Chemical Inventory Limits and Building Code Violations-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Chemical Inventory Limits and Building Code Violations

A current and accurate chemical inventory in ChemTracker is a critical safety item in many ways.  It helps you identify the materials you have on hand, of course, but also assists in preventing “over-buying” and perhaps adding to hazardous waste quantities and expenses.  Additionally, with the ChemTracker system, health hazard data is just a click away, through the new links to MSDSOnLine.

One of the most critical benefits, though, is the ability of the program to evaluate our compliance with Building Code chemical limits.  The City of Pittsburgh has adopted the International Building Code for compliance with its buildings.  The Code limits the quantities of certain classes of chemicals per building or per “control area” and the numbers are affected by the distance of the chemicals from ground level (and therefore, from where emergency responders will need to respond to an incident.)

For example, there is a limit of 20 pounds for any “highly toxic” chemical, per control area (often a building floor.)  That is for a ground level floor.  For every floor above or below ground level, the maximum allowable is halved, to the point where, three floors above (or below) ground, there will only be 2.5 pounds of a highly toxic material permitted in the entire control area.  ChemTracker evaluates all of our chemical inventory, sorts them into the 35 regulated classes and flags outliers for us.

What does this mean for us?  Well, if a new laboratory or other chemical use area is either created or renovated in a building, we must ensure that our control areas are within the limits of the Code.  Code compliance is a requirement for us to obtain a building permit for the new or renovated area.  This is often a difficult task in many of our laboratory buildings.  It also means that it is critical to limit our chemical quantities, especially of more hazardous items, and to work with the university and EH&S when we need to reduce quantities of certain chemical classes.  Also, it means to accurately identify quantities of materials in your inventory, so we are working with the correct numbers.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions on this subject!