Tianjin Disaster Brings to Light Critical Importance of Integrated Chemical Data Management

Nobody could watch the eyewitness footage of the Tianjin explosions and not be shocked by the fireball, chemical chain reactions and the fear it provoked in the observers. We know that this is what can happen when regulations on storage of hazardous chemicals are not enforced. The Tianjin disaster is an extreme example of a lapse in control. International media reported that Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui Hai International Logistics, the firm that owns the warehouse, did not have legal permission to handle hazardous chemicals between October 2014 and June 2015. In addition, the volume of chemicals stored was far beyond legal limits including 700 tonnes of sodium cyanide and 800 tonnes of ammonium nitrate. Why is the Tianjin disaster relevant to firms operating in developed economies?

According to experts in chemical inventory management at solution providers like Safetec it is standard for on-site chemical inventories to establish a 40% compliance gap between what is stored in a facility and what safety data sheet records report is stored at the facility. So whilst your firm can achieve OSHA HazCom compliance with rock solid safety data sheet management systems from a provider like 3E Company or Sitehawk there will often be untracked risks at the facility level due to information gaps between the physical world with the digital database.

A best practice approach to chemical data management requires firms to integrate four data sets: on-site inventories of all storage containers, cloud-based safety data sheets, hazardous chemical shipping manifests and bills of materials for purchased chemicals. At a facility level, this requires a chemical approval process to track all deliveries arriving at the facility and updates to safety data sheets. Only by doing this will EH&S facility managers know when they are approaching or have breached chemical storage volume limits. Best practices also require periodic facility audits by trained professionals with the tools to cross-check volumes and types of chemicals with regulatory data. Verdantix research indicates that experts like MSDSOnline and Safetec currently have the most comprehensive systems for integrated chemical data management.

EH&S leaders seeking to move beyond baseline compliance and better manage operational risks should build on their safety data sheet investments, focus on cloud-based solutions which can be accessed by first responders and as a result save lives in the case of an incident unfolding.