We discuss some ways you might be able to determine whether or not you have hazardous materials at your site.
When it comes to hazardous materials reporting, many facilities in New Jersey (and across the country) constantly say they don't know if they have hazardous materials on-site. Conversely, many facilities say, at what point is a material not considered hazardous. For instance, I have one operation adamant about reporting a sand used in an industrial process as a hazardous material.
I can completely appreciate either mindset, as hazardous materials reporting can be downright confusing.
Now whether you're reporting to the NJDEP, the USEPA, or any other regulatory agency, getting this information correct is very important if you want to stay in compliance, out of trouble, and keep your staff safe at your facility.
So how do you know if you have hazardous materials at your site in New Jersey?
Let's clear one thing up: these are hazardous materials, not hazardous waste. Yes there usually is a difference, and no they're usually not regulated the same way.
Hazardous materials tend to be regulated by various organizations. For example, they could fall under OSHA regulations, NJDEP regulations, NJDOT regulations, and USEPA regulations. So how do you know if you have hazardous materials at your site? The first response might be who’s asking, and what regulation are you asking in reference to?
Hazardous materials can be found on your Safety Data Sheets
One of the easiest ways to identify hazardous materials is due to the presence of a Safety Data Sheet (SDS, formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS). Why would you have them in the first place? Because under OSHA regulations, you are required to have them for hazardous materials.
Ah ha! So if you have an SDS for a material, does that mean it’s hazardous? Generally the answer is yes.
So, for example, under the Community Right to Know Reporting program, this would be where you would start to identify hazardous materials on your site. Have an SDS for the material? Then, under Tier II Reporting, consider it hazardous. While there are additional criteria that have to be met in order for the material to be reported, this is the place to start.
Start thinking about what's a hazardous material at your New Jersey operation.
Getting people to think of their materials in this way is helpful, since it gets us out of the belief that the materials we use at our facility are harmless. Maybe you have a unique operation, and you don't have any harmful materials. But chances are, you'll have an SDS somewhere, meaning you have some sort of hazardous materials on-site.
And once we’ve got people thinking this way, it’s easy to move on to other regulatory programs, with different requirements. For instance, TRI Reporting is based on the chemicals present in you materials. Different materials, or chemicals, may be regulated under different programs, but at least we’ve begun to understand that yes, we probably do have hazardous materials at our site. We can move on from there.
Notice that I’ve avoided the term hazardous waste. That’s something different. A hazardous material may not be a hazardous waste, and probably isn’t. For example, raw materials in your manufacturing process may be regulated as hazardous by OSHA or some other regulatory program, but they’re not necessarily a waste. Depending on what you're using in New Jersey, you could be regulated under the NJDEP, NJDOT, or other agencies. There is a whole separate group of regulations that deal with hazardous waste.
I’ll admit, this can get confusing. What’s the best way to know how the materials at your site are classified? Have a facility audit by someone experienced in hazardous materials and hazardous waste management. You’ll know exactly what you have, what regulations you should be complying with, and what you should be doing. Without that information, you’re flying blind, waiting for an inspector to show up and write you a violation. Why risk it?