February 17, 2015 By Peaks to Prairies

Arguably one of the most vital steps in transforming a school’s chemical management system is the creation of a purchasing policy to monitor future chemical purchases after a successful chemical cleanout. Without a thorough procurement plan in place, bad habits are likely to resurface over time either due to negligence, lack of organization, or staff turnover.

Key elements of a purchasing plan include, but are not limited to:

  • Accountability for types and quantities of chemicals ordered
  • Purchasing and receiving protocol
  • Tracking system
  • Promotion of less toxic alternatives
  • List of acceptable chemicals (i.e. “standard use list”)
  • Life cycle cost analysis

Full-cost-accounting is essential in the purchase of chemicals. Among other things, the cost of hazardous waste disposal and the degree of value of the chemical to the learning experience both should be evaluated before a chemical is ever purchased. This cradle-to-grave approach is highly advocated as it offers a more comprehensive vision of the lifecycle cost of a chemical. To assist full-cost accounting, the Disposal Planning Table provides a column for tracking the expense of disposing of each hazardous material identified through the Inventory process. The purchasing point-person will want to refer to these documented costs of disposal in facilitating purchase decisions.

District-wide purchasing is also advocated where possible as it tends to alleviate stockpiling and hoarding of chemicals by individual teachers.

Although potentially more complicated, a Chemical Swap system is another option to consider in order to minimize quantities of chemicals within a given school district. In this scenario, products can be swapped between schools as needed (This system works best with custodial and art departments rather than science departments due to the inherit risk in transporting toxic lab chemicals).

Another approach to purchasing is a school-wide (potentially district-wide) Pharmacy system where a dedicated, locked and manned room serves as a dispensing facility with a system for tracking all chemicals and products.

Regardless of the policy put in place, any purchasing plan should delineate rules for accepting donations and for bulk purchasing.

In addition to purchasing checklists found within the Department-Specific section, the purchasing point person will find the following helpful files in the Purchasing sub-section of the Administration section of the Toolkit: