A good system for chemical management begins with a complete inventory of the laboratory's chemicals and a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) collection for those materials. A little more than 18 months ago, an entirely preventable tragedy occurred when a UCLA research assistant was burned over 43 percent of her body and died 18 days later in a hospital burn unit. While using a plastic syringe to extract a small amount of tert butyllithium, a chemical compound that ignites instantly when exposed to air, she was engulfed in a flash fire when the syringe came apart in her hands. The accident was attributed to poor technique, improper method, poor training and a lack of supervision. A quick reading of the compound's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) might have prevented this terrible loss.
The purpose of the MSDS is to inform chemical users of the potential hazards encountered with a chemical's use. Both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have published regulations dealing with MSDSs. However, most chemical products packaged for consumers and general household uses are exempt from these requirements.
Lab Manager Magazine recently surveyed its readers on their challenges involved with maintaining MSDSs and chemical inventory management and different approaches that streamline the associated workflows. If you make the effort to get to know the layout and information MSDSs contain, they can provide valuable information and be a reliable asset in times of need.
The average R&D laboratory typically has thousands of materials on site and each one requires a MSDS. In addition, those MSDSs are frequently updated by the supplier, meaning that the laboratory manager must keep track of not only where each MSDS is and which MSDS need updating, but also any new MSDSs that need to be attached to new chemicals being ordered by the lab. Keeping up with those changes can be a complex and time-consuming task. There are five major challenges that need to be overcome to ensure compliant, accurate, real-time MSDS data management:
1. Maintain an on-going process to obtain, update, review, and archive MSDSs.
2. Attach the correct MSDS to the applicable chemical inventory.
3. Identify and track different MSDSs for different SKUs for different size containers of the same chemical.
4. Eliminate duplicate work across locations.
5. Facilitate chemical safety compliance.
To address these challenges, many companies utilize an online MSDS management system. MSDS management provider, 3E Company, and its partner chemical inventory management solutions provider, ChemSW, are the most frequently used solutions by far for combined MSDS management and chemical inventory needs. This is due to their ability to address the challenges identified above, while also offering users access to accurate and compliant MSDS documents much more efficiently, any time and anywhere.
With 445 completed surveys, here are the respondents' responses.
How many Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) are being tracked at your site?
|More than 50,000||2%|
|25,000 to 50,000||1%|
|10,000 to 25,000||4%|
|5,000 to 10,000||9%|
|2,000 to 5,000||20%|
|Fewer than 2,000||64%|
How many man-hours each year are currently required for the management of MSDSs?
|More than 500 man-hours||5%|
|200 to 500 man-hours||6%|
|100 to 200 man-hours||9%|
|50 to 100 man-hours||16%|
|20 to 50 man-hours||33%|
|Fewer than 20 man-hours||27%|
How would you rate your level of compliance with MSDS/Hazard Communication compliance
on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being most compliant:
|1 - Least compliant||1%|
|5 - Most compliant||27%|
How does your site manage MSDSs?
|Printed Hard-bound Hardcopies||44%|
|Manual upload of MSDS files||18%|
|MSDS Management Software||10%|
|MSDS Management Service||5%|
|Not Managing MSDSs||2%|
If you use a commercial MSDS Management solution, how is the solution accessed?
|Don't use a commercial solution||35%|
If you use a commercial solution, which category would best describe it?
|MSDS Management system, such as 3E Online-MSDS, Actio, Enviro MSDS, IHS (Dolphin), Safetec, Sitehawk, MSDSpro, MSDS Online, etc.?||79%|
|Lab/Inventory Management Tool, such as ChemSW CISPro or Logical Technology, Inc||12%|
|EMIS (Environmental Management System): Process Map or Enviance||10%|
Are other systems used elsewhere in the company, outside the lab?
|MSDS Management system, such as 3E Online-MSDS, Actio, Enviro MSDS, IHS (Dolphin), Safetec, Sitehawk, MSDSpro, MSDS Online, etc.?||8%|
|Lab/Inventory Management Tool, such as ChemSW CISPro or Logical Technology, Inc||4%|
|EMIS (Environmental Management System): Process Map or Enviance||2%|
|No other systems used elsewhere in the company||86%|
What is the primary reason for purchasing a MSDS Management Solution for your lab?
|Upgrading existing MSDS solution||20%|
|Addition to existing systems, increase capability||4%|
|Setting up a new lab||7%|
|Centralized data repositories||5%|
|Infrastructure for capturing, accessing and sharing MSDS information||6%|
|Enabling better user access to MSDS||23%|
|Streamlined regulatory compliance||7%|
|Workflow coordination across geographic and business boundaries||1%|
|Access to up-to-date, accurate MSDS information||12%|
Please rate the importance of the factors below for your decision to buy a MSDS Management solution
(very important to not important on a scale of 1 to 5).
|Ease of use||58%||9%||13%||6%||14%|
|Ensure regulatory compliance||56%||6%||14%||3%||21%|
|Quality and accuracy of MSDS data||52%||13%||13%||5%||19%|
|Track and update MSDS automatically||50%||14%||14%||13%||9%|
|Reduce MSDS management burden and costs||45%||16%||14%||8%||17%|
|Eliminate duplicate work||41%||14%||19%||11%||14%|
|Ease of installation||38%||20%||28%||8%||6%|
|Service & support||35%||22%||24%||8%||11%|
Besides basic MSDS management capabilities, what other features are important to a successful
program? Please rank them in order of importance, 1 being most important.
|Access to physical properties from MSDS||36%||24%||20%||8%||12%|
|Secondary container labeling||29%||24%||19%||18%||10%|
|Regulatory Reporting Tools (SARA 313, Tier II)||16%||24%||30%||15%||15%|
What is your biggest challenge for the purchase of a MSDS management solution?
|Data migration to the new system||20%|
|Staff adoption and training||25%|
|Gaining user buy-in||6%|
|Integration with other systems||4%|
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