Plan for an Annual Inventory of Your Chemicals

November 26, 2021

Worker completing an annual inventory of workplace chemicals

It is important to take stock of your site chemicals once a year and purge what is no longer required. Chemical inventories are essential to: 

  • Know exactly what chemicals and hazards are present 

  • Assess all physical and health hazards on site 

  • Identify (and remove) any excess, unused, or unnecessary chemicals  

  • Ensure proper handling techniques 

  • Isolate and store hazardous chemicals securely 

  • Comply with regulatory requirements 

A Chemical Inventory Becomes the Backbone for other Elements of Your Health and Safety Program 

Having an accurate chemical inventory is the foundation for many interrelated areas of responsibility in your company’s Health, Safety and Environment program. Inventories help a company develop a: 

  • Hazard Communication Program 

  • Occupational Health Program 

  • Plan for Health and Safety training 

  • Respiratory Protective Equipment Program 

  • Worksite Chemical Storage Requirement 

  • Environment & Waste Management Program 

  • Emergency Response Plan for Exposures, Spills and Fire 

A current chemical inventory can help you understand your worksite hazards. After you complete your inventory, you will want to check that you have a Safety Data Sheets for each product. Don’t forget the guiding principle of making SDSs accessible to every worker.

Awareness of Hazards and A Plan For Controls In Your Workplace 

Identifying your chemicals allows you to identify your hazards. SDSs can help you identify the GHS classes of physical and health hazards in your inventory. This will allow you to sort chemicals into physical and health hazard categories.  

Understanding the hazards of a particular chemical can be found by reading section 2 of the safety data sheet and asking:   

  • How can this product cause immediate and long-term harm to my health? 

  • How can I work safely with the product and protect oneself?  

  • Do I have the required controls and PPE for protection?  

  • Do I have adequate training to handle this chemical safely? 

Emergency planning develops directly from the hazards of your chemical inventory. An up-to-date inventory is the starting point to ensure you have the hazards and potential emergencies accounted for; this includes exposures, spills and first aid.  

Permits and regulatory compliance stem directly from the chemicals you keep on site. Review what your obligations are to transport, store and dispose of those hazards.  

Review the storage of your chemicals to ensure products are properly labelled, secure, contained, and compatible. Product containers need to have a legible label in good condition. Additional safety signage may be required around your facility to communicate the hazards of products like flammables or to reinforce safety measures like no smoking.

Plan For Safety And Take Precautions Before A Chemical Inventory 

Safety needs to be considered before you begin a chemical inventory. Check if PPE needs to be worn in the area of inspection. Plan for the unexpected (e.g., exposure, spill, breakage, fire, etc.). Are spill response materials nearby for the products you expect to find? What if you find “unknown” products during your inventory? What is the protocol in case of a hazardous situation? Where is the closest eyewash station or shower?  

Some simple precautions to protect yourself during inventory are: 

  • NOT handling products unnecessarily. 

  • NOT removing products for disposal, unless there is a process in place for storage and removal. Flag the product until it can be removed safely and appropriately. 

  • NOT reorganizing the containers, unless you find products that are improperly stored and they require immediate attention (e.g., flammables near an ignition source, incompatible materials stored near each other, etc.). 

  • NOT cleaning up a spill or leak if you are not trained to do so. 

  • If you encounter a situation that needs to be addressed immediately, such as a spill, leak or the presence of ignition sources, or oxidizers follow the emergency protocol in your workplace.  

What information should be recorded during an annual inventory? 

The amount of information you need to gather will vary by workplace, in general you need to record: 

  • Chemical product name 

  • Manufacturer/supplier of the chemical 

  • Quantity of the product 

  • Location 

  • Presence of an SDS for the product. 

  • Condition of the label, if poor 

If chemicals have not been used in a year, or the project they were used for is complete, consider disposing them. 

Does your business need help keeping an up-to-date inventory of workplace chemicals? Chemscape offers SDS management solutions that allows you to actively manage your chemicals and access your SDS library online.