Safetip #91: Conduct a Chemical or Product Inventory

August 09, 2017
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

As part of a chemical management program, chemical or product inventories should be conducted to ensure that you are aware of the presence and locations of hazardous chemicals that can pose a risk to safety and health. Inventories also allow you to verify whether safety information is available for all chemicals stored or used.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS) has a OSH Answer Fact Sheet on an inspection checklist for chemical or product inventories. In this Safetip, we share information on conducting a chemical or product inventory.

Before Conducting the Inventory

Have a floor plan and mark the areas where chemicals or products are used or stored. Set a path to follow to make sure you cover all products and locations, and consider the specifics of the area to inspect. Even before the inventory begins, address the following questions:

  • Has a means of communication been established in case of a problem (e.g. exposure, spill, fire)?
  • Are spill response materials available? Are they appropriate for the products expected to be found?
  • Do you know how to deal with any “unknown” products you may find?
  • Do you know and understand what to do if you find yourself in a potentially hazardous situation?
  • Were you trained in how to use emergency equipment such as an eyewash station?
  • Do you have the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE)?

During the Inventory

When conducting the inventory, remember to:

  • Mark the areas where chemicals or products are stored and used.
  • Check all areas for products that may be stored in places they are not supposed to be.
  • Make sure that you know what situations to expect, how to identify when a situation may be an emergency, and what to do in an emergency.
  • Wear the proper PPE.
  • Make sure that the ventilation is functioning properly in storage areas before entering.
  • Make sure that there are no sources of ignition (flames, pilot lights, etc.)
  • Know how to contact emergency services in case you are exposed, or find a spill, leak, or damaged container.

Remember also the following warnings from CCOHS:

  • Don’t handle chemicals or products unnecessarily.
  • Don’t remove products for disposal unless there is a process in place for storage and removal of hazardous wastes. Flag the product and have it removed safely and appropriately.
  • Don’t reorganize containers, unless you find products that are improperly stored and they require immediate attention (e.g. flammables near an ignition source).
  • Don’t clean up a spill or leak if you are not trained to do so.
  • If you encounter a situation that needs to be addressed immediately (e.g. spill, leak or the presence of ignition sources), follow the emergency notification protocol in your workplace.

Information to Record

Information needs will vary by workplace, but CCOHS says that, in general, you need to record the following:

  • Name and specific identification (e.g. product code or CAS number) of all chemicals, materials and products that are in the workplace including consumer products (e.g. cleaning products, pest control products).
  • Amounts, including sizes and numbers of containers, amounts remaining in containers, etc. Be as precise as possible.
  • Locations of products used in every place.
  • Based on the type of product or chemical, you may also consider recording the following:
    • Manufacturer/supplier name
    • Classification
    • Physical state
  • Amount or type of waste that is present.
  • Situations where hazards are present, such as:
    • Containers not properly labelled.
    • Storage containers, areas, tanks, etc., that are in poor condition.
    • Availability of a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each product.

Maintaining the Inventory

Finally, CCOHS stresses the importance of the maintenance of inventories. Enter products or update quantities as products arrive or are used. If there are many people in charge of purchasing products, implement a communication/update system so that all products are inventoried in a central system. The system will ensure that those in charge of hazard information are informed about the presence of products.

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