Care, Protect, Grow: The U.S. Compliance Blog

GIR Rule Impact on RCRA Waste Generators: Highlights as States are Impacted

HISTORY

In 2017, the US EPA finalized updates to the RCRA regulations, called the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule (GIR). The purpose of the update was to increase compliance within the hazardous waste generator community and allow some additional flexibility for managing hazardous waste. The overall impact of the rule change will lessen the regulatory burden for the majority of hazardous waste generators.

States with authorized hazardous waste programs will be required to adopt the more stringent provisions and have the option to choose if they want to adopt the less stringent or equally stringent provisions.  Most states are moving forward with fully adopting the rule change.

Some of the changes serve to emphasize best practices already utilized while some changes are completely new requirements. Overall, the EPA has finalized over 60 changes to the hazardous waste regulations. This paper will review the most impactful new requirements.

MORE STRINGENT PROVISIONS

  • SQG re-notification will be due every four years on September 1, beginning in 2021
  • Labels on hazardous waste containers (including satellite accumulation containers) must identify the hazards of the waste. SQGs and LQGs must update their hazardous waste labels and may comply with other existing labeling requirements such as DOT, OSHA, or NFPA labels. The hazards must be identified with descriptive words, not just waste codes.
  • LQGs must prepare a quick reference guide for their contingency plan and submit both the guide and plan to local emergency response agencies. LQGs must prepare the contingency plan quick reference guide when their plan is next updated or whenever they become an LQG. The quick reference guide must include:
  • The names of hazardous wastes onsite and the hazards associated with each waste
  • An estimate of the amount of hazardous waste present onsite
  • Any hazardous wastes that would require unique or special treatment by medical personnel
  • A map showing where hazardous waste is generated, accumulated and treated and routes to access the waste
  • A street map to show access to the facility and surrounding area
  • The location of the water supply
  • Identification of onsite notification systems
  • The names of the emergency coordinators and 24-hr phone numbers

LESS STRINGENT

  • SQGs and VSQGs may have episodic generation events above their generation limits without having to comply with all the requirements of the greater generator size. This will allow for periodic or unexpected cleanups of hazardous waste.
  • VSQGs may send their hazardous waste to an LQG under control of the same person for consolidation. The VSQG must label its containers with the words “hazardous waste” and an indication of the hazards of the waste. The LQG must submit a notification to the EPA and follow all other routine container management practices for waste received from a VSQG.
  • LQGs may apply for a waiver from the local fire authority to store their ignitable or reactive hazardous waste within 15 meters of their property line
  • Generators are allowed to keep satellite accumulation containers open when temporary venting of a container is necessary

EQUALLY STRINGENT

  • Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator (CESQG) changed to Very Small Quantity Generator (VSQG)
  • Reorganization of the hazardous waste generator regulation publication order

STATE ADOPTION

Individually authorized states must adopt the generator improvements rule in order for the rules to be effective in that state. Until a facility’s state adopts the rules, these changes do not apply in that area.

Authorized states were given until July 1, 2018, to adopt the rule, or July 1, 2019, if a state law change is needed. As of May 2019, the generator improvements rule is effective in 21 states. It is expected that the majority of states that have not yet adopted the rules will not meet the July 1, 2019, deadline. While the implications of states not meeting the July 1 deadline are unclear, it is important to pay attention to changes happening in your facility’s state.

SUMMARY

While the goal of the generator improvements rule was to increase compliance and allow flexibility in following hazardous waste regulations, the changes may still be confusing. Be sure to understand your state requirements and watch for changes as the rules are adopted.

Heat Stress – Reducing Employee Risk

As working environment temperatures increase due to the season or other factors, heat-related risks can be effectively reduced for employees working inside or outside using a combination of controls and knowledge. What do you need to know to protect your employees?

  • The level of heat stress exposure at your facility
  • The human body’s response to heat stress
  • Steps that can be taken to prevent heat-related illnesses

Let’s briefly review each of these topics to help reduce the risk of heat stress for your employees.

HEAT STRESS MONITORING

Being aware of heat-related environmental conditions is the first step in prevention.

Ambient temperature alone is often not the complete picture, especially when working in a setting where the climate isn’t controlled, like when working outdoors. Four environmental factors affect the amount of heat stress a worker faces in a hot work area: ambient temperature, humidity, radiant heat (such as from the sun or a furnace) and air velocity. Tools for monitoring heat stress levels are available for indoor and outdoor environments. The heat index provided by the National Weather Service (NWS) indicates the “real feel” of the temperature outside using a combination of temperature and humidity factors. A Wet Bulb Global Temperature (WBGT) is recorded using a dedicated instrument and is a combination of temperature, wind/air velocity, solar/infrared radiation and humidity, and can be measured outdoors or indoors.

There’s an app for that! A heat stress mobile phone app developed by OSHA and NIOSH is available for employees working outdoors that will display a real-time heat index and heat-related stress risk factor by zip code or phone location. Evaluating the risk is always the first step in hazard prevention.

