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Small business operators deal with myriad laws and regulations that can make you feel dizzy. Many small businesses deal with laws and regulations that pertain to the storing and handling of hazardous materials.
Hazardous waste falls under three broad categories: ignitable, corrosive, and toxic. Items that we use every day such as oils, paints, cleaners and batteries create potential hazards when improperly handled or disposed of incorrectly. Industrial wastes such as crude oil and cement kiln can put your business at risk of experiencing a serious workplace accident.
Environmental Protection Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the federal agency charged with protecting the environment. More than 500 specific hazardous wastes form the long list the EPA has compiled over the years. Small businesses that produce hazardous waste include hospitals, exterminators, dry cleaners, and photo processing centers. Large industrial producers of hazardous waste such as chemical manufacturers and petroleum refineries receive much of the scrutiny from the EPA. However, small businesses that do not produce a significant amount of hazardous waste still have to prevent work place accidents caused by dangerous chemicals and combustibles.
History of Hazardous Waste
Before the EPA formed in 1970, businesses disposed of hazardous waste by dumping the waste into landfills. Some small business operators began transporting hazardous waste to off-site disposal facilities. However, record keeping of the disposal of hazardous waste was shoddy at best. Many homeowners had no idea their dream hoe was located next to a hazardous waste dump that leeched toxic chemicals into the drinking water of sources located near homeowners. It took years to clean up the vast contamination and in some cases such as Love Canal, the contamination remains a risk to the environment today. The EPA estimates nearly 300 million tons of hazardous waste was produced per year before the EPA established rules and regulations for proper hazardous waste disposal.
The Law and Hazardous Waste
Increased regulation of the disposal of hazardous waste by state and federal agencies has prompted businesses to consider one of several recycling options. Some components of hazardous receive more regulation because of the higher potential to cause injuries. You should try to find replacement components that do not fall under the EPA regulatory radar. If new hazardous waste components cost more money, you might save money in the long run by avoiding costly EPA fines.
If recycling is not a cost-effective option for your small business, you should contract with a hazardous waste disposal company to remove the waste from your site. Hazardous waste disposal companies are aware of state and federal regulations and the companies relieve you of your legal liability once the waste leaves your work site. Corrective action by the EPA includes cleanup costs and protracted litigation.
Any hazardous waste accident in the workplace produces injuries might prompt a small business owner to order a drug test to see if the worker was impaired on the job. If the employee passes a drug test and needs to pay for medical bills and receive money for time lost on the job, the employee can file for workers’ compensation. Federal law mandates that businesses of all sizes must put up the appropriate safety posters that describe the hazardous wastes either handled or manufactured on site. Employers must also offer sufficient training to prevent workplace accidents caused by hazardous waste.
Handling and disposing of hazardous waste should never turn into a guessing game. The stakes are too high. Instead, contact a small business attorney who has experience helping small business operators understand the regulations issued by state and federal agencies. If you need legal help, a licensed small business attorney will schedule an initial consultation to determine your legal options.