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Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals
communicate with their institution's transportation coordinators. Shipment of experimental materials is also discussed in Chapter 9, section 9.D.10.
The use of personal vehicles, company or institutional vehicles (including airplanes), and customer vehicles for transporting regulated materials, which may be hazardous, is a serious concern. Most businesses and academic institutions forbid the use of privately owned personal vehicles, due to the serious insurance consequences if an accident occurs. Most individuals will find that their personal vehicle insurance does not cover them when they are transporting hazardous materials. Anyone who needs to transport regulated materials personally between buildings within an institution should walk. (Secondary containment, such as a rubber bucket, should always be used for carrying bottled chemicals.)
4.DINVENTORY AND TRACKING OF CHEMICALS
Prudent management of chemicals in any laboratory is greatly facilitated by keeping an inventory of the chemicals stored. An inventory is a database that tabulates the chemicals in the laboratory, along with information essential for their proper management. Without an inventory of chemicals stored in a particular location, many important questions pertinent to prudent management of chemicals can be answered only by visually scanning container labels. A well-managed inventory system can promote economical use of chemicals by making it possible to determine immediately what chemicals are on hand. The scope of an inventory need not be limited to materials obtained from commercial sources, but can include chemicals synthesized in a laboratory that may be available for sharing. If the need for a chemical can be filled from a supply already on hand, the time and expense of procuring new material can be avoided. Information on chemicals that present particular storage or disposal problems can facilitate appropriate planning for their handling. While a detailed listing of hundreds of chemicals stored in a particular location may not be directly useful to emergency responders, it can be used to prepare a summary of the types of chemicals stored and the hazards that might be encountered. In larger organizations where chemicals are stored in multiple locations, the inventory system should include information on the storage location for each container of each chemical.
If procedures for the facile updating of information on storage locations are developed, the system becomes a tracking system. Such a system can promote the sharing of chemicals originally purchased by different research groups or laboratories. The more that laboratories in an organization agree to share chemicals, the greater the likelihood that items unneeded in one location will find a use elsewhere. Tracking systems are more complex to establish than simple inventories and require more effort to maintain, but their favorable impact on the economics and efficiency of chemical use in a large organization will often justify their use.
Each record in a chemical inventory database generally corresponds to a single container of a chemical rather than merely to the chemical itself. This approach allows for a more logical correspondence between the records in the database and the chemicals stored in the laboratory. The following data fields for each item are probably essential in any system:
name as printed on the container,
molecular formula, for further identification and to provide a simple means of searching,
Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) registry number, for unambiguous identification of chemicals despite the use of different naming conventions,
size of container.
In addition, the following information may be useful:
hazard classification, as a guide to safe storage, handling, and disposal,
date of acquisition, to ensure that unstable chemicals are not stored beyond their useful life, and
storage location, in laboratories where multiple locations exist.
In a chemical tracking system, the means by which the consumption of chemicals is tracked must be considered. The effort involved in maintaining data on the precise contents of each container must be weighed against the potential benefit such a system would provide. Many tracking systems ignore this information and record only the size of the container.
A simple inventory system can be established by recording the above information for each container on index cards, which are then kept in an accessible location in some logical order, such as by molecular formula. The ease of searching such a card file is limited by its size and the order in which it is sorted. This type of system has obvious advantages in terms of simplicity and low cost, but it suffers several limitations. Listings of chemicals must be prepared manually, and the integrity of the database depends on how well the card file is maintained.
For an inventory of more than a few hundred chemicals, a computer-based system offers many advantages. Many spreadsheet and database programs can