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

DOT Hazardous Materials – Understanding the Core Requirements

The transportation of hazardous materials (HazMat) within the United States is governed by the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, with its purpose being to “protect against the risks to life, property, and the environment that are inherent in the transportation of hazardous material.” The regulations, which were created under the passage of this act, can be found in Title 49 of the US Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). These standards set forth the requirements for material classification and labeling, provide for packaging specifications, and afford operational rules that must be followed to ensure the safe transportation of hazardous materials.

A hazardous material is defined by the Department of Transportation (DOT) as “a substance or material that the Secretary of Transportation has determined is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce, and has been so designated.” This includes hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, marine pollutants, and elevated temperature materials. Common examples of DOT hazardous material include:

  • Explosives
  • Flammables
  • Compressed gases
  • Reactive materials
  • Oxidizers
  • Organic peroxides
  • Poisonous materials
  • Radioactive substances
  • Corrosives

There are many requirements that must be followed to ensure that hazardous materials are transported safely. The hazardous material must first be identified and described using a Proper Shipping Name (PSN) found in the HazMat Table (49 CFR 172.101). Proper Shipping Names are determined based on the physical state, properties, and intended uses of the material. This may be a specific-use name such as copper-based pesticide, liquid, or toxic, a chemical name such as Xylene, or it may be a more general hazard class description such as corrosive liquid, acidic, organic, or n.o.s. (not otherwise specified). Note that general hazard class descriptions will typically require additional information to be included alongside the Proper Shipping Name, like the technical names of the hazardous ingredients. Hazardous wastes will also require the word “waste” preceding the Proper Shipping Name. Once a Proper Shipping Name has been determined, the information contained for the row entry of the HazMat Table will be the guide for providing the information needed to send the HazMat on its way in a safe and compliant manner. This information includes the hazard class or division, the HazMat identification number, the packing group, label codes, special provisions, exceptions, acceptable packaging, quantity limitations, and vessel stowage information.

Following the designation of the Proper Shipping Name, the next step is to select the packaging that will be used to transport the HazMat. The hazardous materials packaging must be compatible, appropriate, and authorized for such use. Most shipments of HazMat necessitate the use of packaging that conforms to United Nations (UN) Performance Oriented Packaging (POP) requirements, indicated by a marking applied to the exterior of the package by the package manufacturer. Packaging for HazMat is subdivided into three groups:

  • Bulk packaging for large volume shipments in containers greater than 119 gallons
  • Non-bulk packaging for smaller shipments less than 119 gallons
  • Exception packaging for categorically defined small volume Limited Quantity shipments

Depending on the type of hazardous material to be shipped, these containers may be drums, pails, jerricans, boxes, bags, composite packaging, or a pressure receptacle.

Once a package has been selected, the required markings and labels will need to be applied to the exterior of the package. Markings typically found on a HazMat package include the United Nations identification number, the Proper Shipping Name, and the information communicating a responsible party. Specific hazards may also require the application of additional markings to communicate that a material is either a marine pollutant, is being shipped in a Limited Quantity, possesses an inhalation hazard, or is designated as an overpack. A label is the 3.9” square-on-point, which communicates the primary and subsidiary hazard associated with a HazMat. These labels contain the numeric hazard class or division at the bottom, are color-coded, and include a hazard class-specific symbol. When multiple labels are required, they must be applied immediately adjacent to one another to ensure effective communication.

Following the marking and labeling of the package, the shipment will need to be documented on a shipping paper. Shipping papers come in many forms but are most commonly encountered as a bill of lading or a hazardous waste manifest. Key elements of a shipping paper – which are required regardless of the type of shipping paper –  include the basic description (ID#, Proper Shipping Name, Hazard Class, and Packing Group), emergency response information, and a signed shipper certification. Other required elements that must be communicated on shipping papers include the total quantity of the material being shipped, the packaging type, and the number of packages offered for shipment.

When loading the HazMat onto the transport vehicle, it is important to consider the compatibility of the HazMat with the other hazardous materials on the vehicle. There are many incompatibilities that will prohibit transport or require the segregation of different types of hazardous materials being shipped together. To determine materials compatibility, you will need to reference the Load Segregation Table to determine how the HazMat must be stored, loaded, and transported; this is found in 49 CFR 177.848.

Before allowing the HazMat shipment vehicle to depart, the final step is to verify the application of placards, when required. Placards are larger versions of labels that are placed on the exterior of the transport vehicle. These placards will contain either the identification number or text indicating the hazards of the HazMat loaded onto the vehicle. The shipper of a HazMat is required to have placards available for the types of placardable quantity hazardous material shipments they may send out and to provide them upon request when shipping a placardable quantity of HazMat. The tables that delineate when placarding is required are found in 49 CFR 177.504.

Finally, the performance of any of these tasks classifies an employee as a DOT HazMat employee, which requires triennial training on DOT HazMat regulations. The DOT defines a HazMat employee as any person who is employed on a full-time, part-time, or temporary basis who, in the course of such employment, directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety. Specifically included are those employees who

  • Load, unload, or handle hazardous materials
  • Design, manufacture, fabricate, inspect, mark, maintain, or recondition HazMat packaging
  • Prepare hazardous materials for transportation
  • Are responsible for the safety of transporting hazardous materials
  • Operate a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials

U.S. Compliance can help if you discover opportunity areas when it comes to your DOT HazMat training obligations. Whether it be through onsite training or via our frequently held webinar trainings, we offer a variety of solutions to train your staff on DOT HazMat regulations to help keep you up to date and in compliance.

