Hazardous chemical safety FAQs

How to control chemical hazards?

Control methods are required if concentrations of chemicals are found to be above the recommended exposure limits. Some of the steps used in controlling the hazards include:  

  • Personal Protective Equipment: always using PPE when handling chemicals, such as compatible gloves, safety glasses, face shields, apron, lab coats, safety boots, etc.  
  • Administrative controls: use of administrative controls such as lessening the length of time for exposure to employees, rotational schedules for work, keeping chemicals enclosed when not in use, etc.  
  • Engineering Controls: Use of engineering controls such as fume hoods, exhaust ventilation systems, safety showers, machine guarding  
  • Substitution: if elimination is not possible, identify a less hazardous chemical in order to minimize the risk.  
  • Elimination: if possible, eliminate the use of the chemical from the process to avoid exposure completely.

How long can you store hazardous waste on-site?

Depending on the generator status, hazardous waste can be stored for 90 days or 180 days.

Large Quantity Generators can store most hazardous waste on site for 90 days.
Large Quantity Generators (LQG) are defined by the EPA as producing 2,200lbs./1,000kg of hazardous waste per month, or 2.2lbs./1kg of acute hazardous waste per month.
Exceptions do apply based upon waste profile.

Extensions can be filed with state or federal agencies to increase storage time by 30 calendar days.

Small Quantity Generators can store most hazardous waste on site for 180 days (270 days if shipping distance is greater than 200 miles).
Small Quantity Generator (SQG) are defined by the EPA as producing more than 220lbs./100kg per month but less than 2,200lbs./1,000kg.
A SQG site can never store more than 6,000kgs.

Very Small Quantity Generators have restrictions to storage length.
Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQG) produce less than 220lbs./100kgs per month.
No more than 2,200lbs./1,000kgs can be stored on site.

How do you monitor exposure to chemicals?

Monitoring of exposure to chemicals is done in relation to the OSHA permissible exposure limits (PELs). 

  • Initial Monitoring: This is completed when an employee exhibits signs of exposure or if employee exposure may have exceeded the exposure limit. 
  • Periodic Monitoring: conducted to ensure the effectiveness of corrective actions. 
  • Standard-Specific Monitoring: Specific chemical standards may require chemical exposure monitoring depending on the type of chemical being used. 
  • Employee Notification: An employee is to be notified within 15 days of receiving the results of the monitoring.

What should a response to a chemical spill always include?

A chemical spill response always should follow below procedure:

  • Notify the chemical spill response contractors / first responders.
  • Barricade the area of the spill to prevent additional contamination and risk of additional damage.
  • Always wear proper PPE for cleanup of spill.
  • Use compatible absorbents and neutralizing agents to contain the spill.
  • Collect the spill cleanup waste material in chemical compatible containers and label the waste in a compliant manner.
  • Depending on the waste characterization of cleanup waste, dispose as hazardous, non-hazardous, or solid waste.

How to clean up chemical spills?

Depending on the size of the spills, they can be cleaned up via first responders using spill kits or Incident Commanders and external spill cleanup providers using larger spill cleanup resources.  

  • Wear proper PPE when cleaning up spills. 
  • Remove or turn off any ignition sources near the spill to minimize any additional impact. 
  • Close drains that may lead to storm/city sewers. 
  • Depending on the type of chemical spill, compatible neutralizing chemicals and absorbents must be used for cleanup of chemical. 
  • Follow directions for cleanup and disposal of spill material in accordance with the safety data sheet (SDS) for the material.

How to dispose of mercury?

Equipment containing intact mercury is to be handled as Universal Waste. Universal Waste can be stored for up to a year and should be disposed of through approved waste services; it is not to be discarded with regular waste. Universal waste does not affect generator status.  

Mercury that has been released and cleaned up will need to disposed of as Hazardous Waste along with the PPE and materials used to clean the spill. If the spill was into a soil, the soil will need to be treated as waste as well.