New borough system will make it easier to share chemical safety information

All government and school facilities in the Kenai Peninsula Borough will soon have access to an online system for chemical safety information.

After an August 2014 Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection showed deficiencies in the Bear Creek volunteer fire station, the borough faced a fine and a citation for insufficient Hazard Communication.

The Material Safety Data Sheets, or MSDS, that the borough is required to maintain, which describe the dangerous qualities of chemicals such as bleach, were incomplete, according to Safety Director Brian Smith. Smith said the issue occurred because the fire station was in transition between facilities and some of the records were not yet organized.

The borough was issued a citation and a $1,225 fine that was subsequently reduced to $525 and then written off because the borough could demonstrate that it was actively involved in training its employees and volunteers, Smith said.

“It was fairly minor,” Smith said. “Hazard Communication has for several years been the most cited issue in inspections.”

Hazard Communication is the most commonly cited problem for Alaska waste disposal issues, and the second most commonly cited in all inspections nationally after Fall Protection, according to OSHA. Violations can occur when information on a hazardous material is incomplete, missing or unclear. 

However, the citation inspired the borough to purchase an online system to increase the availability of the MSDS information, called MSDSonline. The borough authorized the purchase of the system in July for $9,624 in 2015 and $8,749 in both 2016 and 2017 to be implemented throughout the borough and the Kenai Peninsula School District. 

Borough employees and school district employees will be able to view the chemicals stored at each location and the related MSDS. The borough is currently working on constructing a compliance structure for the material recording before implementing the program, according to Smith. 

Once up and running, the program will eliminate paper and make communication easier from the central offices to the outer parts of the borough, he said.

“Because the borough is so geographically spread out, the program allows us from a central office to see every location,” Smith said.