HEAT STRESS CAUSES BODY REACTIONS

The human body responds to the stress of excess heat in various ways as it continuously works to maintain the core body temperature within a couple of degrees of the average “normal” of 98.6°F. When the body’s ability to self-regulate its core temperature fails and it continues to rise uncontrolled, serious consequences, including death, are possible.  Equally important to the environmental factors are personal characteristics such as age, weight, fitness, medical condition and acclimatization to the heat.

The body reacts to high external temperatures by increasing the heart rate and shunting blood to the skin which increases skin temperature and allows the body to give off its excess heat via convection and to a lesser degree, conduction. The effectiveness of this cooling is dependent on the immediate environment, the physical characteristics of the person and the manual labor they are performing.

Sweating is another means the body uses to maintain a stable internal body temperature in the face of heat.  Sweating is only effective if the humidity level is low enough to permit evaporation and if the fluids and salts lost are adequately replaced.

If the body cannot dispose of excess heat, it will store it.  When this happens, the body’s core temperature rises, and heat-related illnesses will manifest.

HEAT-RELATED ILLNESSES

Heat Rash

Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, may occur in hot and humid environments where sweat is not easily removed from the surface of the skin by evaporation.  When extensive or complicated by infection, heat rash can be so uncomfortable that it inhibits sleep, can impede a worker’s performance, and can even result in temporary total disability.  It can be prevented by resting in a cool place and allowing the skin to dry.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps – painful spasms of the muscles – are caused by not drinking enough fluids or failing to replace electrolytes lost via sweating.  Tired muscles – those used for performing the work – are usually the ones most susceptible to cramps.  Cramps may occur during or after working hours and may be relieved by taking liquids by mouth or saline solutions intravenously if severe and medically determined to be required.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion results from an excess of retained heat in the body and loss of fluids and electrolytes through sweating. The worker with heat exhaustion still sweats but experiences other symptoms, including:

  • extreme weakness or fatigue
  • giddiness
  • nausea and/or headache
  • skin is clammy and moist
  • complexion pale or flushed
  • core body temperature is frequently slightly elevated

Treatment involves allowing the victim to rest in a cool place and drink water or an electrolyte solution (a beverage used by athletes to quickly restore potassium, calcium, and magnesium salts).  Severe cases involving victims who lose consciousness necessitate a 911/EMS call. If treatment is not provided, heat exhaustion may progress quickly to life-threatening heatstroke.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke, the most serious health problem for workers in hot environments, is caused by the failure of the body’s internal mechanism to regulate its core temperature.  Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat.

Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • mental confusion, delirium, loss of consciousness, convulsions or coma
  • a body temperature of 106°F or higher
  • hot dry skin, which may be red, mottled or bluish

Victims of heatstroke necessitate a 911/EMS call and may die if not treated promptly.  While awaiting the arrival of EMS, the victim must be moved to a cool and/or shaded area with his/her outer clothing and boots loosened or removed. If possible, wet down the body and fan vigorously to increase cooling.  Apply cold packs to armpits and groin if available. Prompt first aid can prevent permanent injury to the brain and other vital organs.

PREVENTING HEAT STRESS

Most heat-related health problems can be prevented or the risk of developing them reduced. Following a few basic precautions should lessen heat stress risk.

A variety of engineering controls may be helpful, including general ventilation and spot cooling by local exhaust ventilation at points of high heat production. For example, shielding is required as protection from radiant heat sources while evaporative cooling and mechanical refrigeration are other methods to reduce heat; eliminating steam leaks and proper maintenance of equipment will also help.  Equipment modifications, the use of power tools to reduce manual labor and personal cooling devices, or protective clothing are other ways to reduce the hazards of heat exposure for workers.

Work practices, such as providing plenty of drinking water (as much as a quart per worker per hour), sports drinks and even popsicles in a breakroom freezer can help reduce the risk of heat disorders. Employers should also consider an individual worker’s physical condition when determining his or her fitness for working in hot environments.  Older workers, obese workers and personnel on some types of medication are at a greater risk.

Alternating work and rest periods with longer rest periods in a cool area can help workers avoid heat stress.  If possible, heavy work should be scheduled during the cooler parts of the day, and appropriate protective clothing should be provided.  Supervisors should be trained to detect early signs of heat stress and should permit workers to interrupt their work if they are extremely uncomfortable.

Acclimatization to the heat through short exposures followed by longer periods of work in the hot environment can reduce heat stress.  New employees and workers returning from an absence of two weeks or more should have a 5-day period of acclimatization.  This period should begin with 50 percent of the normal workload and time exposure the first day, and gradually begin building up to 100 percent on the 5th day.

Training is vital so that employees are aware of the hazards, risk factors including hydration level (urine color chart), early warning signs, symptoms of heat-related illnesses, first-aid treatments and when to call 911. Training first-aid workers to recognize and treat heat stress disorders and making the names of trained staff known to all workers is also recommended.

