Does your Organization Have a Contingency Plan in Place for Hazardous Waste Disasters?

Whether your organization is large or small, generates a little or a lot of hazardous waste, there’s always the potential for an unforeseen disaster. While it’s easy to dismiss as something that will never happen, it’s much better to have a contingency plan written and rehearsed than to wait until a disaster strikes.

Why do I need a Contingency Plan?

It’s pretty common knowledge that there is potential environmental damage from escaped hazardous materials. Your organization will ultimately be held responsible both legally and financially for anything that happens. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, in other words.

Here are a couple tips to get started on your hazardous waste disposal contingency plan.

  1. What’s a disaster?

Discuss and decide now, while there is no stress and disaster in sight, what qualifies as a disaster.  Deciding what to do when a disaster is happening is not the time to discuss. Since people have varying opinions, don’t leave this to chance or an employee’s random definition. It’s important everyone is on the same page with the definition of a disaster, so they know when and where your contingency plan will go into effect. A contingency plan is not effective if no one knows when to use it.

  1. Who’s In Charge?

Simply put, a disaster doesn’t care about your current organizational chart. Once you’ve discussed what qualifies as a disaster, the next step is to decide who is going to be in charge. Hint: This may not be the person who normally runs your operations.  The person who should be in charge is the one most qualified to handle this type of an issue, not just someone in charge of normal operating procedures.

It’s also important to set up an Incident Command System, which is the nationally recognized standard for incident command. Decide now the responsibilities of all involved personnel, and keep in mind that for hazardous waste incidents, responsibilities and authority differ from normal department parameters.

  1. What’s your Plan?

It’s important that your plan accommodate the nature of your business and the kind of chemical or hazardous waste disposal normally required during standard operations.  With that in mind, a contingency plan creates a clear, step by step plan of what needs to happen in the first minutes, hours, days and weeks of an incident.  This plan involves clear delineation of authority and responsibility of each person involved.

Create checklist for each member or team to ensure all details are covered. Especially the areas where negligence could become a legal liability further down the road.  Keep it simple and emergency-proof, meaning short, simple executable orders that people can follow. In an emergency, people are not in a clear processing state of mind. So it’s important that all gray areas are clarified (in granular detail, if necessary), so there’s no area for misunderstanding when a crisis arises.

Distribute written copies and keep them in easy to find places. Having a plan is meaningless if it can’t be accessed.

  1. Have you rehearsed?

The best written plan is worthless if your employees can’t access and execute the plan when needed. Once the plan and checklists are completed, make sure all involved employees know their roles and responsibilities. Provide regular training for both current and new employees. Also run some drills- both planned and surprise drills, so the people involved get used to running the plan. Your practice runs can also identify any potential issues with the plan that need to be resolved.

Make sure the written plan is kept both onsite and offsite, in easy and intuitive places for your involved personnel. After any updates, destroy all outdated materials so there is no confusion.

If you’re looking for more information regarding contingency plans for hazardous waste disposal, we highly recommend that you work with an expert or consultant for contingency plans.

If you’re looking for help with hazardous or non-hazardous waste disposal, reach out to HWH Environmental. We’d be happy to provide a quote and the best solution for you.

Author: Mark Chocola

With over 25 years of experience in the hazardous waste disposal industry, Mark Chocola is one of the driving forces behind HWH Environmental that are committed to providing safe, compliant, and cost-effective hazardous waste solutions. His deep industry knowledge and dedication to customer service have made HWH Environmental a trusted partner for businesses across the United States.

6 thoughts on “Does your Organization Have a Contingency Plan in Place for Hazardous Waste Disasters?”

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