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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

Hazardous Waste: Is It or Isn’t It?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Aug 30, 2010 12:03:15 AM

Dian Cucchisi, PhD, CHMM

Environmental Health and Safety Professionals are often faced with questions that do not seem to have black and white answers, but, in reality, regulatory requirements are not that gray.  A common question: When do the requirements for 29 CFR 1910.120 and 29 CFR 1926.65 (OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response regulations) apply?  The challenge for EHS professionals is to communicate to workers the distinction between what are considered environmental health risks and the risks to human health, and to clarify the difference of the word “hazardous” as used by various environmental protection agencies and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state environmental protection agencies have standards for soil and groundwater “cleanliness” for residential and non-residential properties.  Soil or groundwater in exceedence of those standards needs to be remediated (usually by removal), but to add to the confusion, sometimes when soil and/or groundwater is removed from the site and transported to a disposal facility it may not fall into the EPA’s definition for hazardous waste.  So here lies the misunderstanding; if it is not classified as “hazardous waste” by the EPA, people often make the determination that it is not considered hazardous to workers and, therefore, it is not necessary to take measures to protect the workers’ health and safety.

When it comes to worker safety and the risks to human health, we must look at the requirements provided by OSHA.   OSHA is focused on exposure potential and the resulting hazard assessment evaluation to workers from the chemicals that may be encountered when working in areas with potentially contaminated soil and/or groundwater.  If the chemicals present are regulated by OSHA with a Permissible Exposure Limit (exposure based on an 8-hour average), the employer is required to conduct exposure assessments and air monitoring to determine potential risks to the workers onsite.  It also requires that workers are protected from these potential exposures through either engineering controls or personal protective equipments (such as tyvek, gloves and respirators).

 There is also a need to protect the workers and meet all the other applicable OSHA standards that mitigate health and safety risks to workers on this site.   Such required protection would include: 

  • developing a site-specific health and safety plan,

  • training workers in chemical hazards and controls,

  • conducting environmental monitoring to determine exposure,

  • instituting controls (PPE and Engineering) to protect from exposure potential,

  • clean up (decontamination).and a number of other procedures.  

It is surprising and frustrating that this issue is still debated, but if it is, doesn’t it make sense to use the guidelines in these standards to clarify? We are talking about human health and the regulations are clear about the requirements for worker training and personal protection when dealing with chemical contamination.  You can use the environmental classifications to determine how to treat the situation, but you must look to OSHA to protect the workers as they are doing it.

Have you ever had workplace confusion regarding environmental risk and hazardous to human health? If so, I'd like to hear about your situation and how you resolved it.
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Topics: OSHA, DOT, health and safety, General Industry H&S, Construction H&S, EPA, Hazardous Waste Management, Hazardous Materials, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety

Understanding Employee Safety Affects the Corporate Bottom Line (as demonstrated by Upper Big Branch Mine)

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 26, 2010 5:40:09 AM

Paula Kaufmann, CIH

National Public Radio ( NPR) recently reported their findings of an investigation of safety issues at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.  I was listening to the report while enjoying my morning walk in a nearby park.  It stopped me in my tracks!

As part of their investigative report, NPR discovered that there were situations at the mine when the methane gas monitors on continuous mining machines were disabled because the monitors repeatedly shut down the machines.  The miners interviewed explained that supervisors told them it was acceptable to disable these monitors as long as the miner operating the equipment used a hand-held methane monitor to test the air.  This is the part of the report that stopped me in my tracks!!!

The methane gas monitors are an essential part of the mining machine’s fail-safe system. They are factory-installed and essential components of the machine design; when the monitor senses an explosive atmosphere, the mining machine shuts down automatically.  The ONLY reason that spark-generating equipment can be operated in an environment likely to contain explosive concentrations of methane gas is precisely because the equipment is designed to automatically shut down if an explosive atmosphere is encountered. 

The procedures followed at the mine undermined (no pun intended) a fundamental safety feature of the continuous mining machine. 

