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Hazardous Materials: Think Outside the Box

Julie Copeland

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Risk of Hazardous MaterialsMany employers get stuck in the conventional thinking that if they simply abide by regulations, they’ll be safe. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true.

Of course, safety regulations for storing materials -- such as OSHA's 29 CFR 1910 Subpart H and consensus standards like National Fire Protection Association Code 30 for flammable and combustible liquids -- should always be followed. But blindly following regulations creates a false and dangerous sense of security.

Think outside the box. In addition to following regulations, assess the risk of hazardous materials by asking these four questions:

  1. WHAT material is being stored? Understand the physical and chemical properties of a hazardous material. Know what substances and conditions with which it is incompatible, like flammable liquids and oxidizing agents.
  2. WHY is the material being stored? Any risk assessment should include ways to eliminate or reduce the risk. For example, a just-in-time inventory approach -- receiving goods only as they are needed in the production process -- lowers the quantity of hazardous materials on-site.
  3. WHERE is the material being stored? Ensure that "storage" is clearly defined as a permanent, temporary or transient location. This includes any area a container is kept when the storage area is full, which is often the most dangerous and vulnerable location because it is not expected. Also, be aware of processes that take place in areas adjacent to or near the storage location, which may affect the integrity of safely stored materials. For example, an ignition source is created when a heater is installed near flammable liquids.
  4. HOW is the material being handled and stored? Assess how the material is being moved and handled, and how this can be improved for safety. For example, it may be safer to move a pallet with one large container than a pallet with four smaller drums. Also assess how it is being stored and the environmental conditions it requires for maximum safety. This requires reviewing local, state and federal regulations in addition to a manufacturer’s specifications. For example, according to OSHA 1910.106(d)(3)(i), no more than 60 gallons of Class 1 or Class 2 liquids, nor more than 120 gallons of Class 3 liquids, may be kept in a storage cabinet.

Regularly asking these four questions makes you a proactive proponent of hazardous material safety and significantly reduces risk of accident, injury and death.

Stay tuned for our next post, which will focus on best practices for removing hazardous wastes.

Check back soon for information on removing hazardous wastes, or subscribe to the Arbill Blog. In the meantime, be sure to check out our website for more information on workplace safety guidelines, solutions and programs or contact us to learn more about Arbill.

Topics: Arbill, Toxic Materials, workplace safety, Hazardous Materials

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