Parametric Monitoring: What It Is and How to Manage Abnormal Readings

The Clean Air Act (CAA) was established to protect public health and the environment from hazardous and harmful emission releases into the atmosphere. As part of the CAA, stationary source emissions monitoring was implemented; this provides data and information from a source to demonstrate compliance with certain regulatory requirements in federal or state rules, or in an operating permit.

Parametric Monitoring Systems

Parametric monitoring systems use observations of an operational parameter of an emission unit, emission process, or air pollution control device to indicate whether a condition of excess emissions that could violate an established emissions limit is occurring from a unit or process malfunction. Common examples of parametric monitoring systems include:

  • Fabric Filters/Baghouses/Dust Collectors: measurements of pressure drop across a filter using a manometer or Magnehelic gauge
  • Thermal Oxidizers/Flares: temperature readings using a thermocouple within a thermal oxidizer
  • Packed Bed Scrubbers: liquid flow rate through the column
  • Carbon Systems: volatile organic compound concentration readings
  • Particulate Matter (Dust) Emitted Processes or Exhaust Stacks: visible emission readings or opacity testing using EPA Test Method 9

How Data is Used

Parametric monitoring is used to demonstrate compliance with an operational limit or range established by an air permit or applicable air compliance regulations and is performed at a frequency established by those sources. Records of the required indicator are used to document that operations occurred within the permitted or regulatory range or limit. Records are also used to indicate what corrective actions a facility took when an out-of-range or under/over limit (“abnormal”) observation occurs. These records are required to be kept for the time frame indicated by the permit or regulation and are often used for permit or regulatory reporting.

Deviations and Exceedances

When a parametric monitoring system indicates an abnormal observation, this may not be considered a deviation from permit or regulatory requirements if efforts to correct the condition are well-documented. On a case-by-case basis, whether an abnormal observation is considered a deviation is dictated by the facility’s permit or the air compliance regulations that the facility is subject to. In general, there are some common steps that should be taken immediately when an abnormal observation is recorded:

  • If safe and if necessary, shut down the emissions unit or process to avoid an excess emissions condition;
  • Document the date, time, duration, and suspected cause of the abnormal observation, the cause of the issue, and any corrective action(s) taken to fix the issue;
  • Review the permit or regulations to determine what reporting may be required.

Documenting the abnormal observation is essential for compliance as recording an abnormal observation without also recording troubleshooting and corrective actions is almost always considered a deviation from permit or regulatory requirements. Records of abnormal observations are commonly required to be reported on compliance reports to the regulatory agency. When these reports must be submitted and what format is required will be detailed in the facility’s permit or the subject air compliance regulations.

Potential for Enforcement

In cases where minor excursions occur, such as pressure drop readings across a baghouse outside of a permitted range or an oxidizer temperature dropping slightly below an established minimum, the regulatory agency may not pursue any enforcement as long as the facility can demonstrate that corrective actions were taken and that the abnormal condition no longer exists. In cases where major excursions have occurred, such as abnormal observations for an extended period of time, excess emissions exceeding regulatory standards, or repeated mismanagement of monitoring requirements, enforcement action by the regulatory agency may be taken, which could include a monetary penalty.

In Summary

Parametric monitoring is using a tool or equipment (even your eyes in some cases) to indicate a facility’s compliance with permit limits and/or air compliance regulations. Parametric monitoring can be used to keep emission units, processes, and control equipment functioning properly, and the records from parametric monitoring are used to demonstrate compliance. Abnormal observations may indicate a system problem that could, in turn, lead to an excess emissions condition. When an abnormal observation occurs, immediate efforts should be documented to troubleshoot and fix the issue, and reporting, as required by a facility’s air permit or regulation, must be completed.

Environmental Reporting and Covid-19

The upcoming environmental reporting season includes major obligations for most programs. With business as usual disrupted for the past couple of months, it is important to prepare the necessary information in order to submit accurate reports despite furloughs and temporary closures. With the expiration of the EPA’s COVID Temporary Enforcement Policy on August 31, 2020, it is important to understand how regulatory agencies are exercising their enforcement.

Are regulatory deadlines in effect?

Yes. There has been consistent communication that all deadlines and requirements remain the same throughout this period for both essential and non-essential businesses. Permit renewals and reporting deadlines have proceeded uninterrupted over the past six months, and the same should be expected moving forward. Unless there has been specific communication from a local regulatory authority on individual permits, presume that all deadlines are in place.

What if I have a gap in data?

With furloughs, temporary shutdowns, and skeleton crews common during the pandemic, it is likely something was overlooked in the past six months. Under the EPA’s reduced enforcement memo, a gap in data could be considered exempt from enforcement action under certain circumstances. It is expected that facilities submit reports as usual, along with clarification around data gaps to help the case for enforcement exclusion. The EPA has provided guidance for this specific scenario, which requires that facilities:

  • A. Act responsibly under the circumstances in order to minimize the effects and duration of any noncompliance caused by COVID-19 public health emergency;
  • B. Identify the specific nature and dates of the noncompliance;
  • C. Identify how COVID-19 public health emergency was the cause of the noncompliance, and the decisions and actions taken in response, including best efforts to comply and steps taken to come into compliance at the earliest opportunity;
  • D. Return to compliance as soon as possible; and
  • E. Document the information, action, or condition specified in a. through d.
  • Source:

By submitting a partial report, facilities are demonstrating a commitment to remain compliant moving forward. Clear and consistent documentation around data gaps and missed requirements are essential for building your case for reduced enforcement action.

What are State and local organizations doing?

