Why Your Company Needs a Hazmat Emergency Plan

Why Your Company Needs a Hazmat Emergency Plan

Does your facility produce, collect, store, and/or transport hazardous waste? If so, you likely already have a plan in place for dealing with emergencies. But if you don’t, it’s time to create one. Protecting the health and safety of your employees, as well as the surrounding community and environment, is vital. Read on to learn why your company needs a hazmat emergency plan and how to set one up and put it into practice.

Why You Need a Hazmat Emergency Plan

There are many reasons why you need an emergency plan, from the extremely obvious ones to other less well-known factors.

Protecting People and Planet

The main goal of a hazmat emergency plan is to protect life. That means human, plant, and animal life. Hazardous materials affect life in several ways, whether through poisonous chemicals, radioactive materials, or biological hazards. An emergency plan can immediately contain hazmat waste after a spill or accidental release, preventing it from entering the ecosystem or a human-populated area.

Without a plan, employees may become confused and panic during an emergency, leading to bigger—if not more dangerous and deadly—issues. A hazmat plan, combined with regular training, ensures your team is ready to take action and mitigate risks.

Legal and Regulatory Issues

Federal, state, and local laws, as well as regulations set forth by federal agencies and your industry, require companies to have hazmat emergency plans in place. If the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) haven’t already approached you about your hazardous waste material handling practices, they will. They’ll present several stringent requirements for its handling and disposal and will outline the fines and legal issues you’ll face if you fail to comply with and maintain safety standards.

Financial Loss

If you think it’s expensive to collect, organize, and get rid of hazardous materials, you’re unaware of the greater expense of dealing with an accident. Hazmat disasters are incredibly costly in terms of money, lives, and more.

Cleanup expenses are just the beginning. You will also face lawsuits from those living nearby as well as the town or city itself. Shutting down to clean up will also cost you as productivity drops. Insurance premiums will likewise soar after an accident.

Having a plan in place reduces costs overall. Premiums may go down when you show you have a plan in place, for one thing. With a plan in place, you can curb the potential costs of an accident.

Protecting Your Brand

Branding depends on public goodwill. If people associate your brand with sloppy and dangerous hazmat practices, the damage to your reputation could result in lost profits. Demonstrate your commitment to the community, stakeholders, and better business by having a hazmat emergency plan set up and ready to roll.

Parts of a Hazmat Emergency Plan

So, obviously, you need a hazmat emergency plan. But how do you build an effective one and implement it? These ideas will help you find your way.

Risk Assessment

You can determine what sort of protection you need and what actions employees will need to take in case of an emergency by conducting a risk assessment. Identify every hazardous material on the premises, document its dangers, and determine how likely it is for an accident to happen. A detailed risk assessment is the foundation of an effective hazmat emergency response plan.

Written Procedures and Guidelines

Establish a committee to draft a hazmat emergency plan. Choose people familiar with the waste involved and how regulations require you to handle it. The committee should discuss and draft a set of clear guidelines and procedures for responding to various incidents and accidents. Use the following to create an outline.

  • Immediate actions: What must people do in the first few minutes of a hazmat incident? Standard steps include contacting emergency personnel, evacuating the area, and safely containing the problem.
  • Communication protocols: How should participants get the word out, what should they say, and to whom? Make a list of people to reach out to, including employees, emergency personnel, regulatory agencies, the government, and the public.
  • Decontamination and cleanup: Provide specific instructions on decontaminating the area and next steps for safely disposing of waste.
  • Medical response: What will be necessary to protect and provide medical assistance to people affected by the accident? Use this section to outline where to take people to treat their injuries.

Regular Drills and Training

Now, make sure the plan works by conducting regular training and drills with your employees. Check their knowledge by creating simulations and running them through hazmat accident scenarios. Make sure everyone knows the role they play and how they work together, so that in the event of a real accident, there are no mistakes.

Have trained personnel come in and explain how to use personal protective equipment, proper emergency procedures, and how to keep the lines of communication free and open. Drills are also great for building confidence and camaraderie between employees, which makes a big difference in situations where every second counts.

Emergency Responder Coordination

We’ve mentioned emergency responders already, but let’s stress the importance of establishing a relationship with them well in advance of any accidents. Get to know the members of your local fire department, police department, and any hazmat or emergency response teams working nearby. Fill them in on your hazmat response program and ask them for any input. Exchange contact information and ask for their help with drills and training sessions.

Inventory, Equipment, and Updates

Keep accurate records about the materials stored on the premises, their quantities, location, and more. Frequently update your emergency plan and perform periodic audits to ensure everything remains in compliance. Likewise, keep emergency equipment and other supplies for mitigating and containing hazmat accidents handy and fully stocked. Make sure there’s plenty of PPE, spill containment kits, decontamination materials, and first aid kits to go around.

Those are the basics of why your company needs a hazmat emergency plan. If you need further information on hazmat emergency materials and environmental waste services, contact us today!

Why Your Company Needs a Hazmat Emergency Plan

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