Managers Must Understand Hazmat Regulations
To successfully manage hazardous materials within facilities, managers need to evaluate several regulatory issues. Regulations apply to worker protection, fire protection, storage, spills, response, handling and disposal. The scope of compliance varies depending on the substance and the amount present.
Worker protection is the first of these issues. Hazardous and toxic substances are defined as workplace chemicals that can cause harm. Under this definition, the term chemical includes dusts, mixtures, and common materials, such as paints, fuels, and solvents.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates worker exposure to about 400 substances. It also enforces standards addressing additional worker exposures to hazardous and toxic materials, such as asbestos, lead and lead-based paint, silica, radiation, and hexavalent chromium.
A common OSHA citation during a site inspection involves deficiencies in an organization’s hazard communication program. The hazard communication standard is based on the concept that employees have both a need and a right to know about the hazards and identities of chemicals they are exposed to when working. They also need to know about protective measures available to injury and death.
The standard is designed to ensure employees have this essential information. All workplaces in which employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals must have a written plan describing the way the organization will implement the standard.
Preparing a plan is not just a paper exercise. Managers must implement all of its elements in the workplace to be in compliance. The written program must describe the way the department or facility will meet the requirements for labels and other forms of warning, MSDS, and employee information and training.