For many organizations, environmental regulations happen at the state and local levels. In some cases, the state and local organizations have policies that differ from the EPA policy. Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on around the country.

California Air Resource Board (CARB)

CARB regulations are in effect and deadlines apply.

California: Riverside County 

Riverside County Environmental Health defined Underground Storage Tank (UST) work activities as critical infrastructure, allowing UST service technicians and contractors to continue to work.

Minnesota MPCA

“All regulated entities remain obligated to take all available actions necessary to ensure compliance with environmental laws, regulations and permit requirements.”

Missouri DNR

“The department encourages all regulated entities to […] pursue all available actions necessary to ensure compliance with environmental regulations and permit requirements.”

South Carolina DHEC

“Regulated entities should remain diligent in taking safe best efforts to maintain compliance. However, in the event that non-compliance is unavoidable directly due to impact from COVID-19 and/or related legal restrictions (federal/state/local declarations or orders), we are prepared to address such issues.”

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)

“Due to COVID-19 and reduced staff in the TCEQ workplace, TCEQ may exercise administrative relief and enforcement discretion for various reporting requirements by regulated entities.”

US Compliance is tracking these changes to ensure the most up to date information is available. As the reporting season approaches, it is important to obtain and organize this information for timely and accurate reports.

Ergonomics: Keys to Injury Reduction

Whether we spend our day sitting in an office chair or working on a production floor, we are all affected by ergonomic factors. Poor management of ergonomic risk factors may lead to Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) such as repetitive stress injuries, lower back injuries, vibration syndromes, subluxation, and neck and shoulder injuries. In order to protect ourselves and our employees, we need to understand what ergonomic risks we are exposed to, and more importantly, how to control these risks to prevent injuries. WMSDs result from the exposure to ergonomic risk factors, which include but are not limited to:

  • Highly repetitive work/activities (repetition)
  • Exertion of extreme forces or vibration (force)
  • Performing stressful activities for a long period of time (duration)
  • Assuming postures that are unnatural for the body (awkward postures)
  • Working in adverse environmental conditions such as high or low temperatures, antagonistic lighting conditions (glare/reflection, etc.), loud noises, etc. (environment)

Let’s briefly review each of these ergonomic risk factors to aid in understanding what risks you or your employees may be exposed to.


Highly repetitive work activities stress ligaments and joints that can lead to sprains and strains. Examples of repetitive motion injuries may include:

  • Tendinitis – Inflammation of the muscle tendons
  • Tenosynovitis – Inflammation of the tendon and sheath covering the muscle
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Compression of the median nerve in the wrist

Highly repetitive work is often complicated by adding stressors from awkward positions, long durations, and forceful exertions.


Using the body to exert high or extreme forces are often encountered with material handling, grasping, and lifting tasks. High forces are considered hazardous when the capabilities of the involved body parts are not able to easily adapt to the forces exerted (which are often exaggerated by repetitive motion and awkward positions). For example, overexerting oneself while lifting a heavy object is common. Other hazardous exertions may include high speed or jerky movements, such as swinging or throwing objects, pushing or pulling materials, or compressive loads from holding or carrying heavy objects.

Long Duration

Long activity duration may create tension and/or compression of tissues, compromising their integrity and ability to adapt to the stressors placed upon them. Examples may include but are not limited to:

  • Standing in the same location
  • Static postures or not moving for long periods of time
  • Looking down for extended periods
  • Minimal or non-rotation of positions
  • Extended computer or desk work

Awkward Postures

Assuming postures that are outside of normal, often symmetric positions for the body inefficiently transfers forces throughout the body, compromising both hard and soft tissues in the body. This hazard complicates or worsens all of the other Ergonomic Hazards. Examples of awkward posture hazards may include:

  • Slouching in a chair or while standing
  • Looking down at a handheld device
  • Forward translation of the head while working at a computer
  • Flexion of the wrist to reach into a jar
  • Bending at the waist to pick up a container
  • Lifting or moving an object that is either above the shoulders or below the waist


Workplace environmental conditions may amplify or complicate other ergonomic hazards. Examples of environmental workplace conditions may include:

  • High Heat
  • Freezer/Cooler Work
  • Loud Noise
  • Low lighting
  • Glare or Reflection
  • Shift Work

Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders

Workplace tasks are unique and often require a customized assessment to identify the hazards in a workstation and understand the risks related to those hazards. The goal of any ergonomic control is to decrease the hazards that workers encounter in their tasks and to build-in adaptability to the work station. Making work stations suitable for a variety of workers with different body sizes and types allows workers to work effectively and efficiently, ultimately fitting the workplace to the worker.

Facility Assessments are the first step of an Ergonomics Program, targeted at objectively assessing all key positions in the facility. This aids in increasing knowledge and targeting where controls are needed most. Advance assessments will incorporate a Risk Assessment, which objectively scores the positions in regards to risk and severity to aid with ranking and prioritizing, determining expected risk reduction for various controls, and for comparison after controls are implemented.

Engineering Controls, including the use of adjustable workstations (height adjustability, tilting of work tables, etc.), the provision of material handling equipment to minimize lifting hazards, the use of ergonomically designed hand and power tools, and the automation of processes to aid in reducing or eliminating risk factors (noting that this may be cost prohibitive but also leads to efficiency and decreased worker counts).

