One school accumulated 20 five-pound bottles of mercury. Each year they ordered from the same list that they had used the year before! Not a good idea. You need to know what you have, where it’s located, and who’s responsible for it.

Whether you decide to do it with sheets of paper, index cards, or computers, you need to have a chemical inventory. It’s pretty hard to comply with OSHA, EPA, and state right-to-know regulations without one. It’s also difficult to know what to order without one.

If you decide to use a computer to keep your records, you can use any word processor, spreadsheet or database software program you like. Or, you can buy a program from one of the several vendors that offer the software packages. Programs are available that run on either IBM or Apple/ Macintosh type systems.

Look at the features and see what meets your needs. How easily can additional chemicals be added to the database? Can the total list be sorted or indexed? How fast does it search? Can extra fields of information be added? How many?

Source: Kaufman, James A., Laboratory Safety Guidelines - Expanded Edition, The Laboratory Safety Institute, www.labsafetyinstitute.org.