Evelyn Davies, LBNL’s Chemical Hygiene Officer, explains upcoming changes to chemical inventory processes and requirements.
Q: What can chemical owners expect in the coming months regarding changes to hazardous chemical inventory management?
A: EHS Division will be rolling out new scanning technology and procedures that will make maintaining accurate chemical inventories faster and easier. A pilot program is currently wrapping up. Using what we learn in the pilot phase, we’ll transition to a Lab-wide effort over the summer. The goal is to have all labs fully reconcile their inventories by the end of the year, and every two years thereafter.
Another significant change is our new chemical receiving process. Since last October, most hazardous chemical deliveries to the Lab have been processed through our Central Chemical Receiving Facility (CCRF), temporarily located in Building 26. The Facility introduces approximately one day of delay to receiving your hazardous chemical packages, but has benefits of streamlining the process for researchers and improving inventory accuracy. Facility staff enter container information into CMS, verify its accuracy, apply an RFID tag to the container, and include any instructions on further actions the customer needs to take in order to complete the receiving process. Customers are responsible for verifying that the containers have been tagged and for completing any necessary actions specified by the CCRF. With current capabilities, certain chemical orders will be delivered directly to the customer (e.g. cold shipments), in which case customers need to complete receiving steps themselves, or they can request field support from EHS. To learn more, click here.
Q: Could you give some background on why we’re focusing on chemical inventory?
A: The Lab has been focused on improving the whole chemical lifecycle, cradle-to-grave, to address past findings related to chemical management including insufficient inventory accuracy, abandoned chemical containers, and high-hazard removals. Corrective actions identified by the research community have been in progress since 2021. An accurate chemical inventory identifies all hazardous containers in a particular lab space, with correct hazard information. Our performance in this area affects the Lab’s research objectives, stewardship principles, safety, and also impacts emergency preparedness – emergency responders need to know where hazardous chemicals are located.
Q: Getting back to the new scanning technology… what is it, and why is it so much faster?
A: Last year, the Lab’s hazardous chemical and gas inventory was transitioned to radio frequency identification, or RFID, tracking. Unlike the previous barcode tracking, RFID allows for scanning many containers at once. There’s less container handling – reconciling gloveboxes and freezers is especially improved because it isn’t necessary to handle each individual container in order to scan them. The scanner can also be programmed to look for a specific RFID tag, which supports research and tracking. The previous app for handheld scanners has been completely replaced to perform these functions more effectively and to integrate with CMS. For more information on RFID technology, a video demonstration of how it works, and other training resources, click here. EHS staff will be on hand throughout the reconciliation process to lend assistance.
Q: How often will researchers need to reconcile their chemical inventories?
A: Institutional policy will be updated in July to specify that labs will reconcile their inventories at least once every two years starting after the completion of the current round as part of the lab-wide effort in progress. Using input from chemical users during the pilot program, a process will be developed to assure that high hazard chemicals are properly accounted for during reconciliation. The first round will be slower since there’s a lot of data cleanup, and transition to a new process and technology takes time.
Maintaining an accurate hazardous chemical inventory is critical to the Lab – it impacts safety, emergency preparedness, and compliance. Accurate inventories are a team effort. Operations and Research Division staff working together will accomplish the goal. This is a dynamic process – we are incorporating feedback and input from chemical users and other stakeholders, and will continue to improve our processes, systems, and assurance mechanisms.