Following these recommendations can prevent heat-related illness in your workplace. For more information on preventing heat-related illness in the workplace, visit the OSHA website at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatstress/ or contact US Compliance.

U.S. Compliance provides safety, health and environmental services to hundreds of facilities in the manufacturing and general industry sector across the country and can help you develop an effective Heat Stress Prevention Program.

OSHA Updates for 2019

For the 2019 year, OSHA has some notable updates in the areas of enforcement activities and recommended reduction efforts for training programs, along with the elimination of an agency board. The new annual budget for OSHA is $557,000,000, which is 5% more than the previous year of $531,500,000. This new budget will add 26 additional compliance officers and five full-time whistleblower investigators. Reduction areas include a severe decrease in funding to the Susan B. Harwood Training Program that has been available since 1991. This program provides training and education for workers and employers on workplace safety and health hazards, responsibilities and rights. Target audiences include underserved, low-literacy, and high-hazard industry workers and employers. OSHA has also requested to eliminate the Chemical Safety Board (CSB). The CSB is an independent federal agency founded in 1998 charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents.

The OSHA enforcement emphasis programs have been updated and have changed as well. These emphasis programs provide OSHA with a road map for enforcement activities including programmed inspections of facilities and job sites in targeted industries that are considered higher risk – meaning they produce more injuries, hazards, employee complaints, citations, etc. The following is a list of the current emphasis programs:

  • Federal OSHA
    • Combustible Dust
    • Hazardous Machinery and Amputation
    • Hexavalent Chromium
    • Process Safety Management
  • Regional/State OSHA
    • Noise Exposures
    • Forklifts
    • Falls
    • Electrical
    • Heat Stress
    • Amputations

Federal OSHA has also adjusted their citations and penalties dollar amounts starting in January 2019. The average penalty amount for each serious violation issued has gone up significantly each year starting in 2009 at $970 to $5,016 in 2018. The new maximum penalty amount for serious violations is now $13,260 per violation while the penalty for willful or repeated violations is $132,598 per violation. Also note that these citations and penalties can apply to different facilities within the same company.

OSHA’s guidance and interpretation of workplace safety incentive programs and post-incident drug & alcohol testing has changed over the last year as well. Currently, workplace safety incentive programs are 100% allowed by OSHA if employees feel free to report injuries and there are no restrictions for incident reporting. If a company bases their incentive award on so many days without a workplace injury, then they must be able to show or prove that the organizational culture supports immediate reporting and has the tools and processes in place for employees to use.

Regarding post-incident drug & alcohol testing, OSHA now allows this type of testing to evaluate the root cause of a workplace incident where the employer tests all employees whose conduct could have contributed to the incident, not just the employees who reported the injuries or were directly involved with the incident. In summary, OSHA’s expectation is that employers will structure their incentive and testing programs in a way that will not affect employees from wanting and/or needing to report injuries and incidents that have occurred.

Finally, the last update is in regards to the OSHA 300 recordkeeping and reporting. Annual submission of injury records done electronically on March 2 with the previous year’s injury data now only require the submission of the OSHA 300A Form (Summary of Work-Related Injuries & Illnesses). The OSHA 300 Injury & Illness Log is no longer required to be submitted annually. As a reminder, the deadline for annual submission has been moved up from December to March of the following year. Other reporting requirements include contacting OSHA within eight hours of a workplace fatality and within 24 hours of an amputation, loss of an eye, or injuries resulting in hospitalization.

With the integration of modern technology increasing rapidly, are drones the next step for OSHA? In a 2018 memo, OSHA stated that they may use a drone during an inspection of an area that is inaccessible or dangerous for inspectors. Keep in mind that OSHA must obtain the employer’s express consent prior to use and onsite personnel must be notified pre-launch of the aerial inspection. More updates to follow on this.

OSHA’S MOST CITED GENERAL INDUSTRY STANDARDS – HOW TO PREPARE YOUR FACILITY

It’s the phone call every safety, plant or human resource manager dreads: “There’s someone from OSHA here waiting for you in the lobby.”

Regulatory action isn’t the sole reason we work every day on our safety programs, but it does create an instance where the “rubber meets the road” so to speak. Being able to see your facility through the eyes of a regulatory inspector enables you to recognize potential issues and implement corrective actions to provide a safer workplace. It also helps you quickly and painlessly handle an inspection without having to open the checkbook.

So how can you look at your site through the eyes of an OSHA inspector?

One technique is to utilize the data OSHA provides to the general public. On an annual basis, OSHA releases the list of regulations most frequently cited during on-site facility inspections the previous calendar year. It is a valuable exercise to review the most common violations, how they apply to your facility, and if there is anything you need to do to reduce your organizational risk.

For FY2018, OSHA has provided the following list:

In the chart above, we have highlighted those items that pertain to general industry. We’ll focus on these 5 key standards that affect the general industry environment and possibly your facility. Knowing and understanding the requirements related to these items and what an inspector will be looking for will help you prepare for an OSHA inspection and get that inspector out the door faster.