Administrative Controls may include promoting correct body positioning and posture through training and observation/monitoring, implementing stretching programs, encouraging early reporting of signs and symptoms to proactively address issues before they become a significant injury, and providing onsite care of pre-injury conditions by qualified practitioners. Task rotation is often an underutilized administrative control that must be managed to increase variation in tasks and reduce the long duration and repetitive use of the same muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Training is the key to ensuring employees know and understand the risk factors they are exposed to in their work area. Understanding that not all hazards can be eliminated, employees that understand key ergonomic risk factors will subconsciously protect themselves and consciously seek to find improved solutions to eliminate or reduce the exposures. Training also assists in the identification of early signs and symptoms, assisting in early intervention and preventing the injury from manifesting into a severe injury.

Benefits of Proper Ergonomics

Injury risk reduction is an obvious benefit of improved ergonomics along with various direct and indirect company fiscal benefits that occur when fewer employees are injured in the workplace. In addition to the regulatory and moral obligation of taking care of employees, when proper ergonomic controls are in place, increased work efficiency (faster production), improved quality (better products with fewer errors), improved employee morale, general wellness, reduced psychological stress, and higher employee retention are natural byproducts.

Following these recommendations may minimize and prevent WMSDs in your workplace. For more information on ergonomics in the workplace, visit OSHA’s website at, or contact US Compliance. US Compliance provides safety, health, and environmental services to hundreds of facilities in the manufacturing and general industry sector across the United States and North America and can assist you in developing and customizing an effective Ergonomics Program.

Am I Required to Prepare and Implement a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan?

The purpose of an SPCC Plan is to establish a comprehensive program that mitigates oil spills from reaching navigable waters and describes the necessary equipment, engineered controls, and procedures in place to prevent oil spills from occurring. The SPCC Rule is controlled under The Oil Pollution Prevention Regulation, which is outlined in Title 40, Part 112 of the Code of Federal Regulations. For a facility to be applicable under the SPCC Rule, they must:

  • Be non-transportation-related;
  • Have aggregate bulk oil storage equal to or greater than 55 gallons with a total accumulation of more than 1,320 gallons, or have a completely buried oil storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons; and
  • Reasonably be expected to discharge oil to navigable waters or adjoining shorelines in potentially harmful quantities.

Non-Transportation-Related – EPA/DOT Jurisdiction

If a facility is regulated under 40 CFR part 112, there are three groups that facilities will fall under: transportation-related facilities, non-transportation-related facilities, and complexes. The difference between the three groups is established through Executive Orders (EOs) and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs).

To know if the facility is exempt from the SPCC rule under the 1971 MOU, Appendix A of 40 CFR part 112 Section 112.1(d)(1)(iii) lists out facilities that are classified as transportation-related onshore and offshore facilities. All exempt facilities that are classified as offshore facilities under the 1994 MOU are listed out in Appendix B of 40 CFR part 112 Section 112.1(d)(1)(iii).

Examples of facilities that may be transportation-related versus non-transportation-related include:

For facilities that can be both transportation-related and non-transportation-related, activities are subject to both EPA and DOT or USCG jurisdictions. Facilities in this situation need to evaluate the activities carefully to determine the correct jurisdiction.

Applicable Containers

If a facility drills, produces, gathers, stores, processes, refines, transfers, distributes, uses, or consumes oil and oil products and is not transportation-related, the next step is to determine if the amount of oil is over the threshold. All containers of oil with a capacity of at least 55 gallons are applicable under the SPCC Rule. If the facility has a total accumulation of 1,320 gallons or more made up of containers with capacities of at least 55 gallons, they are required to develop an SPCC Plan. In other less common situations, a completely buried oil storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons would also be required to have an SPCC Plan.

Bulk storage containers are not the only type of container applicable to the rule. Oil-filled equipment, oil-filled machines, and flow-through process vessels are other types of containers that would count towards the 1,320-gallon threshold. Some examples of oil-filled equipment and oil-filled machines include wet transformers, emergency diesel fuel generators, machining coolant systems, and heat transfer systems.

The type of containers that are exempt from the rule include:

  • Permanently closed containers
  • Motive power containers
  • Hot-mix asphalt or any hot-mix asphalt containers
  • Single-family residential heating oil containers
  • Pesticide application equipment or related mix containers
  • Milk and milk product containers and associated piping
  • Completely buried tanks (subject to 40 CFR part 280)
  • Underground storage tanks
  • Containers used exclusively for wastewater treatment

Reasonably Impact Navigable Waters

Once it is determined that the facility is non-transportation-related and over the 1,320-gallon/42,000-gallon threshold, the final step is assessing if the facility can reasonably impact navigable waters. A facility that could discharge oil to navigable waters in quantities that may be harmful would be applicable under the SPCC Rule. Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), oil spills may be harmful if discharges:

  • Cause a sheen or discoloration on the surface of the water or adjoining shorelines;
  • Cause a sludge or emulsion to be deposited beneath the surface of the water or upon adjoining shorelines; or
  • Violate an applicable water quality standard.

Facilities need to evaluate their location based on geography and distance to a stream, ditch, gully, or storm sewer to determine if the facility can reasonably discharge oil to navigable waters. Constructed features such as dikes, equipment, or other manmade structures that prevent, contain, hinder, or restrain an oil discharge are not to be included in the final determination. Publicly owned treatment works (POTW) are also not to be included in the applicability determination. These systems are not designed to handle oil discharges and under certain circumstances, the receiving waters can bypass the treatment system and discharge directly into bodies of waters.

In Summary

It may be difficult to properly identify all applicable containers without the proper knowledge of the rule and an account of all equipment and containers on-site. For this reason, facilities need to conduct a complete inventory of all chemicals stored and used on the premises. Those that meet the oil storage thresholds of 1,320-gallons/42,000-gallons and could reasonably be expected to discharge in quantities that may be harmful into navigable waters are governed by the rule 40 CFR Part 112. Such facilities must then implement SPCC Plans tailored to their facility to prevent an oil discharge.



