Any business that generates hazardous waste as part of its operations is regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976.
One very crucial area that employers often overlook pertains to the proper training of employees for both safety and handling of hazardous waste. While training employees can be a financial investment, the alternative can be more costly. If untrained employees improperly dispose of hazardous waste, your company can face steep federal and state fines, along with a tarnished reputation.
Not sure where to begin? Here are some of the employee training requirements required of hazardous waste generators, along with one of the best sources of help to ensure your company remains compliant.
Small Quantity Generators Vs. Large Quantity Generators
The first step to understanding your requirements is to know what type of hazardous waste generator you are. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency divides waste generators into three main classifications based upon the quantity of hazardous waste generators produce:
- Very Small Quantity Generators generate 100 kilograms or less per month of hazardous waste or 1 kilogram or less per month of acutely hazardous waste.
- Small Quantity Generators generate more than 100 kilograms, but less than 1,000 kilograms of hazardous waste per month.
- Large Quantity Generators generate 1,000 kilograms per month or more of hazardous waste, or more than 1 kilogram per month of acutely hazardous waste.
In California, however, the Department of Toxic Substances Control divides generators into two categories:
- Large Quantity Generators generate 1,000 kilograms or more of hazardous waste per month, excluding universal wastes, and/or more than 1 kilogram of acutely or extremely hazardous waste per month.
- Small Quantity Generators generate less than 1,000 kilograms of hazardous waste per month, excluding universal wastes, and/or 1 kilogram or less of acutely or extremely hazardous waste per month.
As you can see, both the EPA and state of California have similar regulations in place as far as defining the amount of hazardous waste an entity produces per calendar month. However, it’s important to note that California does not have a conditional exemption for small quantity generators that generate 100 kilograms or less of hazardous waste.
Requirements For Small Quantity Generators
It is critical to know what type of generator your company is because the employee training requirements are different for each. Very small quantity generators are exempt from any RCRA training requirements.
Small Quantitiy Generators or SQG’s must ensure that all employees are thoroughly familiar with proper waste handling and emergency procedures, relevant to their responsibilities during normal facility operations and emergencies.
However, the law does not specify how an employer must ensure all employees are familiar with waste handling and emergency procedures. Some options include prior work experience, training classes, on-the-job experience and signs that effectively communicate this information.
Requirements For Large Quantity Generators
In contrast to small quantity generators, large quantity generators have much more stringent requirements, including:
- Personnel must successfully complete a program of classroom instruction or on-the-job training that teaches them to perform their duties in a way that ensures the generator's compliance with the regulatory requirements.
- This program must be directed by a person trained in hazardous waste management procedures, and must include instruction that teaches personnel hazardous waste management procedures (including contingency plan implementation) relevant to the positions in which they are employed.
- The training program must be designed to ensure that personnel are able to respond effectively to emergencies by familiarizing them with emergency procedures, emergency equipment and emergency systems, including other applicable requirements.
- Personnel must successfully complete the program within six months after employment or assignment to the facility. Personnel must not work in unsupervised positions until they have completed the training requirements referenced above. They must also take part in an annual review of the initial training.
In addition to the training requirements the following documents must also be maintained:
- The job title for each position related to hazardous waste management, and the name of the employee filling each job.
- A written job description for each position related to hazardous waste management, including the required skill, education or other qualifications and duties of employees assigned to each position.
- A written description of the type and amount of both introductory and continuing training that will be given to each person filling each of these positions.
- Records that document that the training or job experience required has been given to, and completed by, facility personnel.
- Training records on current personnel must be kept until closure of the site. Training records on former employees must be kept for at least three years from the date the employee last worked at the site. Personnel training records may accompany personnel transferred within the same company.
How Hazardous Waste Transporters Can Help
Maintaining compliance with federal and state hazardous waste statutes can be a complicated process for many companies. A qualified waste management company can be of great help by looking at current procedures including employee safety and training programs.
An experienced hazardous waste transporter can also help by looking at opportunities for Large Quantity Generators to minimize waste streams and change to Small Quantity Generator status. This type of change can save time, money and minimize regulatory headaches.
In fact, one of our clients experienced this exact scenario. The client came to us classified as a large hazardous waste generator, and after looking at the company and the waste that they generated, we realized the company was in fact misclassified and was actually a small waste generator.
This classification mistake on the company’s part resulted in wasted money spent to meet more stringent large generator requirements. On the other end, a company classifying itself as a small hazardous waste generator, when in fact is a large generator, could face steep fines for not meeting the appropriate hazardous waste generator regulations.
When looking for a hazardous waste disposal company to partner with, make sure it is licensed and registered in the state’s Registered Hazardous Waste Transporter Database. The best disposal companies will also offer a hazardous waste walk-through program.
A walk-through is an evaluation of your hazardous waste procedures. An experienced and properly licensed hazardous waste company should perform the walk-through to ensure that your hazardous waste procedures meet all state and federal regulations. This include the training portion of those requirements.
The process is collaborative and ensures your company and employees are protected, trained and in legal compliance. It’s important to note that in many cases, a walk-through will identify outdated training procedures that were once legal but have been changed over the years and are no longer valid.
Our article, The Benefits Of A Hazardous Waste Walk-Through, outlines some additional reasons why this service can benefit your company so that you can rest assured any compliance issues are caught early and training procedures you have in place are effective and according to the law.