The Importance of Hazardous Waste Inspections
Hazardous waste is any waste material that poses a potential threat to human health or the environment due to its chemical or physical properties. As such, the handling, storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous waste are strictly regulated by various state and federal laws in order to minimize the risks to public health and the environment. Hazardous waste inspections are an essential part of ensuring compliance with these regulations and preventing incidents that could harm people or the environment. In this blog post, we will provide a checklist of items that should be included in a comprehensive hazardous waste inspection, as well as some administrative controls that can help organizations manage hazardous waste safely and effectively.
What are Hazardous Waste Inspections?
Hazardous waste inspections are a critical component of environmental compliance and occupational health and safety in Australia. These inspections help ensure that businesses are managing and disposing of hazardous waste in a safe and responsible manner.
Why are Hazardous Waste Inspections Important?
Firstly, hazardous waste can pose a significant risk to human health and the environment if not managed correctly. Hazardous waste can include chemicals, gases, liquids, and solids that are toxic, flammable, corrosive, or reactive. Exposure to hazardous waste can cause serious health problems, such as cancer, respiratory illness, and skin irritation. It can also contaminate soil, air, and water, leading to environmental damage.
Secondly, hazardous waste inspections are crucial for compliance with Australian legislation. In Australia, businesses that generate, transport, store, or dispose of hazardous waste are required to comply with federal, state, and territory regulations. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines, legal action, and damage to reputation.
Who Conducts Hazardous Waste Inspections?
Hazardous waste inspections are typically conducted by environmental health officers, workplace health and safety inspectors, and other regulatory authorities. These inspectors are trained to identify and assess potential hazards associated with hazardous waste, and to ensure that businesses are complying with relevant legislation and industry standards.
What’s the Law Say?
In Australia, the legislation concerning hazardous waste includes the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989, the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Regulations 2016 and The Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road & Rail (ADG Code). The ADG Code sets out the requirements for transporting dangerous goods by road or rail. These laws are designed to protect human health and the environment by regulating the import, export and transportation of hazardous waste and ensuring that it is managed safely and responsibly.
The legislation requires businesses that generate hazardous waste to obtain a license or permit to store, transport, and dispose of the waste. These licenses and permits are issued by state and territory environmental protection agencies and are subject to strict conditions and regulations.
The Australian government has also established the National Hazardous Waste Information Network (NHWIN) to provide a central repository for information on hazardous waste management. The NHWIN provides guidance on best practices for managing hazardous waste and helps to ensure that businesses are complying with regulatory requirements.
National Environment Protection (Movement of Controlled Waste between States and Territories) Measure 2018 – This measure provides a national framework for the movement of controlled waste between states and territories in Australia. It sets out the requirements for the transport, storage, and disposal of controlled waste, including hazardous waste.
Each state and territory in Australia has its own environmental protection legislation that covers hazardous waste. These laws set out the requirements for the management of hazardous waste, including the storage, transportation, and disposal of waste.
Overall, the legislation in Australia is aimed at ensuring that hazardous waste is managed in a safe and responsible manner, with a focus on protecting human health and the environment. It is important for businesses that generate hazardous waste to understand their obligations under the legislation and to work closely with regulatory authorities to ensure that they are managing their waste in compliance with the law.
How to Prepare for a Hazardous Waste Inspection
Businesses that generate, transport, store, or dispose of hazardous waste can prepare for a hazardous waste inspection by implementing an effective hazardous waste management plan. This plan should include the following:
Procedures for Identifying Hazardous Waste: One of the key components of managing hazardous waste is being able to identify it. This is essential for ensuring that the waste is handled, stored, and disposed of properly. Businesses that generate hazardous waste should have clear procedures in place for identifying it. This may involve conducting a chemical inventory assessment, reviewing safety data sheets, or using other methods to identify hazardous materials. By having clear procedures in place for identifying hazardous waste, businesses can minimize the risk of exposure to hazardous materials and ensure that they are managing the waste safely.
Handling Hazardous Waste: Once the hazardous waste has been identified, it is important to handle it properly to minimise the risk of exposure to hazardous materials. Handling procedures may include using appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves and respirators, to protect workers from exposure to hazardous materials. It may also involve using specialised equipment, such as containment vessels or pumps, to safely transport the waste. By following proper handling procedures, businesses can minimise the risk of exposure to hazardous materials and ensure that the waste is being managed safely.
Storing Hazardous Waste: Businesses that generate hazardous waste must also have procedures in place for storing it safely. This may involve using specially designed containers that are compatible with the type of hazardous waste being stored. It may also involve storing the waste in a secure location that is designed to minimise the risk of spills or leaks. By following proper storage procedures, businesses can ensure that hazardous waste is being managed safely and minimise the risk of environmental damage or exposure to hazardous materials.
Disposing of Hazardous Waste: Disposing of hazardous waste is a critical component of managing it safely. Businesses that generate hazardous waste must comply with federal, state, and territory regulations for the disposal of hazardous waste. This may involve working with a licensed waste management company to transport and dispose of the waste safely. It may also involve treating the waste to make it less hazardous before it is disposed of. By following proper disposal procedures, businesses can minimize the risk of environmental damage and ensure that the waste is being managed safely.
Emergency Response Procedures: Despite the best efforts to manage hazardous waste safely, accidents can happen. That’s why it’s important for businesses to have emergency response procedures in place. These procedures should outline the steps to be taken in the event of a spill, leak, or other hazardous waste incidents. This may involve evacuating workers from the area, notifying regulatory authorities, and taking steps to contain the spill or leak. By having clear emergency response procedures in place, businesses can minimise the risk of harm to workers and the environment and ensure that hazardous waste incidents are managed effectively.