Reducing Zinc and Total Suspended Solids in Stormwater Runoff

Many states require facilities covered under a general industrial stormwater permit to collect stormwater samples and have them analyzed for common pollutants. Stormwater pollutants vary by facility and industry because the potential pollutants will be dependent on the materials and equipment stored inside and outside of the facility. Two common stormwater pollutants are zinc and total suspended solids (TSS). It is not always clear where a pollutant is coming from, which makes lowering the level of that pollutant in the stormwater runoff quite challenging.

If a stormwater sample is collected and has a high concentration of a pollutant, what should be done to lower that number? The first step to reducing pollutants is to identify the source of the pollutant. After a source is identified, best management practices can be implemented to help control or reduce the exposure of potential pollutants.


Common Sources

Zinc is a common metal found in stormwater runoff and can come from numerous locations around a facility. Some common sources of zinc are:

  • Galvanized metals such chain links fences, HVAC equipment, roofing, gutters/downspouts, steps, and bay doors.
  • Motor oil & hydraulic fluid that can be found in equipment, storage tanks, or vehicles.
  • Tire dust, which is found in areas with heavy truck and forklift traffic. These areas include loading docks, around tight corners, and frequently traveled forklift routes.
  • Fertilizers/Moss Removers

Best Management Practices

After the source of zinc has been determined at the facility, best management practices should be implemented to help control the potential contact between zinc and stormwater runoff. If best management practices are properly implemented, they should help reduce the level of zinc found in the stormwater runoff. Below are the best management practices that can be implemented for the common sources of zinc pollution.

  • Galvanized metals can be painted to limit the release of zinc. The galvanized metal can also be replaced with aluminum, steel or PVC.
  • Motor oil & hydraulic oil storage containers can be stored within secondary containment to prevent a release in the event of a spill. Spill response equipment should be stored around the property to ensure spills or leaks from tanks, equipment, or vehicles are cleaned up immediately.
  • Tire dust can be controlled by implementing a regular sweeping schedule in areas with high traffic or around tight corners. Forklift tires can also be replaced with tires that do not contain zinc.
  • Fertilizers/moss removers should only be applied directly to the areas that they are meant to treat. Do not apply if rain is in the forecast for the next couple of days, as it is much more likely that the fertilizer or moss remover will be picked up by stormwater runoff.


Common Sources

Total suspended solids (TSS) is one of the most common pollutants found in stormwater runoff. Total suspended solids can be exposed to stormwater in many areas, but some common sources are:

  • Dust collectors, if there is a leak or spill during operation or disposal.
  • Dumpsters that are leaking or that spill on the ground in the surrounding areas.
  • Loading docks with consistent traffic can build up sand and sediment quickly.
  • Gravel or exposed dirt on the property will result in higher levels of TSS in the stormwater.

Best Management Practices

After the source of TSS has been determined at the facility, best management practices should be implemented to help control the potential contact between TSS and stormwater runoff. If best management practices are properly implemented, they should help reduce the level of TSS found in stormwater runoff. Below are best management practices that can be implemented for the common sources of total suspended solids pollution.

  • Dust collectors should be inspected on a regular basis to ensure that there are no leaks and that the drum or bag is tightly connected to the dust collector. Spill response equipment should be stored near the dust collector to ensure that any spills are cleaned up immediately.
  • Dumpsters can be covered when they are not being filled or emptied. Covering a dumpster will greatly decrease the exposure of the contents of the dumpster to stormwater. The dumpsters should also be inspected on a regular basis to ensure the surrounding areas are clean and that good housekeeping is being practiced.
  • Loading docks tend to have large buildups of sand and sediment due to trucks regularly driving in and out. A sweeping schedule can be implemented to reduce the amount of sand and sediment exposed to stormwater.
  • Gravel or exposed dirt can be managed by paving gravel parking lots, landscaping areas of the property that show signs of erosion to prevent further degradation, and by using silt filters and fences to catch sediment prior to discharge from the property.

Best management practices should be implemented and updated as needed. If current best management practices are not effective in reducing the level of pollutants in the stormwater runoff, additional best management practices will need to be considered.


Golding, Steven. “Suggested Practices to Reduce Zinc Concentrations in Industrial Stormwater Discharges.” Department of Ecology – State of Washington, June 2008,

Refrigerant Management: The Scientific Basis to the Current Regulation

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) have historically been used in a variety of refrigeration applications in manufacturing, from large process chillers to small office air conditioning units. Sections 608 of the Clean Air Act and subsequent federal regulations under 40 CFR 82 regulate these refrigerants to minimize detrimental atmospheric changes caused by releases. As recent regulations have changed, it is important to understand the mechanisms by which the refrigerants can cause atmospheric changes and how to manage facility use.

Understanding Ozone

Ozone is a highly reactive compound comprised of three oxygen molecules, represented by the chemical formula O3. Most atmospheric ozone is concentrated as a layer in the stratosphere and is formed naturally through a photochemical reaction between molecular oxygen and solar ultraviolet radiation. Stratospheric ozone is essential to protecting life on earth as it absorbs biologically harmful ultraviolet B (UV-B) radiation, preventing it from reaching the Earth’s surface in harmful quantities.

Stratospheric ozone is different from tropospheric, or ground-level ozone, which is primarily formed through photochemical reactions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds emitted from man-made sources (fossil fuel combustion, industrial activities). Tropospheric ozone is a primary constituent of photochemical smog.