 

Hazard Communication Standard, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.1200)

Year after year, the hazard communication standard occupies the top general industry spot on this list. Why? Because issues related to hazard communication are easy to spot. Here are some key requirements under the hazard communication standard:

  • A Site-specific Written Program – No general corporate-speak allowed! Your written program must be specific, not just to your overall organization, but to your site location. Your program must:
    • Outline your chemical labeling system.
    • Outline a procedure for identifying hazards and training employees to conduct non-routine tasks.
    • Outline Safety Data Sheet (SDS) locations, access, and a maintenance/update schedule.
    • Contain a complete chemical inventory list as well as identify the related hazards from those chemicals.
    • Have a developed and followed site-specific training process.
  • Documented Training –Training for hazard communication is required for an employee initially upon hire, when a new hazard or chemical is introduced, and periodically thereafter.
  • Compliant Labeling – As outlined above, compliant labeling is required for all containers. As part of the 2012 update to this standard, OSHA implemented the Globally Harmonized System for labeling that includes the following requirements:
    • Product Identifier
    • Signal Word (Warning or Dangerous)
    • Pictogram
    • Hazard Statement
    • Precautionary Statement
  • Access to compliant Safety Data Sheets (SDS) – All employees must be able to access an SDS at any time without having to ask for permission.

 

Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134)

Inhalation is the most common and “easiest” route of entry into the body for potentially hazardous materials. Oftentimes employees will unknowingly bring in respirators from home or other sites that are missing key aspects required under the respiratory protection standard. Air quality concerns are also one of the most common complaints from employees that can lead to an OSHA inspection.

The mandatory use of respirators requires a site-specific respiratory protection program that incorporates the following aspects:

  • Medical Evaluations – Required for mandatory usage or for voluntary use of tight-fitting respirators at the initial assignment and periodically thereafter, based on physician or other licensed health care professional (PLHCP) recommendations, or if medical status or workplace conditions change.
  • Maintenance and Care – Must be kept in a closed container, maintained in good condition and kept clean.
  • Fit Testing Procedures – Required to be conducted annually.
  • Emergency Use – Required to be inspected monthly.
  • Cartridge Change Out Policy – How often respirator cartridges must be changed must be established by the employer. The process can be a bit challenging and is based on a variety of factors including but not limited to work rate, chemical presence amount, temperature, and humidity.

If voluntary respirators are used, Appendix D of the 1910.134 standard must be provided prior to use and a signed copy for each participating employee must be available. Documented industrial hygiene monitoring is required to show the ability to allow for voluntary use.

 

Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout) (29 CFR 1910.147)

The control of hazardous energy, commonly referred to as lockout/tagout, is a necessary and lifesaving component of maintenance, servicing, cleaning, and setting up equipment. If your livelihood (your hands) are going to be in a piece of equipment, you must be protected. Here are some key elements of a compliant lockout/tagout program:

  • Site-Specific Written Program – Include procedures, equipment, and a breakdown of authorized and affected level employees.
  • Documented Machine-Specific Procedures – For all types of equipment.
  • Periodic Inspections – Required on an annual basis for all authorized employees and each similar pieces of equipment they service.
  • Employee Training at Two Levels:
    • Authorized Level Employees – Initially upon hire, whenever changes are introduced, and periodically thereafter.
    • Awareness Level Employees – Initially upon hire, whenever changes are introduced, and periodically thereafter.

Facilities should ensure authorized employees are fluent in lockout/tagout and have adequate equipment and materials to complete lockout/tagout properly each and every time it is required.

 

Powered Industrial Trucks (29 CFR 1910.178)

Powered Industrial Trucks (PIT), or lift equipment, are vital cogs for any facility. They also weigh at least double a standard car and are to only be operated by trained employees. Failure to completely and properly train PIT operators is the most notable issue with PIT violations. A proper operator certification includes the following elements:

  • Formal instruction including a written and graded examination.
  • A practical (hands-on) training on the site and lift equipment specifics.
  • A performance evaluation where the employee demonstrates their skill and understanding of the safe driving techniques learned through the training process.

This training regimen is to be completed before an operator is permitted to drive a PIT. Any operator involved in an accident, near miss, or observed driving unsafely shall be retrained. If new equipment or new hazards are introduced, an operator’s training should be extended. Refresher training is required every three years and the requirements focus on the performance evaluation.

PIT inspections must be performed for each piece of lift equipment at the start of every shift. For those facilities utilizing fuel burning lift equipment, such as liquefied petroleum/propane, an evaluation of carbon monoxide levels is required.

 

Machinery and machine guarding, general requirements, (29 CFR 1910.212)

Machine guarding is a complex and involved topic that is unique for every individual piece of equipment. But one thing is certain – no machine should ever be operated with its guard removed. When evaluating your site, start with common equipment such as the following:

  • Grinding wheels
  • Mills
  • Lathes
  • Power Presses
  • Shears
  • Power saws
  • Portable tools such as angle grinders

Often this equipment will come with guards already installed or available and should be utilized according to manufacturer’s specifications. Certain specific equipment, such as woodworking tools and mechanical power presses, have specific OSHA standard requirements. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) also creates machine-specific guidance on items like shears and presses. All equipment must have guarding of moving parts in accessible areas below 7 feet as well as for the point of operation – the location where the work is being done. This work includes activities such as cutting, shaping, boring, grinding or forming areas. Finally, any equipment designed for a fixed location must be anchored (bolted to the floor) to prevent walking or moving.

