Improving database, inventory tracking of hazardous materials given boost by technology at 88th Readiness Division

By Thomas Milligan (USAEC)July 8, 2024

Commonly seen hazardous materials storage cabinet in a vehicle maintenance bay
1 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – This cabinet, located at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri is a good example of providing information concerning the hazardous materials on the outside of the storage container. The Quick Response (QR) code for the hazardous materials inventory and online SDSs for all materials in the storage unit are printed and attached to the cabinet (middle 8.5” x 11” sheet on left door of cabinet). (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL
Equipment Concentration Site 300 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
2 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Personnel at Equipment Concentration Site 300 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, store hazardous materials in neat rows with older substances in front for first use. Preventing over-orders and waste requires proper and organized hazardous materials. The 88th Readiness Division's hazardous materials database supports hazardous materials management with an online inventory that provides data concerning types, volumes, locations, and Safety Data Sheets that are easily accessible. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL
Equipment Concentration Site 42 at Fort Carson, Colorado
3 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Equipment Concentration Site 42 at Fort Carson, Colorado, stores and maintains more than 10,000 individual pieces of equipment for more than 50 Army Reserves units stationed across Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Facilities like this allow the Readiness Division to help maintain unit readiness across the 19-state region. Maintaining this equipment requires skillful management of hazardous materials, which the hazardous materials database supports. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL
Hazardous Material Program Development Tiger Team members photos and locations
4 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Hazardous Material Program Development Tiger Team had to coordinate closely due to the wide geographic region in which team members were dispersed. Team members included personnel from all 88th Readiness Division's environmental units. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL
Combined Best Warrior Competition
5 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The 88th Readiness Division’s mission is “To provide combat-ready units and Soldiers to the Army and the Joint Force across the full spectrum of conflict.” This mission requires a variety of military vehicles, support vehicles, helicopters and more. All vehicles require maintenance using hazardous chemicals, even when Soldiers participate in competitions, like the Combined Best Warrior Competition air assault rappelling operations shown in this photo. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL
AMSA 132
6 / 6 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Area Maintenance Support Activity (AMSA) 132 in Evansville Indiana operates with numerous vehicle maintenance bays that require a variety of hazardous materials. Activities at a facility this large require a variety of petroleum, oils, lubricants, adhesives, solvents, batteries, janitorial supplies, and many other hazardous materials. Meeting environmental requirements means maintaining an inventory of hazardous materials and ensuring access to Safety Data Sheets for each product, which the hazardous materials database provides via a QR code. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

For the U.S. Army Reserve’s 88th Readiness Division, the best way to effectively manage hazardous materials inventories and provide immediate access to safety data sheets came down to a simple choice: would you rather look up something using a five-inch-thick binder full of paper sheets, or would you rather use a QR code to scan and gain that information instantly? No contest -- go with the technology.

The 88th RD made that choice, but then faced one large obstacle. Its area of responsibility is comprised of 18.5 million acres of property with more than 250 facilities across a 19-state region that includes a combined population of approximately 2,500 military, civilian and contract employees who support more than 525 Army Reserve units with more than 50,000 Army Reserve Soldiers assigned.

“Establishing a centralized hazardous material inventory that provides immediate access to each facilities’ list of hazardous materials and electronic SDS by simply scanning a QR Code has made an enormous difference,” said the Environmental Division chief, Mr. Ed Tebo.

“Because the RD’s mission includes readiness, mobilization and deployment, it has a large inventory of hazardous materials that must be managed and tracked, like windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid, solvents, lubricants, paints, epoxies and more used to service and repair weaponry, vehicles and other equipment.”

Because these materials are purchased, stored and used under strict guidelines at so many locations, the new database system not only saves time, but also facilitates real-time management of its current location and quantities on-hand that greatly improves regulatory compliance with safety and emergency preparedness regulations, Tebo said.

Tebo praised the small but persistent Environmental Division team for what they accomplished by gathering and inputting all hazardous material storage locations and material type data and acquiring all of the SDS necessary to build the database for the RD’s area of responsibility.

“The team did this work in addition to their normal duties. They worked incredibly hard to help establish an effective Hazardous Materials Management Program which allows us to fully support the mission,” Tebo said. “A centralized, easily accessible database to manage and update our hazardous material inventory and store SDSes has proven to be the solution for maintaining safety and meeting the full spectrum of regulatory compliance for our large, geographical separated area of responsibility.”

There are a host of additional benefits that come from going digital, including time and money savings. In fact, using QR code technology is faster and more efficient than searching multiple computer databases, Tebo said.

“By providing virtual HM inventory sheets instead of paper copies that require updating in a system, printing out, and posting at the storage location, we are able to save a lot of time and money, and keep better track of everything,” he said.

“Estimations are this system will create time savings of approximately 40 hours per year per facility. At an E5 pay rate of $31.00 per hour, 40 hours per year over 277 sites, that equates to a savings of more than $343,000 per year. This is time and money better spent on training.”

Between October 2021 and September 2023, 88th RD’s internal Environmental Performance Assessment System inspections identified 886 discrepancies related to hazardous material management. Of those findings, 567 or 64% were the result of missing or outdated hazardous material inventories, and SDSes. Tebo said.

“The team met the challenge to think outside the box, and as a result the 88th now has a process that is capable of functioning similar to a fence line-to-fence line installation Hazardous Material Control Center that serves as a central resource for all facilities and customers in 19 states.”

In all, the team members took inventories of each of the 88th RD’s 250 sites and entered data for more than 189,000 instances of 6,600 different types of hazardous materials. Tebo said since the system has been implemented, the team has observed an 84% reduction in hazardous materials findings for missing inventories and SDSes. In addition, he said “the improved database also provides managers with readily accessible information to make corrections for other hazardous material deficiencies for improper storage and shelf-life management and labeling.”