The CMMS-Hazmat Connection

Proper software selection provides solid framework for successful management of hazardous materials

By Jeffrey C. Camplin  

Maintenance and engineering managers are confronted with ever-increasing amounts of oversight responsibilities, including safety and environmental compliance. Many managers have turned to computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) to help organize, track and manage these daily responsibilities.

A CMMS is an essential tool for the modern facilities maintenance organization for managing assets and maintenance activities. But the CMMS concepts now are being used to manage environmental compliance, including hazardous materials and wastes.

Understanding Options

Managers will benefit from a comprehensive hazardous-material management and reporting application that identifies, tracks and manages the streams of hazardous materials throughout its life cycle at a facility. The true cost of a hazardous material as it completes its life cycle is much more than its purchase price. Additional costs include regulatory compliance, liabilities, inventory management, safety and emergency response, and disposal. Indirect hazardous-materials management costs can add up to $10 for every dollar spent on hazardous materials.

Best practices that address the various aspects of hazardous materials management can significantly reduce the extra costs of a chemical from cradle to grave. Using a CMMS that addresses hazardous-materials management comprehensively is a best practice that will help managers realize these benefits.

Selecting a Format

While environmental compliance is the main goal of hazardous-materials management, better and more efficient inventory management of hazardous materials is the underlying foundation of implementing this type of system. So a computerized hazardous-materials management system must address inventory management to be effective.

A CMMS can also integrate purchasing, receiving, storage, use, re-use, disposal, reorder, and human resource issues that affect management of hazardous materials.

The use of a CMMS to manage hazardous materials also gives managers the ability to quickly be able to demonstrate regulatory compliance and assists in promoting both economic and environmental benefits of improved hazardous-materials management.

Managers have several options in developing a computerized hazardous-materials management program. They either can develop their own program with in-house software, or they can buy a commercial application with a range of additional bells and whistles.

Managers can develop in-house programs that are very basic and narrow in scope by using simple spreadsheets or databases. Commercial software packages can be expensive and involve a significant investment for training and support. But they offer the advantage of integrating with an array of applications elsewhere in an organization, including human resources, purchasing, training, and emergency response.

The two main types of commercial CMMS hazardous materials packages are integrated systems and standalone systems.

An integrated CMMS is a comprehensive program that seamlessly manages all aspects of hazardous-materials management. Users also can select a more basic system of this type that simply inventories chemicals, then add modules to expand its management capabilities and integration with other operations, such as purchasing or employee training.

Standalone systems are designed to address a limited scope of a hazardous-materials management program, such as tracking material safety data sheets (MSDS), chemical inventories, or spill-response information.

Starting at the End

Many managers have gone through unsuccessful implementation of a CMMS-based hazardous-materials management program that failed to meet expectations of upper management. Problems often arise from a failure to understand the goals of implementing a CMMS. Therefore, managers should start the process with the end in mind.

Managers should be able to visualize what this system will produce and what it output will look like. Managers also should consider the performance metrics they will evaluate to demonstrate the program’s success. Finally, managers should develop a plan to calculate and evaluate the expected business value and return on investment (ROI).

Focusing on Features

Any CMMS used for hazardous-materials management should complement a facility’s existing environmental management system (EMS). An EMS is a framework that helps a company achieve its environmental goals through consistent control of operations. The assumption is that this increased control will improve the environmental performance of the company.

An EMS also is the set of tools, procedures and documents an organization uses to document environmental obligations based on government regulations, industry standards, company driven policies, company procedures, and customer demands. The push towards maintenance departments going green is an example of such an environmental obligation.

The hazardous-materials management component of a CMMS must have essential features that will help managers achieve their departmental and organizational EMS goals. Typical features include:

Integrated inventory management.
Focused inventory management software or an online application can interface with purchasing systems, vendors or online suppliers to maintain dynamic inventory data. Understanding when, where and how an organization uses materials gives managers the tools to determine ways to reduce material use, when alternative materials can be introduced, and which processes or departments are good candidates for sharing chemicals.

An effective inventory management system can improve the sharing or redistribution of chemicals. Managers often buy a large amount of a chemical because they had no way of knowing someone else in the facility had excess product available. Having such information decreases inventory, storage and the potential for waste because of expired shelf life.

Manage/minimize hazardous waste. Minimizing the amount of waste disposal is the easiest way to minimize the associated costs, as disposal is the most expensive cost associated with hazardous materials. A good CMMS will evaluate all processes involving hazardous waste and regulated materials with an understanding of the costs associated with disposal. Efficient inventory of hazardous materials naturally results in a decreased amount of waste disposal needed.

Even when operations and activities create hazardous wastes, managers still can find ways to reduce the associated costs. The electronic transfer of data and documents streamlines the process and supports the verification process, ensuring that all aspects of generating, storing, shipping and destroying hazardous waste receive the proper attention and ensuring the company’s responsibilities are covered in the event of inspection, audit or emergency.

It also helps to have a good relationship with a waste-disposal company that can offer online approval of waste streams, automated scheduling for pick-up, and regulatory data transfer. Finally, recycling is another great way of saving money, limiting waste and contributing to the overall environmental management system.

MSDS management. Image- or text-based MSDS can be viewed across the organization over the internet or facility intranet. Electronic MSDSs now meet OSHA right-to-know requirements for instant hazard-information access 24 hours a day. MSDS management is an important CMMS feature because right-to-know violations consistently dominate OSHA’s top 10 citation list.

Additional features of electronic MSDS management include extensive label-creation for hazard identification, storage, shipping, NFPA/HMIS categorizing, personal protective equipment (PPE), and U.S. Department of Transportation requirements. Many CMMS have automatic updates so managers have access to the most current information.

Finally, top-of-the-line CMMS for hazardous-waste management will include regulatory-compliance support, emergency-response information, safety-training tracking, permitting, and PPE recommendations.

Using a CMMS for hazardous materials management also can provide environmental compliance data to assist maintenance and engineering managers with a range of regulatory requirements that every organization must meet. Selecting and implementing the appropriate program depends on understanding the goals and size of the operation and the quantity of its requirements.

Properly selecting the right CMMS module or system can provide a valuable return on investment by freeing up scarce resources, reducing costs, and minimizing compliance expenses that can far exceed the management software’s purchase and implementation costs.

Jeffery C. Camplin, CSP, CPEA is president of Camplin Environmental Services Inc. in Rosemont, Ill. He is the administrator of the environmental practice specialty of the American Society of Safety Engineers, where he provides environmental support to its 30,000 safety professional members.

Asking the Right Questions

When choosing a CMMS for hazardous-materials management, managers need the answers to the following questions:

  • What are the specific goals and objectives for using such a computerized hazardous materials management system?
  • What are mandatory features and functions the system must have?
  • What are the options available that would be nice to have?
  • What specific information should the system produce?
  • Is a standalone chemical inventory system sufficient, or does the organization need a multi-module integrated system that can address other issues, such as air, water, and wastes?
  • Will this system integrate with an existing CMMS? If so, what specific data elements must be integrated between the systems?
  • Is enough internal expertise and resources available to implement all or most of the system, or will managers have to rely on the software vendor or a third-party implementation partner?

— Jeffrey C. Camplin

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  posted on 10/1/2007   Article Use Policy

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