 

Surviving an OSHA Inspection Unscathed

When looking at the big heavy book of OSHA regulations, the idea of surviving an OSHA inspection unscathed can seem impossible. However, by starting with what is most commonly found, an impossible task doesn’t feel so daunting. By attacking the most common citations first, we can take an important step in providing a safer and more compliant workplace.

If you need additional assistance with attending to OSHA’s common violations, contact U.S. Compliance. We provide safety, health and environmental services to hundreds of facilities in the manufacturing and general industry sector across the country and can help you inspect your facilities as well as develop programs and procedures in the areas reviewed.

Tornadoes – Is your Industrial Operation Prepared?

Photo Credit: NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” In our field, an insufficient plan—or worse, no plan at all—can be destructive or even deadly. This is true for workplace incidents as well as severe weather ones like tornadoes.

If you have properly prepared, you can minimize damages and injury risk to your employees in the event of a tornado. This preparation starts with developing a Tornado/Severe Weather Plan of Action and includes details for building a safe room, gathering necessary supplies and educating employees.

Below are several points to consider as you build your Tornado/Severe Weather Action Plan:

  • Investigate the risk of tornadoes within your local area or region. Although tornadoes can occur anywhere, the level of risk can vary based on your specific location and the time of year.
  • Determine if your area has a community warning system. If it does, clarify when it is used and tested and what it sounds like.
  • Set up emergency alerts so you can be prepared for any pending weather concerns. The National Weather Service automatically sends Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) to your cell phone, but your local weather station and mobile apps may provide additional mechanisms for setting up notifications. You can also find general information on various government alerts at Ready.gov.
  • Establish your facility’s emergency shelter area(s). Mark the area(s) with signs and include their location on your facility’s emergency evacuation maps. The best protection in a tornado is provided by a structure built to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) safe room criteria, or the International Code Council (ICC) 500-2014 storm shelter standards.
  • Ensure that your safe shelter area is outfitted with essential features and provisions, including emergency lighting, flashlights, a supply of extra batteries, fire extinguishers, water, basic first aid supplies, NOAA Radios, radios with continuously charging batteries for receiving commercial radio broadcasts and other considerations that suit your location.
  • Install or establish a facility tornado emergency notification or alarm system. Develop a backup communication system in case the primary one fails and test both systems regularly.
  • Review your facility Emergency Action Plan to ensure it addresses severe weather events. Outline responsibilities within your Emergency Action Plan for verification of all facility areas, notification of employees, seeking shelter and obtaining a headcount.
  • Train your employees to recognize the signs of a tornado, understand the difference between tornado watches and warnings, and to be familiar with specific emergency protocols in the event a tornado is approaching your plant or facility.
  • Practice your emergency procedures with regularly scheduled tornado drills.

What to do during a tornado:

  • Initiatiate the established facility alarm system.
  • Emergency action team members should sweep their designated areas to ensure all employees immediately proceed to the established safe shelter locations.
  • Once in the shelter areas, employees need to stay calm.
  • Employees should cover their head and neck with their arms, kneel down, and face the wall. As feasible, employees should take additional cover by getting under desks, furniture, equipment, blankets or the like.
  • Continue to monitor WEA alerts, your NOAA weather radio or other alerting systems for current emergency information or regional instructions.
  • All employees should remain in the shelter locations until the weather system has passed, the regional weather service has removed the tornado warning designation, and the leader of the Emergency Action Plan has provided additional direction.

What to do after a tornado:

  • Conduct an initial review of employee safety. Use phones or established communication systems to verify the condition of all shelter areas and that employees are safe.
  • If employees are injured, initiate your internal first aid response processes. Don’t move anyone who is seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. In these cases, call 911 and seek medical assistance right away.
  • Once you have addressed any employee injuries it becomes time to evaluate the condition and safety of the facility. Be careful as you leave your tornado shelters since there might be unseen damage waiting for you on the other side of the doors.
  • The Emergency Action Plan Team should carefully review their designated areas to check for things like building damage, equipment concerns, loose power lines, gas leaks, and other structural damage. Team members should proceed with caution through any damaged areas and watch out for hazards, and wear proper personal protective equipment such as eye, hand and foot protection.
  • The Emergency Action Team should return to a centralized meeting point near the tornado shelters to review their findings and discuss next steps.
    • If the facility did not sustain any considerable damage, the leader of the Emergency Action Plan can announce to the employees that they may return to work.
    • If the building was damaged to the point where production is no longer feasible or safe, then employees will need to be informed and exit plans communicated. If observations lead to extreme conditions, such as the smell of gas from broken gas lines or severe flooding, then facility evacuation may be warranted.
  • Document the incident so your team and your facility can improve from the overall experience. The Emergency Action Plan Team should meet to review lessons learned and to make any necessary adjustments to your procedures.

