A good system for chemical management begins with a complete inventory of the laboratory's chemicals and a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) collection for those materials. A little more than 18 months ago, an entirely preventable tragedy occurred when a UCLA research assistant was burned over 43 percent of her body and died 18 days later in a hospital burn unit. While using a plastic syringe to extract a small amount of tert butyllithium, a chemical compound that ignites instantly when exposed to air, she was engulfed in a flash fire when the syringe came apart in her hands. The accident was attributed to poor technique, improper method, poor training and a lack of supervision. A quick reading of the compound's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) might have prevented this terrible loss.
The purpose of the MSDS is to inform chemical users of the potential hazards encountered with a chemical's use. Both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have published regulations dealing with MSDSs. However, most chemical products packaged for consumers and general household uses are exempt from these requirements.
Lab Manager Magazine recently surveyed its readers on their challenges involved with maintaining MSDSs and chemical inventory management and different approaches that streamline the associated workflows. If you make the effort to get to know the layout and information MSDSs contain, they can provide valuable information and be a reliable asset in times of need.
The average R&D laboratory typically has thousands of materials on site and each one requires a MSDS. In addition, those MSDSs are frequently updated by the supplier, meaning that the laboratory manager must keep track of not only where each MSDS is and which MSDS need updating, but also any new MSDSs that need to be attached to new chemicals being ordered by the lab. Keeping up with those changes can be a complex and time-consuming task. There are five major challenges that need to be overcome to ensure compliant, accurate, real-time MSDS data management:
- Maintain an on-going process to obtain, update, review, and archive MSDSs.
- Attach the correct MSDS to the applicable chemical inventory.
- Identify and track different MSDSs for different SKUs for different size containers of the same chemical.
- Eliminate duplicate work across locations.
- Facilitate chemical safety compliance.
To address these challenges, many companies utilize an online MSDS management system. MSDS management provider, 3E Company, and its partner chemical inventory management solutions provider, ChemSW, are the most frequently used solutions by far for combined MSDS management and chemical inventory needs. This is due to their ability to address the challenges identified above, while also offering users access to accurate and compliant MSDS documents much more efficiently, any time and anywhere.
With 445 completed surveys, here are the respondents' responses.