8 Key Principles to Have in Mind When Handling Hazardous Materials

There are guidelines and procedures for handling hazardous materials for a business, or for home use. Everyone has their own version to follow, but th

There are guidelines and procedures for handling hazardous materials for a business, or for home use. Everyone has their own version to follow, but the principles remain the same. Choosing options from CL Smith can further simplify the handling of all materials. Since employees are just one part of the puzzle, companies must be willing to take the lead. 

8. Plan Ahead

Instead of playing the guessing game with hazardous materials, plan ahead so that common problem is avoided. You should always make it a point to prioritize the avoidance of potential dangers. Some plans work better than others, but having no plan will only make things worse. A good example of a plan is making space for moving heavy materials. Having to navigate tight spaces while carrying something is an accident waiting to happen. Take the steps necessary to clear the way and remove anything that someone might trip over. You should also keep a large amount of backup safety equipment on hand. This is to prevent the scenario where you need to move something, but don’t have the main equipment ready. Taking these small steps will go a long way in securing the area from potential dangers. It is a small gain, yet one that you should never ignore. When the future is at stake, then present dangers need to be accounted for. Keep that phrase close by when planning ahead with hazardous materials. 

7. Store Hazardous Materials Properly

When not stored properly, hazardous materials are a risk to infants, children, adults and pets. Depending on the fallout, it can even be harmful to the environment. Always take great care when using a specific storage method. The best way to reduce accidents is to follow storage instructions thoroughly. Even if you have a system in place, there are certain steps that should never be avoided. It is easy to follow (to the letter) transportation and disposal instructions while missing the rules on storage instructions. The product label is one way to ensure everything is followed but serves as the most obvious way to get the information. Common sense methods like storing in well-ventilated areas and keeping flammable materials in the right temperature should be followed for all products. Chain reactions are common when things go wrong with hazardous materials. Storing all but one material right won’t matter if there is one that can cause a full-on incident. 

6. Ensure All Procedures Are Followed

In the common household, there are plenty of hazardous waste material violations. The ruleset remains similar for a house, just like it is for a business. The difference between the two is that a business has to deal with consequences in the form of federal, state and local regulations. A good number of the most important procedures are concentrated on waste disposal. There is a clear line that defines what a company is responsible for, so orders from the top should always be followed. 

A business has to identify and label all waste containers before they are scheduled for pick up. Inventory has to be managed to prevent stockpiling of hazardous waste. This includes accounting for missing items, which unfortunately is a real possibility with larger companies. Incompatible wastes should be separated and stored correctly, as per the label and local regulations. And finally, all waste should be disposed of by following all compatible procedures. Failure to comply with any of the procedures will put the company and its workers in jeopardy. One of the things you can do to develop good habits is to follow procedures at home just like you would at work. That way, hazardous material rules become a part of your daily routine. 

5. The Work Area Should Always Be Cleaned

Contaminants have a habit of sticking around after you’ve removed the offending materials. You can make sure they are gone by cleaning the work area before and after it is exposed. Cleaning chemicals is a fairly involved process that requires at least some form of training or education. You should never try to clean a work area without understanding how and why certain things shouldn’t come in contact. This is especially important for healthcare facilities where bacteria and infections live in the same area. Attacking something with a random assortment of cleaning supplies can actually do more harm than good if you’re not aware of their properties. Always use cleaning materials on their intended target, and be careful when mixing two types of chemicals. Some companies will have higher grade cleaning supplies, and as a result, require a careful eye when handling. When a work area is cleaned (before/after) hazardous material contact, try to remove all residue from the target area. That includes the original material and the cleaning materials used for the cleanup. 

4. Label Everything Properly

Labels are included for a reason, and should always be followed. Some company policies interfere with the rules on a label, so plan and adjust accordingly. Usually, the language is clear on a label when it comes to storage, disposal and hazards. All labels must follow the current standard, regardless of size and packing type. For larger materials like containers, vehicles and cylinders, placards are used instead of labels. They follow similar rules in placement and wording and should be recognizable by anyone. 

Both labels and placards use markings that work as additional identifiers. Even if the person handling the materials can’t read the words, the markings work to provide a clear understanding of the danger. Minor cautions like this are the main reasons to include markings on all hazardous materials. They are a uniform way to help people when they’re handling multiple material types. Companies should make sure that all hazardous materials include updated labels that have clear words and markings. 

3. Read The Provided Labels

Placing a label correctly is one thing, and pretty standard in the industry. On a personal level, employees need to get into the habit of reading the labels. Important information like hazards and the properties of the material are included as a reference. Without some sort of identifier, it becomes problematic when arranging and transporting hazardous materials. On a professional level, this should never be a problem if the rules are followed from the top down. Retraining’s are used as a way to get employees back on track with the basics. Hazardous material training is tedious, but necessary to keep everyone on the same page.

In the home, not reading labels has always been a problem. Companies have found a way around this by highlighting dangers with colors, stickers and specific branding. In some instances, dangers are in small print and easily ignored. Just like the professionals, home users are responsible for reading the labels provided with a hazardous product. Even if the print is difficult to read, waste management is the responsibility of the person using the product.

2. Don’t Misuse Materials

This remains the biggest problem with hazardous materials. Every material has an intended purpose. Testing is done for that purpose, and there are no guarantees outside of that particular scope. Using materials for a job they were not intended for is dangerous, and is sure to cause problems. 

Using solvents to clean your hands can cause irritation. Bruising, rashes and even bumps can occur in and around the area where you used the solvent. This is minor but should be enough of a deterrent to prevent most people from abusing the wrong materials.

Wiping down the equipment with the wrong hazardous materials can damage it. Depending on the strength, you may even accelerate the chance of rust appearing on that area. In a worst-case scenario, you can turn a simple piece of equipment into a flammable weapon. Pay close attention to the labels and follow instructions for the intended purpose of all materials. Even if misused, there should be an emergency hotline provided to walk you through emergency steps. 

1. What Are Your Emergency Procedures?

Instead of waiting until everything goes south, you should put your resources around prevention. Following the seven other tips serves as a way to prevent an emergency in any setting. When something still goes wrong, there should be clear emergency procedure steps to follow.

Equipment and materials will have separate rules that determine evacuation and cleanup steps. Sometimes it is necessary to evacuate only the affected room instead of the entire building. It is up to the company and its employees to follow the same set of rules to prevent confusion and panic.

Make sure that all procedures include a ‘what if’ scenario. There is a big difference between a simple chemical spill and a spill that has caught fire. Prepare for any scenario, and your emergency procedures will cover the worst of the bunch.  

Wrap Up

Take everything into consideration when the potential of danger is around the corner. Organizations like the OSHA provide the necessary regulations, but the responsibility to follow through falls on individuals.  Set the right example from the beginning, and there will never be a question about which rules to follow.