Stratospheric ozone is often referred to as “good” ozone due to its important role in absorbing UV-B radiation. Tropospheric ozone is often referred to as “bad” ozone as it causes respiratory issues in animals and negatively affects plant photosynthesis and respiration.

Figure 1: Stratospheric ozone vs. tropospheric ozone. Source: NASA

Mechanism of Ozone Depletion

The primary cause of stratospheric ozone depletion results from the introduction of manufactured halocarbons into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Sources of halocarbon emissions at the Earth’s surface include refrigeration leaks, solvent use, the manufacturing of certain foam products, and propellants. Once emitted, the halocarbon molecules are transported to the stratosphere through turbulent mixing in the troposphere, the atmospheric layer that extends from the Earth’s surface to the stratosphere. The halocarbon molecules undergo a photochemical reaction in the stratosphere that results in the release of halogen ions, which subsequently act as catalysts to the dissociation of ozone molecules into oxygen molecules:

CFCl3 + ultraviolet light → Cl + CFCl2

Cl + O3 → ClO + O2

ClO + O3 → Cl + 2O2

These reactions can reoccur over 100,000 times with a single halogen ion before the ion is removed from the stratosphere. Halocarbons, particularly chlorine, accelerate the depletion of stratospheric ozone at a faster rate than it can naturally regenerate.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) also contribute to ozone depletion, but at a much smaller scale than CFCs and HCFCs. The primary cause of atmospheric changes by HFC emissions is through the absorption of heat in the stratosphere by HFC molecules, which increases stratospheric and tropospheric temperatures. CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs are all heat-trapping gases, with global warming potentials 100 to 10,000 times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2).

Refrigeration Management Regulations

In 1990, Title VI of the Clean Air Act was enacted by the U.S. Congress to add provisions for protecting stratospheric ozone. This provided a regulatory basis to implement the Montreal Protocol. Title VI, Section 608, and the resulting federal regulations set timelines for the phaseout of CFCs, HCFCs, and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS). It also established requirements for proper management of ODS to prevent or mitigate releases. A November 2016 amendment to Section 608 and 40 CFR 82 enacted the regulation of HFCs in the same manner as ODS, and reduced leak rate thresholds that trigger repair, retrofit, or replacement requirements. Industry groups challenged the EPA’s authority to extend regulations on ODS to non-ozone-depleting substitute refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP). As a result, the November 2016 amendment was rescinded and replaced in February 2020. The current federal rule requirements are summarized below.

For appliances with 50 or more pounds of ODS per individual circuit:

  • Maintain annualized leak rate tracking;
  • Repair or replace appliances that leak above the following leak rate thresholds:
  • 35% for Industrial Process and Commercial Refrigeration Units,
  • 15% for Comfort Cooling Equipment;
  • Conduct verification tests on repairs;
  • Periodically inspect for leaks;
  • Report chronically leaking appliances to the EPA;
  • Retrofit or retire appliances that are not repaired; and
  • Maintain related records.

For appliances with any amount of ODS or non-ODS high GWP replacement refrigerants (new with the 2020 rule):

  • Purchasers or handlers must be EPA/Section 608 certified;
  • Anyone removing refrigerant from a refrigeration appliance must evacuate refrigerant to a set level using certified refrigerant recovery equipment before servicing or disposing of the appliance;
  • The final disposer (such as scrap recyclers or landfills) must ensure and document that refrigerant is recovered; and
  • All used refrigerant must be reclaimed to industry purity standards before it can be sold to another appliance owner.


Vallero, D. Fundamentals of Air Pollution, 5th ed. 2014. pp. 69-72. Academic Press, Waltham, MA.

Schlesinger, W.H. Biogeochemistry – An Analysis of Global Change, 2nd edition 1997. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.

United States Environmental Protection Agency, Basic Ozone Layer Science.

United States Environmental Protection Agency, Understanding Global Warming Potentials

SPCC Transformers: Am I Responsible?

It is becoming increasingly common to find electric transformers at large commercial, institutional and industrial facilities. Although the transformer is located on the facility’s property, it is sometimes unclear who actually owns the transformers and is responsible for the maintenance and spills. The transformer may be owned by the facility, typically seen on older properties or those that require multiple transformers with high voltage, or by the local power company.

Units that contain oil are called “wet” transformers as they contain various amounts of mineral-based oil typically referred to as transformer oil. It can also be common to find older wet transformers laced with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Although the use of PCBs in transformers has been phased out, the older transformers with PCBs can be problematic to clean up in the event of a spill. One of the biggest issues of not knowing who owns the transformers is determining the responsibility of cleaning up oil spills. Ultimately, for any transformer that contains oil, a plan should be in place for addressing a spill.

Example of a wet transformer

Dry vs Wet Transformer: Identifying Which Transformer Has Oil

For large commercial and industrial facilities, wet transformers are typically the type of electric unit used. Wet transformers are more efficient in cooling the coils in the systems, which leads to better overload capacity and a better life expectancy compared to dry transformers. So, how do you identify a wet transformer from a dry transformer? There are multiple ways to identify the difference between the two: facilities can either find a nameplate or manufacturer’s specification document that describes the system or, they can simply look at the structural components. In many cases, the transformer units lack the nameplates or documentation required to identify the model, so it is much easier and more convenient to evaluate the structure. When looking at a dry transformer, it will appear to be a square box with no attachments. With a wet transformer, there will be multiple attachments and it will have a main frame with another box welded to it. This additional welded piece is where the oil is stored. On bigger, higher voltage units, the additional attachment may have cooling fins instead of just being a box.

Who is Responsible for Oil-Filled Transformers?

