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School Chemical Management Program

Schools are finding unwanted chemicals in classrooms and storage areas, which may no longer offer educational value given their potential risks and subsequent liability to school administrators, staff and students. Discoveries include chemicals that are:

  • Aged (more than 50 years old)
  • Degraded
  • Improperly stored
  • Shock/heat-sensitive (explosive)
  • Peroxide-formers
  • Carcinogenic
  • Acutely toxic
  • Controlled substances
  • Radioactive
  • Highly flammable

Implementing a school chemical management program will provide your school with guidance in proper chemical safety and health practices.

Components of a Chemical Management Program

A chemical management program is a comprehensive effort to implement chemical safety and health practices. Emphasize the importance of managing chemicals with a written program containing the following elements: purchasing, inventory control, safe handling and usage, storage, security, disposal, emergency preparedness and training.

Purchasing Policies for School Chemicals

  • Centralize purchasing for all chemicals used by the school district
  • Develop formalized review process for chemicals purchased or donated by vendors, contractors or businesses; the process should examine chemical hazard information, safety precautions, usage practices, quantity, storage requirements and disposal
  • Limit purchases to a two-year supply or less, depending on the properties of the chemicals and hazard information

Conduct an Inventory of All Chemicals 

High-hazard chemicals (explosive and/or shock-sensitive) may be present. Be sure to follow chemical safety procedures and use eye and hand protection when conducting the inventory. Do not move containers that have not been used for extensive lengths of time or if contents are unknown. Follow these guidelines when conducting an inventory of chemicals:

  • Identify current chemical supplies throughout the school district
  • Determine surplus, if any, for redistribution within the school district
  • Document the chemical name, manufacturer, location, quantity, disposal method and user
  • Identify hazardous chemical risks and liabilities
  • Maintain centralized or area/department inventory documents
  • Update inventory annually
  • Submit inventory to local fire authorities

Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and Labeling

  • Obtain current SDS for each chemical in the inventory
  • Maintain SDS and make readily accessible to each chemical user, either in electronic media or hard copy form
  • Label secondary or transfer containers with chemical name and hazard warnings

Chemical Handling and Use

  • Review curriculum and program for chemical usage; consider using less hazardous chemicals, micro scaling laboratory experiments, etc.
  • Ensure safety equipment requirements include emergency eyewash/shower, fume hoods, storage cabinets and adequate ventilation
  • Require personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety glasses, chemical goggles, face shields, aprons, gloves, lab coats, respirators, etc; PPE must be selected based on the type of chemical being used
  • Have a written chemical hygiene plan for laboratories, usually in the science department
  • Implement a written hazard communication program for the entire school district

School Chemical Storage and Security

  • Store chemicals according to their chemical class and reactivity (flammable, corrosive, oxidizer, air and/or water reactive, etc.)
  • Store all flammable liquids in approved “flammable” liquid storage cabinets
  • Store acids separated from bases in storage cabinets designed for “Acids” and “Corrosives”
  • Store laboratory chemicals based on a classification system (i.e., Flinn Scientific, Sargent-Welch, Fisher, VWR, etc.)
  • Include lips in chemical storage shelves
  • Store chemicals at eye level or below
  • Keep storage areas and cabinets secure (locked or directly supervised) to prevent unauthorized access
  • Vent flammable storage rooms and chemical laboratory storage areas directly to the outside and have at least six complete air changes per hour

Proper Chemical Waste Disposal for Schools

  • Implement waste minimization efforts
  • Determine if chemical is hazardous or universal waste
  • Dispose of hazardous and nonhazardous waste
  • Have written documentation of waste disposal (i.e., manifest, invoice, etc.)
  • Keep contractual agreements between waste haulers, recyclers, etc.

Chemical Emergency Preparedness

  • Keep a list of key contacts
  • Create a decision tree to determine incidental vs. emergency spill (when to call for help)
  • Note all emergency response phone numbers
  • Create a diagram of chemical storage areas
  • Make a note of spill equipment and cleanup procedures
  • Create a spill prevention program
  • Have an evacuation plan

What to Include in Your Training Program

  • Hazard communication, staff information and training
  • Chemical management program components
  • Chemical hygiene plan for laboratories
  • Hazardous waste disposal methods
  • Emergency preparedness—spill prevention and response, security breaches, etc.

Identifying School Chemicals

Chemicals are used throughout a school district in virtually every building. A school chemical management program should extend district-wide, to all areas and departments. Research the following areas/departments to discover which chemicals are in each building:

  • Kitchen
  • Art Room
  • Bus Barn
  • Custodial Service

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