Every year, manufacturing facilities across all sectors manage massive amounts of industrial waste. In 2014, for example, such sites handled more than 25 billion pounds of production-related detritus, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. In most cases, organizations running these locations follow the mandates established under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which governs the management and disposal of harmful waste. However, sometimes accidents occur.
In these situations, floor personnel and facility managers must be prepared to deal with the fallout and possibly provide aid to injured workers. Of course, this requires an intimate understanding of RCRA emergency response protocols.
The EPA advises industrial businesses to develop multi-pronged emergency plans, beginning with robust employee training sessions. Floor workers who deal with hazardous materials must participate in at least 40 hours of waste management training to gain compulsory certification under the RCRA. These individuals must then gain three hours of supervised field experience before they can perform normal work duties. Managers and supervisors are expected to undergo eight hours of additional training. These sessions equip waste handlers with the knowledge and tools they need to properly deal with hazardous materials and offer assistance should an unforeseen incident occur.
Manufacturers are also expected to assemble emergency response teams whose members specialize in mitigating the effects of mismanaged waste. On-site first-responders form the backbone of these teams and are usually the first to spot dangerous spills and make facility administrators aware of hazards. Hazardous materials specialists and technicians are the next line of defense, stepping in to actually deal with incidents. These individuals also liaise with government officials should federal or state intervention be required. On-site incident commanders oversee emergency operations and work with their employers, colleagues and government personnel to develop overarching strategies for dealing with mismanaged materials.
Executives and facilities play a part in these situations as well, for they must record and report all incidents to the EPA.
Under the RCRA, industrial enterprises are required to carefully consider how to respond to emergency situations and protect workers and members of the community from the risks that accompany harmful post-production waste.
The EPA Administrator signed the final Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule in Fall 2016 with new provisions. Two key provisions where EPA is finalizing flexibility are:
– Allowing a hazardous waste generator to avoid increased burden of a higher generator status when generating episodic waste provided the episodic waste is properly managed
– Allowing a very small quantity generator (VSQG) to send its hazardous waste to a large quantity generator under control of the same person