Following these simple steps can make the difference between just an unfortunate severe weather event and one with disastrous consequences. If you need further assistance contact your local officials, utilize Ready.gov resources, or contact U.S. Compliance. U.S. Compliance provides safety, health and environmental services to hundreds of facilities in the manufacturing and general industry sector across the country and can help you develop an effective Emergency Action Plan.

Common Pitfalls of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Report

History

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) is a publicly available database that contains information on toxic chemical releases and other waste management activities reported annually by certain covered industry groups as well as federal facilities. This inventory was established under a federal law called the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA) and was expanded by the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990. It requires facilities in certain industries which manufacture, process, or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on their releases of these chemicals. The reports contain information about the types and amounts of toxic chemicals that are released each year to the air, water, land, and by underground injection, as well as information on the quantities of toxic chemicals sent to other facilities for further waste management.

Facilities with 10 or more full-time employees that process more than 25,000 pounds in aggregate, or use greater than 10,000 pounds of any one TRI chemical, are required to report releases annually. The US EPA maintains this information in the TRI.

Facilities that meet requirements must report toxic chemical release and waste management information to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State by July 1st. The data from the reports is a resource for learning about toxic chemical releases and pollution prevention activities reported by industrial and federal facilities. TRI data supports informed decision-making by communities, government agencies, companies, and others.

Reporting Criteria

Facilities that meet all the criteria below are required to submit an annual TRI report;

  • The facility has 10 or more full-time employee equivalents or a total of 20,000 hours or greater; and
  • The facility has a covered primary North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code (there are some NAICS codes that are exempt to reporting, TRI covered industries are listed on the EPA website); and
  • The facility manufactures or processes more than 25,000 lbs. or otherwise uses more than 10,000 lbs. of any EPCRA 313 chemical in one year or exceeds established lower thresholds for Persistent, Bioaccumulative or Toxic (PBT) chemicals in one year.

To determine if chemicals at your facility are manufactured, processed or otherwise used, the following definitions should help;

  1. Manufacture – to produce a 313 chemical intentionally or coincidentally. Importing a chemical (or ingredient within a chemical) also falls under this category.
  2. Process – any incorporative activity or change of form or physical state (e.g., blending, mixing and repackaging).
  3. Otherwise used – non-incorporative chemical usages such as cleaning agents and solvents.

Designated EPCRA 313 chemicals and chemical categories are subject to the reporting requirements of TRI. There are approximately 650 chemicals and 30 chemical categories that are subject to this regulation.

TRI reporting requires facilities to use GHS compliant safety data sheets (SDSs) or metal certifications to identify individual constituents of chemical mixtures and/or metal alloys. Each chemical is then summed from all sources to determine if reporting thresholds have been met.  Once a reporting threshold is met for a chemical, the facility is then responsible for disclosing how much of the chemical was “released” from the facility, meaning emitted to the air, recycled, landfilled, washed down the drain, sent to stormwater, or was treated offsite.

Pitfall – Solvent Compounds

Often overlooked areas of the TRI report include the use of cleaning chemicals, degreasers, clean in place (CIP) units and accounting for volatile organic chemicals present in common solvent-based paints that are emitted to the air and are not part of the final product entering commerce. These are some of the processes that constitute the “otherwise use” category and have a more stringent threshold of 10,000 lbs.

Pitfall – Water Treatment Byproducts

Another overlooked area lies within the water treatment process. Specifically, pH balancing of industrial wastewater. When acids are used, particularly nitric acid, there are compounds created during the process of pH balancing that must be accounted for. This category of chemicals is referred to as nitrate compounds. Therefore, a facility could report nitric acid usage but could also have to report the amount of nitrate compounds created during the pH neutralization process.

Pitfall – Metal Fabrication

The metal fabrication industry has a particularly difficult responsibility due to the many different processes that metal alloys (and all the reportable compounds within the alloys) can undergo in the production of a consumer product. Although alloys are not reportable, many of the compounds within them are (including Copper, Manganese, Zinc, Chromium, Molybdenum).  Facilities must account for welding rod use, time spent grinding on rough edges not to mention the weight of metal going through each individual process. Accounting for all releases of metal elements including how much material is sent to landfill or was recycled takes careful consideration and time to retrieve the proper data.

Pitfall – Glycol Ethers

Other opportunities in determining applicability under the TRI report, arises in the general understanding of the glycol ether family of chemicals. There have been many instances where glycol ethers and ethylene glycol are reported as the same compound, which they are not. The TRI outlines very specific glycol ethers that are reportable and has a general ‘compound’ category for materials that are not specifically called out. In these situations, the use of CAS numbers and the understanding of the general chemical categories is paramount to reporting properly and accurately.

