Hazardous waste is any liquid, solid, gas, or sludge waste that is potentially dangerous to human health or the environment. Most people think of these materials coming from manufacturers but many businesses create hazardous materials, such as hospitals, auto repair shops, and photo processing centers. The federal government creates regulations for handling these materials to protect public health and the environment.
In this article, you'll discover essential hazardous waste management steps you can take for your small business.
Understand Your EPA Hazardous Waste Generator Status
The Environmental Protection Agency declares you as a waste generator if your business engages in any activity that creates hazardous waste. Depending on the quantity, there are federal regulations that govern how your waste must be handled, stored, and disposed of.
The three hazardous waste generator categories are as follows:
- Conditionally exempt small quantity generators (CESQGs)
- Small quantity generators (SQGs)
- Large quantity generators (LQGs)
Many states publish additional regulations for proper handling and disposal of hazardous material. Some states may also recognize materials as hazardous that others don't. Check with your local government on how to handle your waste needs.
Educate Your Employees
Federal regulations don't require that you have a formal education process for employees on hazardous waste. They do call for you to have educational materials readily available as well as personnel designated to handle waste emergencies. Educating your employees on the dangers, proper handling, and disposal of hazardous materials is never a mistake.
Have a disposal plan in place and regularly ensure that your staff complies with it. A disposal plan should include every step of the process from the generation of hazardous byproducts to storage and disposal. This avoids preventable accidents, fines, and protects the health of your employees.
Have Accident Prevention Measures in Place
Accidents are always possible, but preventable accidents are avoidable when you have a proper plan in place. Federal regulations require that you have someone to manage emergency procedures and to mitigate any potential damage. Proper labeling is the first step to preventing accidents. Avoid mixing containers and ensure that the container is suitable for waste material. Hazardous byproducts should have a designated storage area that has limited access. Additionally, weekly documentation is important to manage the levels of waste and to ensure compliance with federal and local laws.
If your small business creates a hazardous waste byproduct, have a plan in place for transfer, storage, and disposal. Check with the federal and local regulations to determine how best to proceed with your levels and type of waste. Compliance with these laws prevents fines and dangerous exposure to the public and the environment.