How to Reduce Hazardous Waste in the Workplace |
Learning how to reduce hazardous waste in your company’s workplace will help lead to a healthier, more profitable environment for workers and owners alike. One of the first steps businesses take when improving safe environmental practices is to institute a comprehensive plan to minimize the use of hazardous waste, properly collecting and disposing of it when necessary. Follow these steps when analyzing your company’s approach to hazardous waste management.
Pinpoint the Hazard
The Environmental Protection Agency offers detailed guidelines on hazardous waste identification, using the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act as a guideline. The RCRA is an integral piece of U.S. federal law governing the definition of dangerous waste materials. Individuals or companies – whichever is generating the waste – must answer a series of questions designed to examine the substances’ properties and pinpoint any environmental hazards posed by the material. It is important to note that hazardous waste identification is the responsibility of the waste generator.
Depending on sector and industry, certain hazardous wastes may be easier to identify than others. In the medical field, radioactive and infectious substances clearly must be handled securely. Likewise, wastes that are specially listed in the RCRA’s ruling are automatically treated with care. However, when a certain waste is not named by the RCRA but exhibits one of the following characteristics, it is classified as hazardous: ignitability, reactivity, toxicity or corrosivity. To properly analyze the substance and make this deduction, it’s best for organizations to rely on safety and environmental specialists in the field.
Track the Hazard
After identifying specific hazards, companies must accurately record where, when and how each material enters the production process, how it is used and where it is disposed of. The organization must ensure each substance classified as a hazardous waste is entered into a full inventory list. Depending on the type of material, its function and the quantity, reduction strategies will differ. It may be possible to simply use less of the material in the first place, or the company may have to put its efforts behind safer disposal methods. Either way, until each hazardous byproduct is tracked through operations, it will be difficult to compose an insightful management plan.
Build a Management Plan
While trained professionals on a company’s staff may provide factual information for the basis of an integrated waste management plan, consulting with a professional has many benefits. First, the ideal waste management plan does not only address the private goals of the company, such as cutting costs associated with disposal, but also offers a big-picture view. All organizations necessitating waste management plans should consider larger environmental concerns along with local, state and federal laws. Trained consultants can interview company officials, conduct research with a neutral perspective and write a detailed, safety-conscious plan that achieves all important objectives.
The mishandling of waste can cost a company its reputation. Improper waste storage puts workers at risk, and inappropriate disposal puts an entire population at risk. Even indirect contact can kill wildlife, poison groundwater supplies and expose the organization to hefty financial and legal penalties – possibly even a shutdown. It is vital for organizations to not only craft a comprehensive management plan, but to educate those who play a key role in its success – the workers who are responsible for day-to-day operations. In-depth employee training could be the difference between a waste management disaster and a clear success.
For further information on how to reduce hazardous waste, including individualized action plans tailored to specific industries, contact a safety and environmental consultant in your area today.
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