University and college safety managers face unique challenges when it comes to managing MSDSs. Strained budgets and working in fragmented institutions (with departments run like fiefdoms of the department chair) make trying to organizing everyone under the same MSDS umbrella difficult for safety managers. Rather than even try, many old school safety managers are content to let each department manage MSDSs in its own way.
Given the restrictions of managing MSDSs via paper systems, it’s a choice that may have made sense years ago. However, in today's EH&S environment, with 1) greater restrictions and regulations imposed upon institutions with chemical inventories and 2) advances in technology making online solutions affordable for every budget, college and university safety managers can no longer afford a lackadaisical approach.
More importantly, 3) online MSDS management solutions provide the safety manager a high level overview of the chemicals in use on their campuses while at the same time 4) provide departments with greater control and autonomy over the MSDSs they use.
An online, campus-wide MSDS management system, rather than creating more work for the safety manager, 5) reduces the manger’s workload and makes it easier for departments to manage their own MSDS’s. On the institutional level, 6) an on-demand solution is a more economical alternative to each department maintaining its own system.
From a “Right to Know” compliance perspective, 7) an online system is the safer alternative. Good online solutions allow users to search multiple MSDS fields via a single keyword search box – making it easier for the user to find the MSDS they are looking for, even if they only know the name of the chemical, the ingredient, or the name manufacturer. It’s an intuitive approach that compliments the large volume of employees and students that rotate through a typical college or university department.
Another advantage to an online system is the 8) sustainability factor. Campuses are a hot bed for social change, recycling being a prime example. Adopting a scalable online MSDS solution will likely fit into the prevailing on-campus philosophy about the good stewardship of resources and the environment.
Finally, 9) an opportunity exists, right now, for safety managers to take the lead. Whether they work in education, construction, health care or manufacturing, the opportunity exists for them to transform the way their organizations do business. If they wait too long, the moment may pass and the inevitable change could be forced upon them in a form over which they have little control, or by someone who’s initiative diminishes their own standing.
That last insight is not intended to be fear mongering; rather, it is intended to highlight the opportunity that exists for safety managers to control their own fates. Or, in the words of Tom Robbins, “If you lack the iron and the fizz to take control of your own life, the gods will repay your weakness by having a grin or two at your expense. Should you fail to pilot your own ship, don’t be surprised what inappropriate port you find yourself docked.”