It can be difficult to determine who owns the transformers if there is a lack of paperwork. For ownership determination, the facility should check property management documents, or the facility can call the local utility company. If the facility has an oil-filled transformer on the property, no matter who owns it, the facility has some level of responsibility. Remember, the goal is to prevent oil from reaching state waters and the facility would be the quickest to respond. If it is determined that the utility company owns the transformer, the facility is then granting permission to the utility company to place a transformer on their property. There is no regulation exemption for storing someone’s oil on the property. The owner or operator of a facility should coordinate with the utility company to determine who prevents and cleans up oil spills from the transformer. Although the responsibility will depend on state laws, the owner, or in this case, the utility company, is legally responsible for the transformer and preventing spills. The owner or operator of the facility needs to take into account that if a spill was to occur, the oil spilled could negatively impact the property and lead to further issues if the spilled material reaches navigable waters or leaches into the ground.

In situations where the amount of oil located at the facility is over the 1,320-gallon threshold, requiring an SPCC Plan can be tricky. According to the EPA’s SPCC Guidance for Regional Inspectors,

If a facility is regulated under the SPCC rule, it is the responsibility of the facility owner and operator to ensure that an SPCC Plan is prepared. A site may have multiple owners and/or operators, and therefore can have several facilities. Factors to consider in determining which owner or operator should prepare the Plan include who has control over day-to-day operations of the facility or particular containers and equipment, who trains the employee(s) involved in oil handling activities, who will conduct the required inspections and tests, and who will be responsible for responding to and cleaning up any discharge of oil. EPA expects that the owners and operators will cooperate to prepare one or more Plans, as appropriate. 

The key takeaway is that the EPA acknowledges that there may be multiple owners and/or operators in a facility. With the case of transformers, granting permission to have a utility-owned transformer onsite is identifying both the facility and the utility company as owners/operators, therefore both are responsible for the transformer. It is important to note that even though the facility may have some responsibility for the transformer, the facility is not required to include the utility-owned transformer unit in the facility’s SPCC Plan if they have one.

When to Include Transformers in a SPCC Plan

A facility is required to implement a SPCC plan if the facility stores more than 1,320-gallons of oil in containers greater than 55-gallons. If there is a transformer on-site and it is owned by the facility, the transformer must be included in the SPCC plan. There is a high probability that the transformer stores more than 55-gallons of oil, thus making it applicable under the SPCC rule. It can be challenging to determine the capacity of oil as transformers do not typically have the capacity written on the unit. If a facility lacks documentation of the unit and the unit does not have a nameplate, most likely there is a KVA rating stenciled on it. The KVA rating can be converted to gallons and although the conversion is not the most accurate, it can give the facility an idea of how much oil may be inside. If there is no stenciled KVA rating, the facility can measure the container attached to the main frame. This will give the facility a general idea of its capacity – without accurate numbers, the facility should overestimate rather than underestimate the capacity. If the transformer is owned by the local utility company, the facility should call and request the size capacity as the utility company will have a more accurate number.

Although facilities are not required to include utility-owned transformers in their SPCC plan, the utility company should be contacted to determine if there is already a spill plan in place. Often the utility companies do not have a spill plan in place and therefore, it is highly recommended to include the transformer in the facility’s SPCC plan. Since the owner/operator has some level of responsibility for a spill from the transformer, having the transformer incorporated into the plan shows that the facility actively participates in spill prevention. If a spill were to occur, the facility is going to have the quickest response in preventing the oil from reaching navigable waters.

If the facility does not have a SPCC plan in place and the transformer is owned by the utility company, the transformer should not be the determining factor to establish an unnecessary plan. For example, if a facility has 1,000 gallons of oil on-site and there is a 500-gallon transformer, the total oil capacity is now over the SPCC rule threshold of 1,320-gallons. Since the 500-gallon transformer is not legally their property, the facility would not be required to develop a SPCC plan. Even though the facility itself is technically under the 1,320-gallon threshold, it should still have some type of procedure in place to address a spill if it were to happen.

To summarize, transformers can be complicated when determining ownership responsibility, but ultimately, the goal for each owner and operator is to prevent oil spills from reaching navigable waters and groundwater.


Ozone Nonattainment: Impact to Air Permitting

Under the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. Any city or county that does not meet a NAAQS is classified as a nonattainment area.

Ozone is one of the six criteria pollutants with NAAQS and is formed when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight. The EPA set the 2008 ozone standard to 75 parts per billion (ppb) and required all areas of the country to meet this monitored concentration by July 20, 2018. Those areas that were not able to demonstrate compliance with this standard have now been classified as ozone nonattainment areas.

Moderate to Serious Nonattainment

The eight areas listed below were previously classified as Moderate nonattainment and failed to meet the 2008 ozone NAAQS by the attainment date. Therefore, they are now reclassified as Serious nonattainment. Each state has until July 20, 2021, to demonstrate that they have met the standard by implementing state permitting and emission control programs.

  1. Chicago-Naperville, IL-IN-WI;
  2. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX;
  3. Greater Connecticut, CT;
  4. Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, TX;
  5. Nevada County (Western part), CA;
  6. New York-N. New Jersey-Long Island, CT-NY-NJ;
  7. San Diego County, CA; and
  8. Denver Metro/North Front Range, CO.

Additional areas of the country were already classified as Serious or Severe and are operating under specific state programs. The following EPA map identifies the areas currently classified as ozone nonattainment.