The problem with using a hand-held monitor as a substitute for the interlock monitor is that the miner operating a continuous mining machine is 25 to 30 feet behind the face of a machine that is a continuous source of ignition (lots of sparks from metal cutting coal and rocks).  The monitor must be located directly at the source of the spark.  The miner isn’t at the source.

How could the mine leadership eliminate a critical risk management feature?  When deciding to override a critical safety system, the mine leadership should have considered the potential for loss of life AND damage to the mine AND damage to operating equipment.  You have to wonder if anyone really thought about “what if?” especially as Upper Big Branch was a notoriously “gassy” (methane producing) and, therefore, dangerous mine.  I wonder if any hazard or risk analyses were ever conducted for operating the mining machine without an operational methane monitor.   For clarity – here is a brief explanation about the hazards and risks of overriding a safety critical system and the outcome of their analyses:

What’s the difference between hazard and risk?

  • A hazard is the source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects on something or someone (i.e., explosive concentration level of methane gas, source of ignition).

  • A risk is the chance or probability that damage, harm or adverse health effect will occur if something or someone is exposed to a hazard (i.e., a chance of the methane gas concentration would reach explosive levels in the presence of a source of ignition).

 A risk assessment is the process where one

  • Identifies hazards,

  • Evaluates the risk associated with that hazard, and

  • Determines appropriate ways to eliminate or control the hazard.

  • Safety controls minimize the risk by “controlling” the hazard (i.e., shutting down the mining machine eliminates the source of ignition)

Managers must understand the risk and the systems that put in place to control the hazard.  This is “managing the risk”. 

At the Upper Big Branch mine, the life-saving interlock system in a known high risk environment was disabled while workers were assured that an inappropriately-located substitute would be effective and work continued without interruption. It appears that appropriate risk management was not the goal since the presence of combustible concentrations of methane gas at sources of ignition might not be detected using the hand held monitors.   

The integrity of an organization depends on a leadership commitment to understanding and managing risk to protect their employees and assets as well as their reputation. This NPR report highlights what can happen when leadership is focused on one measure of success, in this case, production. Another recent example of compromised risk in exchange for uninterrupted production is the BP oil leak. Have you ever encountered myopic leadership in your workplace that trades risk management for another benefit. What happened? How do employees feel?
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Topics: General Industry H&S, Emergency Response, Hazardous Materials, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Safety, Fire Safety, Exposure, Respiratory, Confined Space

Why We Need More than Common Sense Safety for Natural Gas Pipe System Cleaning and Purging Operations

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 20, 2010 2:22:39 AM

By Don Hoeschele, MS, CHMM

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recently approved recommendations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other organizations to help prevent explosions and fires during pipe cleaning and purging operations.  As recently as February 7, 2010 at the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, CT, an explosion caused six fatalities and numerous injuries during the cleaning of a natural gas pipe system. Another similar explosion occurred at the ConAgra Foods Slim Jim plant in Garner, NC on June 9, 2009 and caused the death of four workers. In both instances, an operation termed “natural gas blow” was utilized to force natural gas under pressure through a piping system during construction and prior to startup of the plant’s turbines to rid the pipe system of non-natural gas impurities and debris. The gas was vented to the ambient atmosphere at open pipe ends less than 20 feet from the ground, and in worker areas where the gas easily found a source of ignition.  It seems that common sense would lead one to never vent natural gas near sources of ignition.

  • At Kleen Energy the potential ignition sources included electrical power to the building, welders actively working and diesel-fueled heaters running in the vicinity.

  • Approximately TWO MILLION cubic feet of natural gas were released at Kleen Energy on February 7, 2010 during the “natural gas blow”, enough natural gas, according to the CSB, to provide heating and cooking fuel to the average American home every day for more than 25 years.