Summary

Once the facility’s chemical information has been assessed, all usage and release data is entered into the EPA’s Central Data Exchange allowing the information to be shared, not only with Federal and State regulatory agencies, but also with the general public. For this reason, it is critical that companies carefully evaluate the assessment process and data retrieval for reportable compounds.

Failure to maintain current inventories, accurately monitor waste streams or understand processes and chemicals can lead to inaccurate reporting, leaving the facility vulnerable to regulatory enforcement. Administrative penalties range from $10,000 to $75,000 per violation, or per day per violation if facilities fail to comply with the reporting requirements.

The process can be lengthy and ample time should be taken to prepare, assess, and complete the necessary reports.

Our EPCRA department supports TRI reports for several industries, we recognize that many variations of processes exist and are available as a resource to our client base to answer questions and complete the filings.

Impacts of the EPA’s new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) on the SPCC rule

The Requirement for an SPCC

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires certain types of facilities to prepare and implement Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans to prevent oil from reaching navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines. Without consideration for mechanical intervention, facilities with no potential impact to navigable waters are not required to implement a plan. For this reason, the definition of ‘navigable waters’ can be a very contested topic.

EPA Definition of WOTUS  

On December 11, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Army signed a proposed rule revising the definition of “waters of the United States” to clarify the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act. Public comment on the rule closes on April 19, 2019, and will include public comments from the open forum held in Kansas City, KS February 27 and 28th. Anyone wishing to provide a copy can submit it through the following link:  https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0149-0003.

“Our proposal would replace the Obama EPA’s 2015 definition with one that respects the limits of the Clean Water Act and provides states and landowners the certainty they need to manage their natural resources and grow local economies,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

The new definition of “navigable waters” is less stringent than the 2015 definition, but still encompasses a similar body of U.S. waters.  Most significantly, the new definition specifies those items that are ‘not waters of the U.S.” such as features that only contain water during or in response to rainfall. Specifically, the EPA has outlined 11 exclusions:

  1. Groundwater, including groundwater drained through subsurface drainage systems
  2. Ephemeral surface features
  3. Diffuse stormwater run-off (such as directional sheet flow over upland)
  4. All ditches except those identified above
  5. Prior converted cropland, which has been excluded since 1993 and will remain excluded
  6. Artificially irrigated areas
  7. Artificial lakes and ponds constructed in upland not otherwise covered as jurisdictional (e.g., water storage reservoirs, farm, and stock watering ponds, settling basins, and clearing ponds)
  8. Pits excavated in upland for the purpose of obtaining fill, sand, or gravel.
  9. Water-filled depressions created in upland incidental to mining or construction activity
  10. Stormwater control features excavated or constructed in upland to convey, treat, infiltrate, or store stormwater run-off
  11. Waste treatment systems, which have been excluded since 1979 and will remain excluded

The biggest change impacting manufacturing and distribution is the clarification of the definition of tributaries and ditches.

Tributaries

The proposed rule defines tributary as “a river, stream or similar naturally occurring surface water that contributes perennial or intermittent flow to a traditional navigable body of water or territorial sea in a typical year either directly or indirectly through other jurisdictional waters (incl. tributaries, impoundments, and adjacent wetlands)”. As proposed, tributaries do not include surface features that flow only in direct response to precipitation, including ephemeral features such as: groundwater; many ditches, including most roadside or farm ditches; prior converted cropland; stormwater control features; and waste treatment systems

Ditches

To clear up significant ambiguity and provide “clarity and predictability,” the EPA is adding language to define a ditch that falls under the rule: “an artificial channel used to convey water” and:

  1. Satisfies the conditions identified in paragraph (a)(1) of the proposal;
  2. Is constructed in a tributary as defined in paragraph (c)(11); or
  3. Is constructed in an adjacent wetland as defined in paragraph (c)(1).

 

Impact on Existing SPCC Plans

The new WOTUS definition will certainly impact facilities across the U.S. with the revised definitions, requiring facilities to develop plans where they may have argued against it in the past.  For most locations with existing plans, there is likely to be minimal impact on existing activities. Facilities with existing SPCC plans will need to continue to complete inspections and maintain active plans.

 

Questions about SPCC Plans and how U.S. Compliance can help your company navigate the EPA’s newly proposed rules? Contact me.

Beware the Hidden Exposures to Carbon Monoxide

In colder weather, the dangers of Carbon monoxide exposure increase as windows and overhead doors remain closed and air circulation becomes stagnant.  Although we are entering the warmer months, we are seeing an increase in OSHA inspections and additional attention being put towards Carbon monoxide. 

Regular and proper maintenance of CO generating equipment goes a long way in greatly reducing CO related injuries and illnesses.  Examples of CO generating equipment include:  propane/fuel operated powered industrial lift trucks, furnaces, gas fired oven, trucks, vehicles, mobile generators and other gas fired equipment.  If your facility has this type of equipment and it is operated indoors then you should be monitoring your CO levels and making sure you work environment maintains safe air quality.

