Hazardous waste is, by its very namesake, dangerous. Disposing of it isn’t as simple as tossing it in with the trash; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has strict regulations about understanding whatkind of hazardous materials you’re working with to ensure they are properly disposed of, keeping you and the environment safe throughout the process.
Toxic materials are more common than many think, and almost every part of their life span is monitored for communal safety. Every piece of waste created from these substances has a specific place and process for disposal.
Hazardous materials are substances that could negatively affect the safety of their handlers, carriers or the public. Even their transport and disposal are highly regulated. Hazmat safety processes aim to prevent any accidents or misuse of toxic or flammable waste. Regulations keep hazmat workers at Point A, Point B and everywhere in between healthy and safe.
The characteristics of hazardous waste materials determine what hazard class they’re in. There are nine classes of hazardous waste to identify when preparing, packaging, shipping or disposing of these substances:
- Compressed gases
- Flammable liquids
- Flammable solids
- Oxidizers and organic peroxides
- Toxic or poisonous materials
- Radioactive materials
- Corrosive materials
While some classes are more dangerous than others, each class of hazardous waste poses a different threat if mistreated or mishandled. There are specific guidelines for hazmat workers to follow when managing the toxic materials mentioned. Many of these regulations are for the employee’s safety as well as public health, and the rules vary from one class to another.
As a result, most hazmat workers are required to complete up to 40 hours of OSHA training so they are able to identify the type of waste: here are those four types (and their characteristics) explained.
Working with hazardous wastes that have ignitability characteristics means they are flammable. This category gets further broken down into three forms: Liquids with a flash point (a.k.a. the lowest temperature at which fumes above waste ignite) of 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit — such as alcohol, gasoline, and acetone –, solids that spontaneously combust, and compressed gases and oxidizers. Proper OSHA hazmat training and hazmat certification can keep you safe from any accidental fires that may occur from these materials.
These materials (like hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, and sulphuric acid) have the ability to break down and eat through their containers. Any liquid with a pH of less than or equal to 2, or great than or equal to 12.5 (the extreme ends of acidity and alkalinity), or has the ability to corrode steel is considered a corrosive. Utmost care must be taken when handling or transporting corrosive materials as the liquids and their fumes can cause serious damage to the human body.
This denotes waste that is extremely unstable, routinely experiencing violent change, which includes the potential for explosion or the release of toxic gases when combined with water. Completing hazardous materials training, especially the DOT training course for transportation purposes, can make the difference between successful disposal and the loss of life or limb.
Poisonous materials are detrimental to our health when we come into direct contact with them, but they can also cause widespread problems if they come into contact with groundwater. The first three characteristics on this list are categorized as “immediate and firsthand dangers” by the EPA, but toxicity is less urgent — however, it shouldn’t be taken any less seriously. Contamination can seriously impact human health and the environment if not handled properly.
EXAMPLES OF TOXIC MATERIALS
Toxic materials pose a serious threat, so disposing of these substances appropriately is essential. Humans can be exposed to poisonous waste in many ways. Inhalation, skin contact and ingestion are the most important routes to consider. As a hazmat worker, your safety around these materials can make it so that no one has to worry about these dangers.
In the worst cases of contamination, toxic materials can hurt the surrounding environment. Proper disposal prevents hazardous waste from entering local air, water or food sources. Because these substances are common in homes and workplaces, it’s essential to understand the characteristics of toxic materials.
Poisonous solids or liquids will have a label to warn users of their toxicity. Common household toxic materials include:
- Fluorescent light bulbs
- Muriatic acid
- Pool and spa chemicals
- Propane cylinders
If your job requires you to handle these substances, it’s important to get hazmat training and certification and possibly RCRA hazardous waste training or Title 22 Hazardous Waste training so you can keep your community and yourself safe.
Working with hazardous wastes is no easy job, but if you have the proper training and knowledge, it may feel that way! Contact us at Hazmat School for more information about your hazmat certification.