Working With Hazmat: Identifying & Protecting Yourself From Hazardous Materials

If you're working with potentially hazardous materials and wastes, it's important to understand the dangers involved, and the steps you can take to reduce exposure. You need to know the proper steps to take while working with and disposing the hazardous materials.

Determining What Is Hazardous

You can determine what wastes are hazardous either by its characteristics or checking the lists from the federal Resource Convention and Recovery Act (RCRA). The RCRA has F, K, and P-listed wastes.

F-listed wastes include degreasing solvents. These solvents include chemicals such as:

  • Methylene chloride
  • Tetrachlorethylene
  • Acetone
  • Xylene

K-listed wastes are wastes are wastes that come from manufacturing. For example, any leftover hazardous sludge from a water treatment plant is a k-listed waste.

Finally, the p-listed wastes are highly regulated, discarded toxic chemicals. There are several types of materials that can be classified as p-listed. These wastes may include fertilizers, pesticides, and other poisons.

Another way to identify hazardous materials is by their characteristics. These characteristics include:

  • Toxicity
  • Reactivity
  • Ignitability
  • Corrosiveness

Any material that has at least one of those characteristics is considered hazardous. Toxicity means that the material contains organic compounds or metals that are dangerous when inhaled, touched, or consumed. Reactivity means that if the substance touches another substance, it could have a violent chemical reaction due to its instability.

Ignitability means that the material is a liquid and has a flash point below 140 degrees. The flash point is the temperature in which it will catch fire or explode. The corrosiveness depends on the pH of the liquid. A water-based liquid with a pH less than 2 or more than 12 is extremely corrosive. These include battery acid, bleach, and other cleaning materials. You will need fluid control services.

Reducing Exposure

If you are working with hazardous wastes, you need to reduce your exposure to them as much as possible. One way to minimize your exposure is by wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) . The type of PPE that you wear will ultimately depend on the type of material you are working with. For example, if you are working with a chemical that you can't inhale, you will need to wear a mask that will limit your exposure.

If you're working with a highly corrosive material that can't be touched, you may need PPE from loves to an entire body suit. No matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient the PPE may be, it's important to wear it and put your health first.

In The Event Of Exposure

Despite your best efforts, you were exposed to hazardous materials. Now you need to know what to do.

If a container or vehicle with hazmat inside becomes damaged, you need to limit the spread of the material if you can do so safely. If a container breaks inside of a building, close any doors or windows to contain the exposure as much as possible. If you're outside in an open road, get away from the materials, and keep others away from it as well. In either event call 9-1-1 and let them know you have a hazmat emergency. If you're at your job site and you have a hazmat department, call the department first.

If a fire has started due to a hazardous material, don't attempt to put out the fire unless you have been trained to do so. Move away from the fire and call your local fire department or 9-1-1.

It's important to know what materials you're working with in case they get on your skin or in your eyes. If it's a material that can be washed in water, rinse your eyes or skin for as long as possible to remove everything from you. Remove your clothing and dispose of them. If you are exposed to a life-threatening chemical, call 9-1-1 immediately and tell them what you have been exposed to. If you aren't sure, get someone to the scene that can tell the emergency responders. It's important that the hospital knows what to treat you for as quickly as possible.

Hazardous materials are nothing to take lightly. While some will just sting, others can burn right through your skin. Know what you're working with, wear proper PPE, and always take emergencies seriously.

About Me

Home Renovation Expectations: Knowing What's To Come

When I bought my first house, I did it with the expectation of needing to do some remodeling. I wasn't, however, prepared for how complex the renovation process was. From upgrading the retaining walls to adding cosmetic features like the stone patio, I was inundated with decisions to make and materials to select. I wished that I had known how much was involved from the beginning so that I could be better prepared. That's when I decided to use what I'd learned to help others better prepare for their own remodeling projects. I hope the information here helps you to see what you can expect as you get ready to expand your property or renovate the existing space.

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