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Chemical Management

By Kenneth Roy

Posted on 2019-12-04

Middle and high school science teachers often have or should have the task of retrofitting their chemical storeroom. Critical issues such as what chemicals are acceptable for use and grade appropriate, how should they be labeled, how should they be stored, how long should they be stored and how should they be properly disposed of need to be addressed. Unfortunately, over time, these critical issues are ignored until there is an accident and/or change over in science staff. Other motivation for appropriate chemical management may come from the school’s chemical hygiene officer or safety officer, local fire marshal or state/federal OSHA inspection.

Retrofitting Chemical Management – Resources!

To help science teachers, their supervisor and chemical hygiene officer address this ongoing critical need, below are some suggested resources to help in the process. These should be especially helpful to those science educators with limited chemical use background.

1. General strategies – Chemical Management

a. Managing Chemical Wastes in the High School Lab – The American Association of Chemistry Teachers or AACT have a great resource which is spectral in helping the management of chemical use. It can be found at AACT

b. Guidelines for Chemical Laboratory Safety in Secondary Schools – The American Chemical Society’s book titled “Guidelines for Chemical Laboratory Safety in Secondary Schools” provides a series of steps in planning for hazardous chemical waste collection and disposal. It can be found at ACS 

c. High School Laboratory Self-Certification – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has a self-certification resource again addressing safer use of chemicals in the lab and storeroom. It can be found at CDPHE

d. Managing Your Chemical Inventory – NSTA Safety Portal has a safety white paper titled – “Managing Your Chemical Inventory” It is in 3 parts and can be accessed at the following sites:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

e. MIT Environment, Health & Safety Office

f. Managing Chemical Retention and Storage – The Vanderbilt University Medical Center has a resource titled “Managing Chemical Retention and Storage.” It emphasizes that prudent chemical retention and storage practices are vital to maintain a safe laboratory working environment and to minimize the financial costs and environmental impact associated with the handling and disposal of unwanted chemicals. This is another great resource which can be found at  VUMC   

2. Grade Appropriate Chemicals

a. What are appropriate chemicals for middle school and high school science labs? Check out “Rehab the Lab” chemical list. It notes better professional safety practice for appropriate chemical use in elementary, middle and high school science labs. It also addresses recommended chemical use, their storage and their disposal. It can be found at Rehab the Lab 

b. Proper disposal of appropriate chemicals – The Rehab the Lab also has a resource on proper disposal of chemicals which can be very useful. It can be found at Rehab the Lab

3. Model Chemical Storage Patterns

a. One of the most popular means of storing chemicals is the Flinn Shelf storage pattern system. It can be found in Flinn catalog or at the Flinn Scientific website. They also have chemical storage area model floor plans – again at the same locations.

b. The MIT Environment, Health & Safety Office has a document titled “Chemical Storage.” The purpose of this document is to provide information and procedures to assure chemicals are stored safely in the work area, and in compliance with local, state, and federal regulations, standards, and guidelines. This great resource can be found at MIT

4. Chemical Storage Cleanout

a. Chemical forgotten in time! – Given that chemicals in storage more then likely go back for decades – the first thing that needs to be done is a chemical clean out! Many towns have local hazardous waste clean outs and allow school chemical disposal. Others do not and a commercial chemical disposal company would need to be secured. Make sure those chemicals being removed have the SDS or older MSDS if available. Store in a separate area of the chemical storeroom in trays for potential spill control. Use extreme precautions when removing older chemicals. Be careful for example if you find old peroxide formers like picric acid, ethers, etc. This is a good resource at UCSC 

b. Local assistance – There may be the need of the professional assistance by the local fire marshal in dealing with a number of these issues. Questionable chemicals should not be moved. Contact the local fire marshal to determine if certain chemicals are dangerous or not and how they should be handled. Also, when dealing with any chemicals – make sure appropriate PPE – gloves, indirectly vented chemical splash goggles, aprons, etc. are used. Also make sure there is effective ventilation working in the storeroom.

5. Publisher Text Series Resources

As to what chemicals or activities should be done will depend if the school has a commercial publisher’s chem book with lab manual or other resource being used. Most have chemical lists and management suggestions available with their programs and on their website.

Final Note – These are just some suggestions in dealing with these types of chemical management issues. Better to start as soon as possible before a chemical incident occurs endangering the safety and health of laboratory occupants!

Submit questions regarding safety to Ken Roy  or leave him a comment below. Follow Ken Roy on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

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