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Facility Maintenance Decisions

Properly Identifying Hazardous Materials

As the proper management of hazardous materials in institutional and commercial facilities receives more scrutiny from federal and state agencies, it is more important than ever for managers to understand the regulatory requirements with which organizations must comply.

Managers must consider the way hazardous materials affect workers, other building occupants, and the environment during the materials’ purchase, storage, use, and disposal. Green initiatives in facilities also affect the management of hazardous materials. Effectively managing hazardous materials requires managers to address a series of challenging issues and decisions.

Identifying Hazardous Materials

It is hard to manage the unknown, so managers first must know the hazardous materials present in their departments and facilities, including quantities and locations.

Managers can achieve this goal through an audit of hazardous materials. Managers can start by having employees generate a list of chemicals purchased for use in the department, perform a walkthrough inspection of the department, and focus on storage areas, tool kits, and carts. Once inspectors have identified chemicals, managers can get material safety data sheets (MSDS) and review them to determine if the chemicals are hazardous.

This review should ensure:

• labels clearly identify original product names or full chemical names and hazards

• containers of non-hazardous substances, such as water, are labeled explicitly to avoid confusion

• incompatible chemicals, including solids, are segregated by U.S. Department of Transportation hazard classes at a minimum

• all segregated chemicals — liquids — are kept in secondary containment

• no hazardous materials are stored next to or above sinks

• all chemical containers are capped and sealed, except when workers are adding or removing materials from them

• flammable liquids, including flammable liquid wastes, are stored outside of a storage cabinet if more than 5-10 gallons

• employees have completed hazard-communication training

• full-size compressed-gas cylinders are chained or strapped in a one-third, two-thirds manner.

Managers also should identify chemicals in containers, including pipes, as well as chemicals generated during maintenance operations.

posted on 7/1/2008

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