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

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

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!

 

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U.S. Compliance Values

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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.

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OSHA Electronic Recordkeeping Due March 2

Saturday, March 2nd is the deadline to electronically report your OSHA Form 300A data for injuries and illnesses reported in the 2018 calendar year. Specified establishments are required to submit this electronic information.

Establishments, not the firm as a whole, with 250 or more employees are no longer required to electronically submit their OSHA Form 300A. Only a small number of establishments are required to electronically submit their Form 300A data electronically to OSHA. If your establishment meets any of the following criteria an electronic submission is NOT required.

  • Peak employment in 2018 was 19 or fewer
  • Establishment’s industry is on this list
  • Peak employment between 20 and 249 employees in 2018 AND establishment’s industry is NOT on this list

All establishments, regardless of size or industry, must post their OSHA Form 300A on site at each workplace (from February 1 through April 30). OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301 records must be kept for five years and readily produced for OSHA inspections. You can read the OSHA ruling on electronic submission requirements in its entirety through the Federal Register.

If you are required to submit the OSHA Form 300A, submissions can be made through the Injury Tracking Application. If you need further clarification on whether or not your establishment must electronically submit the OSHA Form 300A review the OSHA FAQs on Reporting or call U.S. Compliance for more information.

OSHA’s Most Frequently Cited Violations

The 10 most frequently cited standards across the country have been published by OSHA. Preventable injuries lead these violations from the 2018 fiscal year.

OSHA’s regular worksite inspections throughout the 2018 fiscal year (October 1, 2017-September 30, 2018) yielded the ten standards most often cited.

  1. Duty to Have Fall Protection (Standard 1926.501)

The OSHA standard for fall protection requires employers to protect employees from sides and edges, steep roofs, excavations, etc. that pose the risk of falling. Lack of proper fall protection is the most common violation of worksites across the country.

  1. Hazard Communication (Standard 1910.1200)

Disseminating information to employees regarding classified hazardous substances is an OSHA requirement. This includes posting on-site chemical exposure risks, creating proper container labels, and sharing safety data sheets.

  1. General Requirements (Standard 1926.451)

This standard speaks specifically to scaffolds and the supports that assist in maintaining the safety of workers. Requirements for platforms, tiebacks, outriggers, ladders, etc. are outlined in this standards.

  1. Respiratory Protection (Standard 1910.134)

Utilizing proper engineering control measures to prevent atmospheric contamination is the first step to minimizing employee exposures to contaminated materials in the air. Respirators are a protective requirement for workplaces with airborne contaminants.

  1. The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) (Standard 1910.147)

Controlling energy in machines and equipment that is potentially harmful during servicing and maintenance is the focus of this standard.

  1. Ladders (Standard 1926.1053)

This OSHA standard pertains to the load a ladder must be capable of safely supporting. Requirements for each ladder type are outlined and include beam specifications and rung distances.

  1. Powered Industrial Trucks (Standard 1910.178)

The design, maintenance, fire protection and use of specified trucks is outlined in this OSHA standard, requiring proper labeling and on-truck markings.

  1. Training Requirements (Standard 1926.503)

Training programs for employees who may encounter fall hazards are required. A competent, qualified person must train employees to recognize hazards of falling and employers must certify the occurrence of this training in writing.

  1. General Requirements For All Machines (Standard 1910.212)

Focusing on types of machine guarding, this standard outlines the requirements necessary to protect machine operators and employees from sparks, rotating parts, etc.

  1. Eye and Face Protection (Standard 1926.102)

Appropriate eye and face protection, with side protectors, is required for employees who may be exposed to hazards such as flying particles, acids, or chemical vapors. Eye and face PPE must fit adequately and remain fully functional throughout their use.

 

Call U.S. Compliance with any questions regarding your company’s compliance with these, or other, OSHA standards.

How Not to Wreck Your Back at Work

Common Causes of Back Pain

Back pain is often identified as an unavoidable ailment, most especially for those working physically demanding jobs. Back pain is commonly caused by:

  • Poor lifting techniques
  • Bad posture-seated or standing
  • Physical overexertion by force
  • Extensive amounts of inactivity

Preventing Back Pain at Work

Avoiding the most common causes of back pain will help you remain pain free at work. Preventative practices include simple changes and awareness of your body’s physical capabilities. Follow the guidelines below to reduce your risk of back related injuries and promote healthier choices in your workplace.