 

Carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, and tasteless toxic gas, can cause illness and even death to those exposed to its fumes.  Carbon monoxide (CO) is created by the incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials such as natural gas, coal, wood, and petroleum. Exposure to CO prevents blood from carrying oxygen to organs, causing both minor health risks (headaches, nausea, rapid breathing, dizziness) and major health concerns (coronary artery damage, neurological complications, brain dysfunction, death). Low levels of CO exposure over long periods of time as well as high levels of exposure over short periods of time can lead to negative health effects.

Occupational Dangers of CO Exposure

Those working in occupations with higher carbon monoxide exposure risks are more likely to experience CO poisoning. Occupations in which employees are regularly exposed to exhaust pipes, gasoline, charcoal, or high levels of auto traffic are among those most at risk to high carbon monoxide exposure. Sources of CO can include generators, space heaters, compressors, power washers, and welding equipment. Employees at warehouses and steel production plants, as well as those working as welders, forklift operators, mechanics, and diesel engine operators are also at risk of high exposure levels. Employees working at higher risk worksites or with high CO risk equipment should follow deliberate safety protocols in order to reduce the harmful effects of carbon monoxide.

Individuals who smoke cigarettes intake higher levels of carbon monoxide than is deemed safe by OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The combination of carbon monoxide exposure at home or through cigarette smoking combined with workplace exposures can lead to a diminished quality of life and a higher risk of chronic CO poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide Exposure Prevention

Identification of carbon monoxide poisoning can prove challenging, as its symptoms mimic those related to various conditions. Symptoms may be overlooked or seem to disappear when, in fact, medical attention is necessary. It is important to be aware of worksite exposures and to take proper safety precautions in order to avoid greater levels of risk to CO. Measuring carbon monoxide levels regularly is necessary in workplace environments with greater risks of this harmful gas.

OSHA outlines multiple recommendations to employers for the reduction and prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning at worksites. Review OSHA’s comprehensive guide for best practices to carbon monoxide prevention for a more detailed account on reducing CO exposures.

  • Install an effective ventilation system.
  • Maintain the good working order of CO-producing equipment and appliances.
  • Prohibit the use of gasoline-powered engines or tools in poorly ventilated areas.
  • Provide personal carbon monoxide monitors with audible alarms if potential exposure to CO exists.
  • Test air regularly in areas where carbon monoxide may be present.
  • Test for oxygen sufficiency before entering areas with suspected CO exposure.
  • Educate workers about the sources and conditions that may result in CO poisoning, as well as the symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure.

If you suspect that someone has carbon monoxide poisoning, move them to an open area with fresh airflow before calling for emergency medical assistance. Administer oxygen if they are breathing, or CPR if they have stopped breathing. For more information regarding carbon monoxide prevention review the CDC Prevention Guidelines or Standard Occupational Exposure Criteria.

Questions about you or your employee’s risk for CO exposure? U.S. Compliance EHS professionals can help. Contact me at rgaines@uscompliance.com to learn more.

Batteries and Tier II Applicability

As we begin 2019, we enter another busy reporting year. With that being said, how familiar are you with the March 1st ECPRA Tier II reporting requirements? Whether you are a small distribution center or the largest manufacturing facility in the United States, chances are you may be failing to accurately assess your facility’s Tier II applicability. In brief, Tier II is a hazardous substance storage reporting that notifies both state and local authorities of potentially hazardous materials that facilities are storing onsite over threshold.

The three questions below may help you catch a common reporting mistake. If you answer “yes” to the questions, it is highly likely that your facility needs to report the extremely hazardous substance (EHS), sulfuric acid, for Tier II reporting.

  1. Are forklifts, pallet jacks or lift trucks operated at your facility?
  2. Are any of the above listed industrial equipment battery powered?
  3. Is more than one industrial sized battery present onsite at any one time?

The EPA has established lower reporting thresholds for EHSs, such as sulfuric acid. Therefore, simply having three lead-acid batteries onsite could cause the facility to exceed the 500 lb. reporting threshold.

Be aware: For those of you located in New York City, California, Oregon, Denver or Las Vegas, your facility will most likely need to report sulfuric acid storage even if you only store one lead-acid battery onsite!

 

U.S. Compliance: The Best Kept Secret!

At U.S. Compliance we hold three values close to the heart of our business. When we created “Compliance as a Service” (CaaS) it was a revolutionary model to offer OSHA and EPA compliance consulting services perfectly designed for growing industrial companies. We created the revolutionary CaaS model because it’s good for our clients, thanks to the elite team members who deliver it. U.S. Compliance is the inventor of CaaS and the only firm built to deliver it.

 

U.S. Compliance Values

Caring for our clients and our employees.

Protecting an environment that provides both physical and financial well-being.

Fueling growth for our customers, team members and company.

By offering comprehensive, customized EHS compliance services, we not only help you attain but sustain EHS compliance. We help you care for your people, protect your environment and grow your company. Thank you for naming us the best kept secret. We look forward to helping you care, protect and grow alongside U.S. Compliance.