Stop Wasting Time: Leverage Technology for 21st Century Chemical Management

Ian Cohen, Contributor

Barcodes aren’t just for retail these days. IT departments have been using barcodes for at least two decades to inventory assets, reduce theft and manage costs. Many EHS software solutions now come with barcode generating solutions out-of-the-box, which can be used in a myriad of ways, such as providing employees with hazard information about equipment, storage location details, required personal protection equipment needed for a job and much more. Chemical management is also a burgeoning area in which barcodes make storage, inventory tracking, onsite threshold-limit tracking, hazard communication and disposal more efficient, safer and accurate.

How It Works
You simply leverage the software to create barcodes for the chemicals shipped to your facility and put them on the outside of the container. If chemicals are portioned out into smaller containers or vials, say for labs or smaller operations, you can create barcodes in batches to make the processes efficient and ensure that the information that is “stored” on that barcode is accurate. This little barcode can essentially link to whatever information is on the record, such as a link to the SDS, Global Harmonization phrases and symbols, and detailed chemical information.

Users can access this data through their mobile device simply by scanning the barcode. In the past, companies needed to buy barcode readers and barcoding solutions, but today’s off-the-shelf EHS solutions are equipped with barcode generators, and most systems can leverage the camera on the mobile device to read the barcode. This means companies don’t have to buy standalone barcode scanning devices or attachments for the mobile devices that are already being used in the field. These solutions even work seamlessly with your “bring your own device” program.

Now, a simple scan with a mobile device provides employees with critical information about onsite chemicals, such as potential hazards, storage location, key contacts, as well as the ability to quickly note changes as chemical products are added and subtracted from inventory. You can even setup automatic notifications to alert other users that chemicals have been added or subtracted from inventory to ensure maximum visibility into your chemical management program. Importantly, since all of this information is stored in a single, unified EHS management platform, it’s easy to share information with others through dashboards and routine reporting.

Business Value
Historically, chemical management been a decentralized activity managed at each site within a company’s operations. This has created a lot of issues, none bigger than people not being confident that they know what is on site with 100% certainty. Centralized chemical management solutions provide users with insights they might not otherwise have, such as identifying chemicals that always seem to “magically appear” onsite, even when they aren’t approved. By leveraging technology, you can:

  • Eliminate data silos
  • Improve inventory management processes, including preventing the “rogue” usage of unapproved chemicals
  • Improve communication between business units
  • Enhance compliance with regulatory requirements for onsite chemical storage thresholds and limits to reduce the risk of non-compliance events

Additionally, with this information readily available in one place, companies may be able to eliminate certain reporting requirements by staying under onsite thresholds. This would free up EHS resources to focus on other important initiatives. Lastly, and most importantly, you can leverage a chemical management solution with barcoding technology to reduce the risk of an incident that could lead to employee injuries, fatalities or environmental spills that lead to significant fines and penalties from regulatory agencies.

Concluding Remarks
Proactive chemical management is critical for companies in a variety of industries, including chemical manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and coatings and paints, to name a few. Eliminating spreadsheets and leveraging technology to help better manage chemical compliance leads to better data quality from which to make decisions and reduced risk of non-compliance events. With a simple barcode and mobile device, companies can transform their operations and connect their workers with critical information, like safety and environmental risks and regulatory requirements, to ensure safe handling and disposal. WMHS

About the Author

Ian Cohen is the Product Marketing Manager for Cority’s Safety, Environmental and Sustainability solutions. Ian works with Cority’s Sales, Product and Success teams to develop marketing strategy, product roadmap and help deliver products to the market that are designed to meet clients’ needs in an ever-changing regulatory environment. Ian holds a Master’s in Environmental Science and Bachelor’s in Biology, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. His research is published in the peer-reviewed journals Annals of Botany and Zoologica Scripta.