Proper Lifting Techniques

Lift with your legs as you tighten your core abdominal muscles. This method allows you to use the strength of larger muscles instead of the ligaments and smaller muscles in your back. Keep heavy objects close to your body. If an object proves too heavy to lift on your own, ask for help or use equipment designed to properly lift heavy items. Limit the time you spend carrying heavy items by taking short breaks.

Upright Posture

Good posture, whether standing or sitting, improves overall back health and maintains spinal alignment. When standing, balance your weight evenly on both feet. Keep your shoulders raised and level; slouching can add pressure and tightness to your back. When sitting, choose a chair that allows you to rest your feet flat on the floor and comfortably supports the curves of your spine.

Modified Exertion

Small tasks, when repeated throughout the day, can cause strain on your body. Slow build up in the body of these repeated movements can lead to chronic back pain if not addressed properly. Alternate physically demanding tasks with less demanding actions, giving your body recovery breaks.

Activate Your Body

Inactivity over long periods of time can lead to tight muscles and achy limbs. Activating your body gives your muscles an opportunity to engage, recover properly, and renew strength. Take a walking break if you work at a desk for long stretches of time. When seated, march your legs in place or move your arms in circles to keep blood circulation flowing.

 

Taking part in periodic exercise helps improve overall health and wellness, which helps prevent back pain or injury. Walking, swimming, or aerobic exercises strengthen your back muscles and abdominal core. Improving balance with exercises such as yoga or tai chi decreases your risk of falling and injuring your back.

OSHA Safety Guidelines

The OSHA Technical Manual associates back injury with common workplace activities. Employers should observe employee postures and lifting mechanics. Suggestions for evaluating behaviors that can lead to back injuries are outlined and include surveying employees for safety understandings related to workplace incidents of back pain. In the event of a back injury, employers must record the injury on the OSHA Form 300 log and make any necessary safety adjustments to prevent future incidents.

How to Prevent Cold Stress This Winter

Working in cold temperatures increases the risk of cold stress injuries and illnesses. Prepare for cold stress with proper cold weather safety.

What is Cold Stress?

Cold stress is a condition caused by a significant decrease in your body temperature resulting in the inability to naturally warm up. Higher risks of illness and injury are associated with cold stress. Exposure to cold temperatures (winter weather, freezers, cold storages, cold warehouses) increases the likelihood of cold stress injuries. Wind chill, dampness, cold water and snow all draw heat away from the body and lower your body’s ability to maintain its core temperature, increasing your risk of cold stress related illness.

Types of Cold Stress

According to OSHA, the most common types of cold stress dangers include hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot. Each cold stress hazard has unique warning signs, yet all can be prevented with proper cold weather safety procedures.

 

Hypothermia means your body can no longer sustain internal warmth. Symptoms may include shivering, slurred words, and confusion. Provide warmth immediately to prevent severe damage.

 

Frostbite is the freezing of parts of the body, most commonly fingers and toes. Numbness, tingling, and aching are symptoms of frostbite. Provide warmth quickly, but avoid massaging or walking.

 

Trench Foot is a non-freezing syndrome caused by prolonged exposure to cold and wet conditions. Tingling, swelling, numbness and blisters are the most common symptoms. Remove wet layers and provide warm, dry conditions as quickly as possible.

Cold Stress Prevention

Preventing cold stress requires adjustments in the working environment, proper cold weather gear, and warming breaks. Follow these winter preparedness tips for increased safety in cold workplace environments.

 

  • Wear loose layers and moisture wicking clothing close to the skin to prevent moisture buildup.
  • Hats and head coverings should be worn to prevent body heat from escaping.
  • Wear loose, insulated, waterproof, and wind resistant outer layers to keep heat close to the body while allowing blood to circulate freely.
  • Drink non-caffeinated liquids to reduce the risk of dehydration.

OSHA Standards on Cold Stress

The General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act of 1970, requires employers to furnish working environments ‘free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm’. Although OSHA does not specify regulations for cold stress, this clause mandates that employers understand cold stress injuries and illnesses and prevent these cold temperature dangers. Cold stress related injuries or illnesses must be documented and reported on the OSHA Form 300 log.

 

Be sure your workplace environment and employees are prepared for working in cold temperatures. Assess cold weather clothing prior to beginning tasks in cold temperatures. Regulate consistent breaks in warm temperatures throughout the work day. Encourage proper hydration. Preventing cold weather injuries in your workplace supports a strong  and safe community.