How to Handle Hazardous Materials in the Workplace?

Hazardous materials are harmful or dangerous to the health of your employees and visitors. These materials are usually classified into two types – listed hazardous wastes and waste that is characteristically hazardous. Any material could still be considered hazardous even if it has not been listed. So how to determine if the waste produced in your company is harmful? If the material qualifies on any of the following factors, it must be classified as dangerous and be handled as per WHMIS regulations.

1. Toxicity

These materials have toxicity characteristic that can leak organic, pesticide or metallic constituents in amounts higher than regulatory standards. Some of the common constituents include:

– Chromium

– Chloroform

– Arsenic

– Cadmium

– Barium

– Mercury

– Silver

– Selenium

– M-cresol

2. Ignitability

This can include materials which have high ignitability characteristics. Some of the most common ones include:

– Flammable liquids such as alcohols, xylene, toluene, benzene, and acetonitrile

– Organic peroxides

– Oxidizers like bromates, nitrates, iodates and perchlorates

3. Reactivity

These materials are capable of reacting violently and/or emit toxic gases. Some of the common examples include:

– Cyanides and sulfides

– Water reactive mateirals

– Peroxide formers

– Multinitrated compounds

– Perchlorate crystal formers

4. Corrosivity

This includes liquids that corrode steel at a faster rate in normal temperatures. Examples include:

– Organic acids like formic acid

– Inorganic acids like the notorious sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and nitric acid

– Bases sodium and potassium hydroxides, and amines

How to Ensure Safety around Hazardous Materials?

All hazardous materials should be handled carefully according to the standard regulations. At the same time, it is extremely important that they are labeled properly.

Label all containers containing hazardous materials for the safety and convenience of your workers. Make sure that all chemical names are clearly labeled without using abbreviations. When any container is emptied and reused for other purposes, the names must be removed or changed. In fact, you should not remove any containers from their place until they have been relabeled or the old labels are not removed. All containers, for which the contents are unknown, should be indicated as such on the label.

Handling Emptied Containers

It is worth noting that empty chemical containers are usually not treated under WHMIS regulations. Make sure to develop an in-house policy for handling these containers safely. Use the following methods to clean such empty containers:

Volatile Organic Solvents – Containers emptied of volatile organic solvents which are not on the hazardous waste list must air dried in ventilated areas. Avoid using the triple rising method. This can include chemicals like ethyl acetate, acetone, petroleum ether, ethyl ether and toluene.

Listed Chemicals – All the containers emptied and cleaned off listed materials should have the washings collected and disposed of as per the WHMIS regulations. You must request for a chemical pick up of the washings. Many times it is recommended to dispose the empty container itself as waste. It should not be used for any other purposes.

Reagent Bottles – If there are empty reagent bottles, they could be used for disposing of chemical wastes. But make sure that the wastes are tested for compatibility with these containers.

Many commercial establishments in Calgary don’t take their waste disposal as seriously as they should. All hazardous materials, whether they are listed or not, must be handled with care. If you are not certain about the procedures, seek the help of WHMIS services to develop and implement waste material handling and disposal system within your organization. These precautions could go a long way in preventing workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses due to various chemicals.

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