollars in new annual revenue.

We’ve come a long way since that Hungarian coal plant first opened. A vast array of digital tools is now available to us that have many advantages over their paper counterparts. While still standard in many laboratories, chemical safety binders can make things harder because they quickly become outdated. Also, they’re easily misplaced. Given the complications, there’s no reason our chemical management systems should remain faithful to them. Instead, we should make an effort to transition toward more modern tools— not only can they track chemicals from intake to disposal, but their respective safety data sheets are also linked and easily referenced. Having that information easily accessible makes the job of clean-up simpler for everyone.

1. Look Up Information about Exposure Risks

Mystery surrounds the clean-up of abandoned facilities; no one knows what chemicals were used, and no one knows what chemicals are still present. Perhaps they’re harmless, but perhaps they’re not. The latter possibility raises concern. No one wants something potentially cancerous seeping into their groundwater.

The same can be said about clean-up workers. Just because it’s their job to take care of hazardous waste, that doesn’t mean they have to go in blind. A digital chemical management system would negate these risks. Thanks to inventory features, workers will know what chemicals are present and on-site. Any uncertainty about an unknown compound will be minimized since having an up-to-date list would allow them to narrow down all possibilities to the most likely chemical.

2. Use Information to Determine Proper Protection

Once a chemical and its potential hazards have been identified, workers will be able to ascertain how to handle it. Does the chemical require protective gear that protects the skin? Or do workers need to wear goggles because its fumes irritate the eyes? Maybe the chemical comes in a powder form that forms a poisonous gas when mixed with water. In that case, workers need to wear masks when working in damp conditions.

Knowing a chemical’s hazardous properties helps to determine the correct protective gear workers needs to wear. Not only does this apply to clean-up efforts, it also helps laboratory personnel working in active facilities. When handling chemicals, proper protective equipment should be donned no matter the situation. With a digital system, safety data sheets containing this information can be accessed with ease.

3. Find Information on Proper Disposal Methods

Another thing workers need to know is how to dispose of the chemicals found on-site. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always a matter of simply wiping up a spill. Laboratory personnel know that there are instances where a paper towel is insufficient. Commercial spill kits contain different absorbent materials for acids and bases.

Not all chemicals are the same, and they can’t be treated like they are. People need to know how to clean up the mess correctly. We can’t do things halfway. Improper disposal leads to other problems.

4. User Information to Learn Treatment Options if Exposed

Ideally, if the safety data sheets are available beforehand, workers will know how to handle the chemicals properly. They will wear the correct protective gear. They will use the appropriate methods for clean-up and disposal.

Unfortunately, accidents do happen. We are only human, after all. Despite our best intentions, exposure can occur. When misfortune strikes, chemical management systems allow us to access safety data sheets containing the necessary information.

While some locations may continue to hold dangerous mysteries, there’s no reason this should be the case for laboratory chemicals. Why rely on paper binders and spreadsheets that can be lost or thrown away? A digital chemical management system can keep everyone, from laboratory personnel to clean-up workers, in the know.

Do you want to learn how a chemical management system can eliminate the guesswork from your laboratory? Visit our website today to learn more about BIOVIA CISPro.

4 thoughts on “Chemical Management Can Help Eliminate Dangerous Mysteries

  1. It is scary to think of how many toxic and hazardous chemicals we are exposed to every day. Luckily, most manufacturers post their PDF MSDS sheets online and if needed, they can email them to you if requested.

  2. It’s so important to read labels , and most importantly, keep hazardous materials out of harms way. Doesn’t hurt to check the batteries on your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors too.

  3. Quincy, your comment brings back memories of updating our paper MSDS binders in my last lab! Hunting down safety data sheets is certainly not impossible, but it’s definitely time-consuming.

  4. Turdelle, proper chemical storage is such a big issue in laboratories, too. While they’ve definitely improved, sometimes labels can be unclear, so it’s always good to double-check.

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