4 steps toward hazardous materials compliance

For any company producing or shipping hazardous materials, creating or procuring an excellent product to sell and ship to your customers is only half the battle. It’s critical that your hazardous materials be stored properly on-site and shipped according to regulations. Oftentimes, though, this is easier said than done.

The world of hazmat compliance is shifting, Robert Finn, vice president at Labelmaster, a company that produces dangerous goods labels and UN-certified packaging, wrote in Inbound Logistics. The list of what qualifies as a hazardous material is growing, and corporate hazmat compliance responsibility is migrating to more departments like IT, warehousing, environmental health and safety, and others.

Further, 1.4 million dangerous goods shipments are on the road every day, making compliance not only important for producers and consumers of these items but to drivers on the road as well. It’s not unheard of for a hazmat shipment to go awry, unfortunately affecting unsuspecting drivers.

To protect employees, consumers and others who may come near dangerous goods at or leaving your facility, it’s important to keep these products secure. Here are a few good starting points:

1. Identify your dangerous goods

The first step in complying with hazmat regulations is understanding what is actually classified as a hazardous material. According to Dangerous Goods International, there are nine classes of dangerous goods:

  1. Explosives – including flares, airbag igniters and fireworks.
  2. Gases – including aerosols, helium, fire extinguishers and carbon dioxide.
  3. Flammable liquids – including fuels, alcohols, perfumery products and paints.
  4. Flammable solids – including metal powders, oily fabrics or fibers and matches.
  5. Oxidizing substances – including hydrogen peroxide, nitrates and chlorates.
  6. Toxic and infectious substances – including medical and biomedical waste, dyes and tear gas substances.
  7. Radioactive material – including medical isotopes, density gauges and enriched uranium.
  8. Corrosives – including batteries, iodine and fire extinguisher charges.
  9. Miscellaneous dangerous goods – including vehicles, first aid kits, fuel cell engines and lithium ion batteries.

Once you’ve determined which of your products classify as dangerous goods, FacilitiesNet suggests making an inventory and note their location and use. During this process, it’s a good idea to dispose of any expired dangerous goods in the correct way. Keeping these items around past their prime isn’t advisable. The same goes for any unneeded materials; if it’s not relevant to any operations at your facility, it’s not likely to receive the attention required to keep it safe. Disposing of excessive materials early on can prevent unexpected problems with these out-of-sight/out-of-mind items later.

2. Evaluate storage and equipment used with dangerous goods

Once all the dangerous goods are identified and inventoried, an important part of facility maintenance is to note the condition of the storage containers and equipment that house or use the materials. Aging supplies can become weaker and less effective over time.

Request a Quote Now!

If a container holding hazardous material is corroded or has started leaking, it should be replaced as soon as possible. Any broken equipment that holds or uses these substances should also be repaired or swapped out for a new, more effective and safe model.

Additionally, facility managers should note whether these items are being stored in the correct type of container. Using the wrong type of vessel or incorrect material could result in corrosion, leaks or spoiled products.

After any immediate dangers are addressed, it’s time to evaluate the condition of other containers and equipment that aren’t obviously damaged now but may be older. Scheduling proactive maintenance now might help prevent a dangerous and costly situation in the future.

3. Inform employees

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to ensure their workers understand which dangerous chemicals they work with or near. Every facility must have a written program on the chemicals within the facility that includes compliance information.

It’s important that employees know how to handle and store hazardous materials.

4. Clearly define responsibility

Finn explained one of the biggest obstacles in compliance is a lack of clarity about who in the company should be in charge of what elements of the law.

Is it solely the role of the facility manager? Should the environmental health and safety department regulate hazmat compliance? What about the CEO – does the head of the company share this responsibility as well?

Creating clearly defined roles is essential in having a cohesive companywide compliance strategy. There should be no ambiguity as to who is in charge of what; when the plan is too vague, it’s less likely that someone will stand up to take care of a certain aspect of the law. Every department should be informed of their exact roles and how they contribute to overall safety; this includes the C-suite being clued into what areas of the budget are going toward necessary hazmat compliance.

Once these steps are taken, there should be a plan to regularly review any hazardous materials present at a facility as well as the safety precautions taken to keep them secure and reduce dangers to employees. If you’re in need of repairs at your location to improve compliance, or want to begin conducting scheduled proactive maintenance to your equipment, reach out to Miner.