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Tips for Safely Managing Chemicals at Your School

One of the main responsibilities of every school system is to protect their students, faculty and support staff. They protect students from injuries in the gymnasium, the parking lot, the hallway – anywhere the school district owns property. 

While some risks on school grounds are easily identified, others aren’t so easy to identify. Some schools fail to see the risks associated with having chemicals in a classroom, maintenance facility or other building. Others may understand the risks, but a budget shortfall or de-prioritization may prevent them from taking action. But, they should apply the same risk-mitigation strategies to managing chemicals at school as they do to preventing student injuries in the gymnasium. 

Uncovering Environmental Risks at Your School 

At any point in time, just about any chemical could be on your school grounds without your knowledge. At one Ohio high school, Rader recently found bromine, a highly-corrosive liquid that’s an acute inhalation hazard stored under the gym’s risers!

Diesel fuel may be sitting in your maintenance garage, stored in containers not approved by the Environmental Protection Agency or Department of Transportation (DOT) – two federal agencies that oversee hazardous waste management and transportation. 

Make sure your school doesn’t have elemental mercury or mercury-containing devices on school grounds. Also, make sure the chemicals you have aren’t a domestic terrorist threat. Some chemicals used by universities or R&D facilities have certain reporting requirements managed by the Department of Homeland Security. These substances could do major damage if they get into the wrong hands.


Dangerous chemicals may even be accessible to students. Or, perhaps you are managing chemicals at school in your stockroom that should be kept in a flammable liquid storage cabinet by law. 

A safety data sheet (SDS) should be on file for every chemical in your school to protect teachers and students. 

Every school should be fully aware of the risks each chemical presents to the environment, its students and its faculty.   

Conduct a Districtwide Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is a thorough examination of your environment to identify situations, substances, processes, etc., that may cause harm. An effective risk assessment for managing chemicals at school protects health and life, ensures compliance with local, state and federal laws, and takes into account best practices. 

After conducting a risk assessment, your school should evaluate how likely – and how severe –  the risk is. Then, determine which measures should be in place to eliminate or control the harm.

Many schools have management plans and procedures in place but how frequently are they updated? As a best practice, we recommend conducting an annual examination of your environmental liabilities once a year, or hire an environmental consultant to conduct the audit. 

Create a Chemical Management Plan at Your School 

When developing an effective chemical risk assessment plan, start by taking a complete inventory of your school’s chemicals. Ultimately, your school board is responsible for knowing exactly which chemicals are on their property. 

A sound chemical management plan also looks good to your district’s insurance provider and has strong public relations value. Parents of your students will likely rest easier knowing that dangerous or toxic chemicals are properly managed. 

Tips for Effective Chemical Management 

One sound piece of advice: Make sure you don’t possess a substance that is beyond your knowledge as a user. If you don’t understand how that chemical is used in the lab, how it affects one’s lungs when inhaled, or how it reacts to water or to air, you probably shouldn’t own it. The key to properly managing chemicals at school is proper control.

Know which members of your staff have access to these chemicals or substances. Are these staff members trained in using these chemicals? Ensure that they’re properly secured and stored away from students or other faculty members who may not know how to handle them.

Here are some tips for creating an effective plan for managing chemicals at school:

  • For science teachers: Analyze the risk associated with managing each chemical in your classroom. Keep in mind that some of the properties in these chemicals can exhibit both acute and chronic hazards. 
  • For facilities managers: Analyze the risk associated with managing each chemical, including paint, pool-treatment chemicals, fertilizers, gasoline, diesel fuel, etc.
  • Don’t stockpile chemicals simply because they were free or you inherited them from another department, retired teacher or a private company. Instead of educating students, these chemicals are more likely to take up storage space or create environmental hazards. If you’re not sure when to dispose of certain chemicals in your classroom, consult with a third-party chemical waste manager. 
  • If you have too much of any one chemical on hand, make a plan to properly remove and dispose of it. 
  • Always be cognizant of how a spill would impact your school and its environment.
  • If there is a spill at your school, make sure you have specialists on hand or immediate access to specialists who know how to handle it. 

Segregating Laboratory Chemicals 

Different schools utilize different storage-segregation schemes for chemical stockrooms. Science teachers should identify which schemes they prefer, and then segregate their chemicals accordingly.

Segregating and maintaining proper inventory are the most critical steps a school can take when it comes to effective chemical management. 

storage cabinet

How to Dispose of Chemical Waste  

Before the passage of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the set of EPA laws governing proper management of hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste, many schools may have disposed of chemicals down the drain or in the local county landfill.

Some chemicals at your school can still be poured down the drain, while others cannot. Some chemicals can be neutralized with sodium hydroxide, for instance, and poured down the drain when the chemical’s proper pH is achieved. However, we recommend that an expert in hazardous waste management helps you make those decisions.

However, if your school decides to neutralize chemicals in large quantities, make sure you have notified and are in compliance with your local wastewater treatment facility. Another consideration when dumping chemicals into the watershed is your location. The chemicals may impact a rural area’s septic system differently than a municipality’s sewer system.

Off-Site Disposal Requires Proper Shipping 

The generator is responsible for determining whether it has hazardous waste on its premises or not. It can be a daunting task to make this determination, so you might want to hire an outside firm for guidance. A third-party company can also save you money by recycling chemicals, neutralizing them so they don’t have to be incinerated, or help you avoid a citation by the EPA.

If your school determines that it has chemical waste, consult with an expert hazardous waste management company to help you determine how it should be handled. In addition, the DOT requires that every chemical shipped as waste off-site has proper packaging, is correctly manifested and is compliant with the DOT.

How to Purchase and Order Chemicals 

While it may be easy to manage and order office supplies, managing and ordering chemicals is a whole different ball game. They both have risk levels, but both activities clearly present two different levels of risk to your students, faculty and support staff. 

Whether ordering chemicals for experiments students are conducting or fuel for your district’s buses, are you purchasing the right substances? For instance, your lawn care/facilities department may frequently purchase harsh chemicals or fertilizers for lawn management and care. But it might be possible to source a sustainable or environmentally friendly substance, or one with non-hazardous properties, for instance.

One way to know if you’re investing in the correct chemical is to trust an expert with nearly four decades of experience to advise your school. 

Leave It to the Experts: Managing Chemicals at School 

teacher in classroom managing chemicals

Teachers are paid to teach students to learn, not to manage environmental health and safety (EHS) concerns. Rader can handle all aspects of chemical management for your school district, including taking inventory, making recommendations for chemical purchases based on your current and future curriculum, and saving you money when purchasing chemicals. 

How often do you need to do this? We recommend doing a “clean sweep” every year to cut costs and mitigate risk. 

Side view portrait of two workers wearing biohazard suits working at waste processing plant sorting recyclable plastic on conveyor belt

If you’re ready for an expert to manage your school’s chemical inventory, then

Contact Rader.

Environmental Solutions Green Living Hazardous Waste Removal

Putnam County Hosts Household Hazardous Waste Day

Rader Environmental assisted residents of Putnam County in removing household hazardous waste from residences on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. The Putman County Solid Waste District and the Putnam County Sherriff’s Office sponsored the annual event, which removes latex and oil-based paint, lightbulbs, batteries, medications and other hazardous materials from Putnam County residences. Rader Environmental recycles approximately 90% of the waste it receives from local residents.

Below is the full story, which originally appeared on Hometown Stations of Lima, OH.

Watch Household Hazardous Waste Video

Coronavirus Environmental Solutions Green Living Sustainability

Rader Launches Sustainable, Green-Living Solutions

Facing a slowdown from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, Rader Environmental’s president Joe W. Rader asked his employees to think of new ways to work with – and help – the Findlay, OH, community, and the team came up with a commitment to providing sustainable, green-living solutions and micro-homesteading services to local residents. During these challenging times, we believe this is our responsibility as stewards of the environment and as American citizens. We also hope to bring some much-needed joy to the lives of our neighbors, friends and family members who are required to shelter-in-place for the next month or longer. 

Rader gardening
Some of the sustainable, green-living solutions we can provide include creating vegetable gardens, flower gardens or even building chicken coops so people can collect fresh eggs. We also offer an array of micro-homesteading services/outdoor beautification services including landscaping, fence-repair work, lawn-mowing, deck-building and refinishing and much more!

Micro-homesteading will help you become more self-sufficient by giving you the tools to grow your own food, conserve natural resources and decrease your dependency on the global food supply chain. Our goal as a company is to help each other thrive, remain sustainable and conserve our precious resources in the face of ongoing uncertainty. 

Families carrots

Sustainable, Green-Living Solutions Available  

In addition to having more than three decades of experience as a chemist and hazardous waste management professional, Rader started his career providing sustainability solutions to Northwest Ohio residents. A former farmer, landscape artist, “budding” horticulturist (pun intended) and avid gardener, he’s putting a lifetime of skills to use.


To make sure we’re fully compliant when outdoors, we follow strict guidelines that even surpass those established by the Centers for Disease Control. Our staff has been trained by a leading Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), so we are innovative in our approach to cleaning and disinfecting our work areas. The crew always practice social distancing of 12 feet or more at all times. We use OSHA-approved personal protection equipment (PPE) to protect you, your family and our workers. Finally, we always ride solo in our trucks and other vehicles. 

baby goat

So, whether we are digging a garden for you or draining a ditch, check out the lists below to see how we can help.

Here are our sustainable-living solutions/micro-homesteading services: 

  • Landscaping 
  • Vegetable gardens
  • Flower gardens 
  • Raised-bed gardening 
  • Gray-water irrigation systems
  • Potting sheds
  • Chicken coops
  • Owl boxes
  • Much more

Here are the new outdoor beautification services we offer: 

  • Landscaping 
  • Lawn-mowing 
  • Weeding 
  • Flower bed/garden bed cleanup and preparation for the growing season
  • Nursery items: seeds, seedlings, perennials, annuals 
  • Deck-building and refinishing
  • Fence work, painting and repair 
  • Brick and paver work
  • Water features and coy ponds 
  • Driveway sealing
  • Garage-floor finishing 
  • Much more

Coronavirus Cleaning Solutions 

In addition to providing sustainable, green-living and outdoor beautification solutions for the entire family, we are also available to help decontaminate facilities, offices, laboratories, universities, schools, apartment buildings, warehouses or any property that’s been exposed to the coronavirus. As a team trained in emergency response, we can rapidly mobilize quickly to your location virtually anywhere in the Midwest. 

Rader utilizes EPA-registered and approved disinfectants to remove coronavirus contamination from your site and adheres to the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Dedicated to Helping Industries  

In addition to these new sustainability service lines, we continue to provide the hazardous waste management solutions our clients have come to trust for over 30 years. We are working without interruption as essential employees to provide R&D labs, universities, healthcare facilities and other public and private companies solutions to all of their chemical waste, hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste needs. 

Industry drums

Providing Mercury Abatement Services 

As world-renowned experts in mercury spill remediation, removal and disposal, we are also still helping industries and residents solve their mercury abatement challenges. Rader has cleaned and remediated major sailing vessels in the Great Lakes and commercial airlines in Africa and the Middle East, as well as facilities in our own backyards here in Northwest Ohio. 

It’s now time for us to lend a helping hand to our neighbors, residents and businesses during these unprecedented times.

Contact Rader Environmental Services today if you’re interested in any of our newly launched sustainable, green-living or micro-homesteading solutions.