The CSB determined that no specific federal workplace safety standard exists that would prohibit the intentional release of natural gas into the workplace. Yes, I was shocked when I read that, too! Eighteen urgent recommendations were provided and voted on by the CSB to prevent future disasters. Some of the recommendations include – Prohibiting the use of natural gas for pipe cleaning and using alternatives such as compressed air, steam and other chemical substitutes, and upgrading the current gas safety standards for general industry and construction that are considered by the CSB to contain “significant gaps” that threaten the safety of workers at such facilities.

In February 2010, the CSB issued a safety bulletin titled “ Seven Key Lessons to Prevent Worker Deaths During Hot Work In and Around Tanks”.  This bulletin highlights another gap in the OSHA standards, “While the OSHA standard prohibits hot work in an explosive atmosphere, it does not explicitly require the use of a combustible gas detector”. 

It is an unfortunate fact that such regulatory “gaps” can be found in many industries. We are reminded of these gaps while reading of disasters such as these, or more currently, watching the daily updates of oil washing ashore in the Gulf of Mexico.  It is certainly welcome news that these CSB draft recommendations were quickly approved without amendments to help prevent future explosions during pipe cleaning operations.

Do you know of other examples of what would seem to be ‘common sense’ safety measures that are not utilized because “this is the way we have always done it” wins over common sense?
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Topics: OSHA, health and safety, General Industry H&S, Emergency Response, Chemical Safety Board, Hazardous Materials, Compliance, worker safety, emergency response training, Fire Safety, NFPA

Best Available Technology for Community Air Monitoring at Hazardous Waste Clean-up Sites

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 12, 2010 7:57:55 AM

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Topics: OSHA, indoor air quality, Personal Protective Equipment, health and safety, Construction H&S, EPA, Hazardous Waste Management, Hazardous Materials, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, Air Sampling, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, Public Safety

10 Things EVERYONE Should Know About Fire Safety

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Aug 25, 2009 5:09:58 AM

EHS Top Ten Tuesday: Fire Safety

Eileen Lucier
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Topics: OSHA, health and safety, General Industry H&S, H&S Training, Hazardous Materials, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, Fire Safety, Occupational Training, Lab Safety, Medical Records, NFPA

Top 10: Chemical Hygiene Standards

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Aug 11, 2009 9:16:44 AM

Top Ten Things You Need to Know about the Chemical Hygiene Standard

Laurie de Laski

1. The OSHA Standard for regulating safety in research and development laboratories is: Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories (29 CFR 1910.1450). The standard does not apply to production or QA/QC labs (see definition in #9).

2. The employer must develop and maintain a Chemical Hygiene Plan for each lab

3. The employer must designate a Chemical Hygiene Officer (an individual or group of individuals responsible for implementation of all requirements of the lab standard)

4. The employer must provide a formal training program for all employees that will work in R&D laboratories, to be provided prior to initial assignment AND whenever a new chemical, hazard, or task is introduced.

5. Training should include a review of the Chemical Hygiene Plan, location of MSDS’ and reference materials, chemical use and hazard information, standard operating procedures and emergency procedures, chemical labeling system, and proper storage.

6. An Up-to-date inventory maintained for all hazardous materials must be maintained

7. Hazardous Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) must be maintained and all employees must know the location of MSDS' and related reference material

8. All chemical containers must have an appropriate label based on the labs labeling/identification system

9. Workplaces covered by the laboratory standard are determined by their conformance with the laboratory use and laboratory scale criteria, as defined in the standard terms as those operations involving:

  • use of chemicals in relatively small quantities and multiple chemical procedures

  • chemical containers of such a size that can be easily and safely handled by one person

  • small scale research procedures (investigative scale), and not production processes (industrial scale)

  • use of protective laboratory practices and equipment (e.g., fume hoods)

10. R&D Lab facilities may have other support operations (shipping/receiving, warehouse) where the OSHA Hazard Communications Standard 1910.1200 applies.
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Topics: OSHA, General Industry H&S, H&S Training, HazCom, Hazardous Materials, Lab Safety & Electrical, MSDS, Occupational Training, Lab Safety, hygiene standard

Top 10 Things to Know BEFORE Shipping Hazardous Materials

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Aug 4, 2009 8:34:54 AM

Dian Cucchisi, PhD, CHMM

1. Is the material hazardous? This can be determined by looking at the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or the label.

