Hazmat Management Starts with an Inventory
Environmental responsibility in institutional and commercial facilities involves more than just buying green products and equipment. Many materials and chemicals used within facilities contain regulated hazardous materials that require proper management.
Hazardous and toxic substances are defined as dusts, mixtures, and common materials such as paints, fuels, and solvents that can cause harm to people or the environment. These materials come in many forms, from schools' cleaning chemicals and paints to hospitals' lab chemicals and medical waste.
A program for hazardous materials management not only addresses applicable laws and regulations. It also assists maintenance and engineering managers in specifying products and equipment to store, label, and dispose of hazardous materials.
The first step in managing hazardous chemicals and wastes is an inventory detailing where they are used and stored. Questions to ask in determining the need for a walk-through include:
- Has the department cleaned out chemicals and hazardous material recently?
- Does a documented inventory of these materials exist?
- Have technicians inspected storage areas, shelving, and containers and deemed them appropriate?
Answering no to any of these questions means the department is a prime candidate for a chemical inventory.
Managers can start the inventory by generating a list of chemicals purchased for use in the department. Perform a walk-through of each department, focusing on storage areas, tool kits, and carts. The inspection should identify items such as mercury-containing instruments, radioactive materials, solutions, chemicals, gas cylinders, pesticides, refrigerants, and unlabeled chemical containers.
The inventory should record the name of each chemical or product, container size and quantity, locations, solution concentration, expiration dates, frequency of use, and disposal information, if appropriate. The inventory also should record compliance information related to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS).