Purchase Chemicals in Small Quantities

November 2017
Best Practice: 
Buying Gallon (Gal) or 20-Liter (L) containers of chemicals may bring small financial benefits, but the practice of pouring directly from these large containers can pose health and safety risks, such as spill, fire, and ergonomic injuries. In addition, the small cost savings on the purchase may not save money when the waste disposal cost of unused and contaminated chemicals is taken into account. To reduce these risks and costs, buy chemicals in smaller containers and only the amount you need.

Just like people love to go to Costco and save money by buying bulk quantities, it is very tempting to order chemicals that come in 5-Gal containers because they are cheaper than five 1-Gal containers. However, take a moment before clicking to buy that 5-Gal or 20-L container of chemical and consider the potential risks, some of which are listed below:
- Greater risk of spill and ergo injuries, as a result of pouring from large and heavy containers 
- Greater fire risks 
- Increased exposure to chemical vapors, since it is harder to perform the transfer in a fume hood
- Likelihood of generating more waste since some chemicals degrade over time or absorb water that affects the purity 

- Buying cases of smaller (e.g. 1-L or 4-L) bottles is a better alternative to buying large containers if your lab has a large consumption of certain chemicals. 
- Do not stockpile chemicals. Only order the amount of chemicals that you will use for your experiment. Buying more than you need is likely to result in extra cost in hazardous waste disposal. Opened containers are unlikely to be used by others after prolonged storage or if their history is unknown. Also, more containers may take up precious cabinet storage spaces. 
- If you are ordering time-sensitive chemicals, including peroxide formers, buy only what is needed at the time and avoid storage. 

Lessons Learned are part of the ISM Core Function 5, Feedback and Improvement. Applicable Lessons Learned are to be considered during working planning activities and incorporated in work processes, prior to performing work. 
Please contact the following subject matter experts if you have any questions regarding this briefing.