2. Does the Department of Transportation consider the material a hazardous material for transportation? Check the Hazardous Material Table (HMT) found in 49 CFR 172.101.

3. Is the material listed by name in the HMT? If so, that would be the proper shipping name.

4. Is the material not listed by name in the HMT but is a hazardous material due to flammability, corrosivity, etc.? If so, a generic proper shipping name would be used. The generic proper shipping names are also located in the HMT.

5. Do you have personnel trained according to 49 CFR 172.704?

6. Do you have the proper label(s) as required by 49 CFR 172.400 - .450?

7. Is the packaging approved for the shipment of hazardous materials according to 49 CFR 173?

8. Have you completed the Shipper's Declaration of Dangerous Goods?

9. Is the listed emergency response telephone number answered by a "live person?"

10. Failure to ship hazardous materials properly has resulted in monetary fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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Topics: OSHA, DOT, health and safety, General Industry H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, Hazardous Materials, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, emergency response training, MSDS, Respiratory, Occupational Training, Safety Training in Spanish

Life as a Health and Safety Officer

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Apr 23, 2009 9:53:47 AM

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Topics: OSHA, health and safety, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, Hazardous Waste Management, Hazardous Materials, Compliance, worker safety, Hazard Communication Standard, environmental air monitoring, Occupational Training, Safety Training in Spanish

“Mixing the Bomb”...The Importance of Following OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard 29 CFR 1910.1200

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Apr 14, 2009 8:11:21 AM

The Importance of Following OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard 29 CFR 1910.1200

Diego Tolosa, CHST
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Topics: OSHA, Personal Protective Equipment, health and safety, General Industry H&S, Construction H&S, H&S Training, Hazardous Waste Management, HazCom, Hazardous Materials, Compliance, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, MSDS, Occupational Training, Safety Training in Spanish

Want a New Facility in Compliance with EHS Regulations and Accepted Practices?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Apr 7, 2009 9:58:22 AM

Get an EHS Design Expert at the Table!
Paula Kaufmann - CIH

I recently read an article titled “Implementing Safety during Design: a Case Study” in the March 2009 edition of AIHA publication, The Synergist. The authors discuss how incorporating safety systems or measures in the design phase of a construction project can result in large cost savings for the overall project budget. Studies have shown that implementing safety during the planning phases of a project, compared with after construction costs, have a 1:10,000 ratio. This equates to $1 pre-construction costs versus $10,000 post-construction abatement. The authors focus on safety concerns following the guidelines established by The Institute for Safety through Design (established in 1995 by the National Safety Council's Business and Industry Division).

As an industrial hygienist, I have often been frustrated when working on remedies for minimizing exposure to chemicals, immediate safety concerns, chemical storage and waste handling concerns after the occupancy of new laboratory facilities. Construction design planners rely heavily on architects that create beautiful layouts, but often fail to incorporate the fire safety, hazardous material handling and life safety issues that are detailed in NFPA 45: Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals and NFPA 101: Life Safety Code®. The design planners and architects frequently look to the local fire department or permit authorities to approve the plans. These groups may be well versed in commercial building codes, but often are not experts in the potential hazards present in a laboratory operation. The costs of retrofitting a new facility to meet NFPA guidelines and OSHA standards can be staggering. The “take away” is to get an EHS professional involved in the upstream design process. Often cost of another “expert” is discouraged by the planners. Then again, studies (and our experiences) have shown that not getting the right experts at the planning table can be “penny wise but pound foolish”.

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Topics: OSHA, health and safety, General Industry H&S, EPA, H&S Training, Hazardous Materials, Compliance, Occupational Safety, TSCA & R.E.A.C.H., TSCA, Lab Safety & Electrical, Fire Safety, R.E.A.C.H.

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