5 Best Practices for Handling Hazardous Materials Safely

Hazardous materials handling requires special care, not only to keep your employees safe but also to adhere to regulations that affect the handling of these materials. It’s always a great time to brush up on best practices for hazardous materials handling. We’ve put together a list of five necessary best practices for material handling. 

Understand the Hazardous Materials You Use

The first step in safe handling is understanding the materials used in the workplace. 

  • What substances are used, what are the potential hazards, and what are the uses for each material? 
  • What must employees know before moving, touching, or storing the material? 

When company management understands the risks and types of waste that employees could encounter, it becomes easier to assess the risks involved and develop a strategy to handle those materials safely. 

Label Hazardous Waste Containers Properly

All hazardous materials must be properly labeled and stored in the right container. If something isn’t stored properly, it could leak out or corrode the containers. Proper labeling, as well as abiding by those labels, ensures employees always know what they’re handling.

As part of proper labeling and storage, make sure that staff clean up the work area as soon as they are finished using a substance. When the work area is clean, there’s less chance of an accidental spill involving a hazardous substance.

Ensure Safe Storage of Hazardous Materials

Safe storage of hazardous waste comes down to clear communication between management and staff. By creating an action plan, the initial storage of materials can be correctly labeled and stay in line with regulatory policies. The intended purpose of regulatory policies is to maintain a safe place of work for your employees. 

Be sure that all hazardous materials can be safely stored in a ventilated dry area away from others. All employees should be able to maintain their own clean work surface away from hazardous waste. 

Train Your Employees

It’s not enough to use signage to educate employees, you must train them in safe handling of hazardous materials. Established protocols are a good starting point, but you must also plan ahead for the unexpected. Train employees in emergency procedures, including what to do in a variety of emergency types involving hazardous materials including medical emergencies.

Make training a priority at your place of work when it comes to the safe handling of materials. More importantly, revisit training annually so that staff always know what to do to stay safe. Employees should clearly understand reporting procedures and how to perform their job duties. 

Continue to Manage Storage Areas Carefully

Hazardous waste regulations mandate that central storage areas must be maintained properly. If your organization overlooks this, you could wind up with steep fines from regulators.

Best practices for storage areas recommend a dry, cool storage area with adequate ventilation. It’s important to keep lids on containers at all times, label hazardous waste as such, and keep all materials properly stored.

Review how hazardous materials are stored, used, and handled at your organization and make any changes needed to bring your organization’s policies in line with safe materials handling. Then review the issue periodically to make sure staff members are keeping up with regulations. Regular check-ins can prevent recurring problems with hazardous waste storage.