Figure 1: Current 2008 Nonattainment Classification. Source: EPA Green Book


Impact to Air Permitting

The nonattainment classification has a direct impact on state air permitting programs and compliance for each individual facility in the noted areas.  Under the Clean Air Act, a Moderate nonattainment classification has a major source Title V permitting threshold of 100 tons per year for NOx and VOC; however, a Serious nonattainment classification reduces this threshold to 50 tons per year. Any facility in a Serious nonattainment area with VOC or NOx potential emissions greater than 50 tons per year will either be required to obtain a Federal Title V permit or request limits within a permit to avoid a major source classification.

Chicago, Illinois Area Example

Using the Chicago area as an example, any facility within the classified Serious nonattainment area with potential NOx or VOC emissions greater than 50 tons per year must submit an application to the Illinois EPA for a Title V permit or for a Federally Enforceable State Operating Permit (FESOP) by September 23, 2020.

If a facility has an existing FESOP, an application may be required to further limit the facility emission to less than 50 tons per year. A facility that currently has a Lifetime Operating Permit, a Registration of Smaller Sources (ROSS), or has been deemed exempt from permitting, must review and verify that unlimited potential NOx and VOC emissions remain below the 50 tons per year threshold, or a FESOP must be obtained.


Each state permitting program will set deadlines for obtaining the appropriate permit for each of the nonattainment areas impacted. A facility with the potential to emit regulated emissions must determine if NOx and VOC emissions exceed the 50 tons per year threshold or any other threshold set in the state permitting program. If required, an application must be filed with the state permitting board to obtain the required permit.

Hearing Conservation in the Workplace

The goal of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) hearing conservation standard (29 CFR 1910.95) is to protect the approximate 22 million workers that are exposed to hazardous levels of noise each year. Through the hearing conservation standard, employers are required to evaluate workplaces for employee exposures resulting in a personal time-weighted average (TWA) equal to or greater than 85 decibels (dBA). Results at or above this noise action level require the employer to develop a written Hearing Conservation Program, provide employees with protective devices, provide annual training, and conduct annual hearing tests to monitor hearing levels. Employees who experience a work-related hearing shift are required to be recorded on the facility’s OSHA 300 log.

Who is required to have a Hearing Conservation Program?

The first step in complying with the hearing conservation standard is to complete an evaluation of the facility noise levels. This assessment should be completed by taking personal time-weighted average (TWA) samples throughout the facility, even in areas that may not appear to be particularly noisy. Noise sampling should be completed every three to five years, or at any time there is a change in facility processes or equipment.

The hearing conservation standard sets two action levels: 85 dBA and 90dBA. Employees working in areas of exposure between 85-89dBA shall be provided hearing protectors, receive annual audiograms, and receive annual training. Employees exposed to TWAs of 90dBA or above shall also be required to wear hearing protectors, receive annual audiograms, and receive annual training. The main difference between the two action levels within the hearing conservation standard is that employees working within the range of 85-89dBA may choose whether or not to wear hearing protection, while employees working within ranges of 90dBA or greater must wear hearing protection. It is important to note that while employees exposed to less than 90dBA may choose not to wear hearing protectors, any hearing loss would still qualify as a recordable injury.

Hearing Conservation Program Requirements

  • When employees are exposed to noise levels at an 8-hour TWA of 85dBA or more, the employer must implement an audiometric testing program. This program must be provided at no cost to the employee and must consist of a baseline audiometric test and an annual audiometric test.
      • The baseline audiometric test must be completed within the first six months after the employees’ exposure to hazardous noise levels.
        • If a mobile van will be used to conduct the audiometric test, then the baseline test must be obtained within one year from the employees’ exposure to hazardous noise levels.
      • Audiometric testing must be completed annually after the baseline test. The results of the annual test are compared to the result of the baseline test to determine if the employee has experienced a standard threshold shift (STS).
  • A STS is a change in the hearing threshold of an average of 10 decibels or more at 2000, 3000, and 4000 hertz in one or both ears.
  • If an STS is identified, the employer has 30 days to retest the employee to determine if the STS was valid. If there is a confirmed STS, the employer must notify the employee of the finding in writing within 21 days.
  • After experiencing an STS, an employee is required to wear hearing protectors. Training, or retraining, must also be completed.
  • Employees exposed to hazardous levels of noise must be provided hearing protection and replacements at no cost. The employer is required to provide multiple suitable options of hearing protectors including one type of earplug and one type of earmuff. It would be preferable to include more options for employees to ensure comfort, proper fit, and usage.
  • Hearing protectors are required to decrease the employee noise exposure to at least an 8-hour time-weighted average of 90dBA. The noise reduction ratio (NRR) is the unit of measure to determine the effectiveness of hearing protectors. The higher the NRR, the higher potential for noise reduction. It is important to know that the NRR does not represent a direct reduction in decibels. To determine the noise reduction capability of a specific hearing protector, you must take the NRR in decibels, subtract seven, and then divide by two.
    • Ex. If you are exposed to noise levels of 95dba and are wearing hearing protectors with an NRR of 31, then you would be exposed to noise levels of 83dBA.



  • Each employee exposed to hazardous noise levels must participate in an annual training program. The training must include:
    • The effects of noise on hearing
    • The purpose of hearing protection
  • Advantages and disadvantages of hearing protection
  • Attenuation of different types of hearing protection
  • Instructions on the selection, fit, use, and care of hearing protection
    • The purpose of audiometric testing and a description of testing procedures

In short, hazardous levels of noise in the workplace can create lasting, long-term injuries for employees. Ongoing noise monitoring and the subsequent actions required to reduce potentially harmful levels of noise through administrative and engineering controls, provision of proper PPE, and noise hazard employee training are an important part of any facility health and safety plan.