February 3, 2021

Evelyn Davies with the Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) division is no stranger to Berkeley Lab, having joined the Lab in 2010 to perform postdoctoral research at the Molecular Foundry. Her interest in chemical hygiene and safety brought her back to the Lab after several years with a Bay Area start up. She now leads the Chemical Lifecycle Management Corrective Action Plan (CLM CAP).

The diverse and interdisciplinary research at Berkeley Lab necessitates a substantial inventory of hazardous chemicals, which is currently steady at approximately 60-70 thousand total containers at any given time. Chemical lifecycle management (CLM) has been a key focus area for the Lab over the past few years. CLM involves actions individuals can take, like substituting less hazardous materials and reducing quantities, as well as developing a robust institutional program for managing chemicals from work planning and procurement through transportation to an off-site disposal facility.

Evelyn’s research background and experience in EHS will help guide the CLM CAP’s objective to resolve past chemical management deficiencies while supporting the Lab’s critical research mission.

How has your research background helped you in your Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) role?

My background helps me understand technical and practical issues related to chemical safety and to effectively communicate with researchers about their needs. When talking to different stakeholder groups, I can add more perspective to the risks involved with different chemicals, which is needed along with hazard classification to offer the full picture of a chemical’s behavior. It’s important that we develop policies and procedures that meet all safety requirements, but it’s also important that we work with researchers to find the best approach. We want these policies and procedures to be adopted by the research community.

Talk about the recent clearance of the chemicals through the Chemical Lifecycle Management project. What has been accomplished since the process was started?

The effort to identify and remove potentially unsafe chemicals was already going when I started with EHS. Continuous improvement is very important to my group and to the Lab as a whole. When I came on, my group was looking at higher risk chemicals to ensure they were safely stored and we partnered with divisions to look at time-sensitive chemicals. The research community has been very supportive. Communication is always challenging, but we have noted lessons learned. Removing these chemicals from the site has reduced the Lab’s risk.

What do you see as the next steps in chemical management at the Lab?

I’m really excited about some of the coming improvements. We’re starting to roll out RFID barcode technology, which has huge potential to save time in tracking chemicals. We’ve started to tag containers, and anyone using our chemical management system will see a new field for those barcodes. We will also be replacing our current chemical management system, which is huge. All of this is a multi-year effort. We have a plan, and we’re starting work on some very visible changes. We’ll also continue partnering very closely with the research divisions and the many stakeholders involved. We all need to be on the same page when it comes to chemical management.