WIMR Inventory Management System

Can you imagine how many different chemicals are used in a research facility on the UW Campus? Where are the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for these chemicals? UW School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) have begun a project to answers these important safety questions.

With phase II construction started on the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research (WIMR) center tower, Bill McInnes, Building Manager and Loading Dock Coordinator, turned his attention to preventing any accidents involving a chemical spill / release of solvents from the building chemical storage room located directly below the construction activities.

With the support of Don K Braxton, Operations Manager at the SMPH, Bill began to inventory the contents of WIMR’s flammable liquid storage vault. Over the past year, Mr. Braxton has had several conversations with Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) over his concerns about not knowing what type and quantity of chemicals are being used in his building.

In September 2011, EH&S staff members (Jeff Schiller, Jeff Zebrowski and Joyce Hinds) were asked to attend a WIMR lab manager meeting to discuss chemical inventory requirements. Early on in the discussions, it was obvious that each lab manager had his/her own method of managing their chemical inventories and MSDS sheets but not an easy way to share their inventory and MSDS sheet information with other research groups.

Mr. McInnes took Mr. Braxton’s idea of creating a chemical inventory and MSDS management system for the loading dock and expanded it to a building-wide initiative. WIMR’s laboratory managers also supported the effort.

To date, a list of over 780+ chemicals and other required safety information has been keyed into an SMPH (N) drive for all people (with authorization) to access and utilize. The database is searchable by floor, product name, product number and by the chemical CAS number. There is also an inventory field which is useful in determining the amount of chemicals stored per floor and area. In all cases, building and fire code restricts the maximum allowable quantities of chemical per floor and control areas. The higher or lower (below grade) you travel in a building the smaller the allowable quantities of chemicals are allowed to be in use and in storage.

To assist with emergency situations such as a chemical spill, release or fire emergency, Mr. McInnes has placed paper copies of room inventories and MSDS sheets within WIMR’s fire command center to be available for the Madison Fire Department, should the need ever arise.

Looking forward, Mr. McInnes continues to gather inventories and MSDS sheets from laboratory managers with the hopes of completing this project within the next few months.

The long-term goal of Environment, Health & Safety is to have all campus MSDS sheet information stored online making MSDS sheet information available to any campus employee. EH&S will continues to request for other campus programs to follow the lead of Mr. Braxton and Mr. McInnes, and build upon SMPH desires to know what type and quantity of chemicals are being used in campus facilities.