How to Inventory Your Chemicals

The biggest part of the job is to perform a complete physical inventory of all chemicals that are stored in your laboratory areas (cupboards, cabinets, freezers and refrigerators). It is best to inventory each storage location separately.

  1. remove the chemicals inspect the container for visible signs of deterioration or contamination record the name of the chemical, date received (if known), amount on hand (estimate if container has been opened), and the storage location.
  2. Make sure that you have an MSDS form for each chemical in your inventory. If you are missing an MSDS form you may contact the Safety Office (444-4560) for a copy. You may also search for an MSDS on the Sigma Chemicals and Fisher Scientific websites

You may wish to assign number codes for each location if your chemicals are spread out over many locations (i.e. 1= safety cabinet, 2= cold room, 3= -80C freezer, 4= cupboard #1, 5= cupboard #2, etc.) Enter all items into the Chemical Inventory spreadsheet/database. Multiple containers of the same chemical must be listed separately. If you have 4 bottles of albumin that are all received from the same supplier on the same day you could list them together as:name Albumin, Chick egg, rec'd 7-5-99, amount 1g (x 4), storage 4'C, log 99-10.

Each year the Safety Office must report annual chemical usage for certain chemicals to the EPA, Narragansett Bay Commission and other regulatory agencies. The Safety Manager sends this list of chemicals to each lab and requests that the annual usage be reported. All labs are responsible for tracking the use of these specified chemicals and reporting the annual usage. The Chemical Inventory form includes a field titled "Special", any chemicals that are included on the Safety Manager's list should be marked "yes" in this field to facilitate annual usage reporting.

Sample Chemical Inventory

If you have a spreadsheet program (e.g., Excel) or database program (e.g., Access, Panorama, Lotus) you can use the same column headings as below to create your own database. Spreadsheet programs like Excel cannot perform sorting or searching functions as well as database applications.

Chemical Name Date Received Amount Storage Location Inventory Log # Special Tracking?
Acetaldehyde 12/10/15 250 ml Cupboard #2 99-15 Yes
Albumin, chick egg 7/17/15 10 g Refrigerator #1 99-09 No
Agarose, molecular biology grade 1/15/15 100 g Cupboard #1 99-01 No

Maintaining Your Chemical Inventory

Now that you have worked so hard to create an inventory, you need to keep it up to date. It is best if one person is responsible for maintaining the inventory. Each new chemical should be entered into the spreadsheet/database when it is received. It is often helpful for new chemicals to be assigned a log number to distinguish new chemicals from older chemicals with the same name. A simple method uses the last two digits of the year followed by consecutive numbers for each chemical received during that year (i.e. 99-01 is the first chemical received in 1999).

Chemicals must be removed from the inventory when they are emptied or discarded. Special chemicals that are tracked for annual reporting to the Safety Office should be easily identified so that when chemicals are ordered or emptied a running usage total can be kept.

Each lab is required to post a list of hazardous chemicals that are used or stored in the laboratory area. This list must include the chemical name, where it is stored and special handling procedures. You must also list and chemicals that are stored in excess of 10 lb. or 2 gallons and the locations of all size H gas cylinders.


Department of Clinical Hematology
Meehan Building, Third Floor
Loren Fast 444-8091

Chemical Storage Special Handling
Acetone cupboard keep away from heat
Acrylamide 4'C neurotoxin, avoid contact and inhalation
Chloroform Safety Cabinet use in fume hood, store waste in sealed jar in fume hood
Ethanol cupboard keep away from heat, flush spills with water
Ethidium Bromide 4'C Mutagen, avoid contact and inhalation

Chemicals in excess of 10 lb. or 2 gal.

Ethanol fume hood cabinet
7X Cleaning Solution cupboard

Gases - size H

CO2 Tissue culture lab, animal room, main lab
N2 Main lab

An inventory of all chemicals must be competed and the Chemical Inventory must be updated each year. If you are using a database you can sort the records by location and print a list of the chemicals that are supposed to be in each storage site. You may then inventory each location to ensure that the list is complete. Use the method for performing a chemical inventory as described above.