Making mistakes when dealing with hazardous waste can cost your company money. And unfortunately, it does not matter whether your company was aware they were violating the regulations or not. Even if you weren’t aware of a specific regulation, your business will still be responsible for any violations along with any fines, penalties, or legal settlements resulting from violations. Not knowing what you don’t know can keep many business owners awake at night, especially given the severity of such an oversight.

However, you can generally avoid these issues by being aware of the current hazardous regulations. Learning some of the more common mistakes companies make in dealing with hazardous waste can help prevent you from making the same errors.

01   /  The Importance of Hazardous Waste Management

Hazardous waste violations can cause a number of serious problems, including safety problems that affect the health of staff or the public. If your company does not properly handle hazardous waste, it can cause health problems for anyone who comes into contact with it. These problems can be anything from minor skin irritation to serious illnesses, such as cancer. Hazardous waste violations can also cause environmental damage, including damage to wildlife and the water supply, among others.

If your company does commit any violations, you will be responsible for any hazardous waste fines and penalties and these repercussions may extend to litigation. As stated earlier, your company is responsible for these violations even if you were unaware of them. Ignorance is never a valid defense. Therefore, it’s vital that everyone in the company who is responsible for dealing with hazardous waste become educated in the laws and regulations covering the handling and disposal of this waste. This is essential for avoiding EPA fines for hazardous waste violations, along with any other financial and legal penalties.

02   /   6 Common Hazardous Waste Violations

There are many hazardous waste violations, and your company should follow all relevant guidelines and regulations to avoid them. However, six of these violations are particularly common. So, to help your company to avoid them, let’s review these frequent issues.

There are very specific rules on how to label hazardous waste. But, because these labeling requirements can be complicated, labeling mistakes are common. Be sure those responsible for labeling the waste provide accurate information and include the correct EPA waste code. The information identifying the waste must be included on both the placards and the hazardous waste manifest. This type of labeling is required because it can provide critical information in the event of an emergency. It allows first responders to know what hazardous waste is involved even if they are unable to enter the vehicle to obtain the hazardous waste manifest.

You are required to use the most recent and relevant forms when documenting your hazardous waste disposal. This applies to hazardous waste manifests, SDS sheets, and any other required documentation. Since these forms have changed over time, it’s easy to lose track of which is the most current. But using the wrong forms can result in fines and penalties. One recent change that caused problems for many companies was the change to SDS forms from MSDS forms. This is just one example and it’s crucial for your company to keep up-to-date with all forms to avoid unnecessary paperwork violations.

Hazardous waste must be properly treated and disposed of. It is important not to avoid disposing of this waste just because you worry about the expense or complexity of doing so. Even if your facility is storing the waste properly, there are time limits on storing this waste onsite. These rules are in place for safety reasons. Over time, hazardous waste could end up leaking or causing a fire or other safety issues. 

There are different factors that determine the storage time, such as EPA generator status. So, it is important for your company to be aware of these rules and follow them to avoid hazardous waste violations. Universities, manufacturing plants, and labs are especially prone to violating the regulations on storage times.

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, a contingency plan is designed to minimize any hazard to people’s health or the environment “from fires, explosions, or any unplanned sudden or non-sudden release of hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituents to air, soil, or surface water.” 

Large companies often have these plans because they can afford to have employees that handle these issues. However, smaller companies may not have a contingency plan or realize having one is a legal requirement. They may not even know what a contingency plan is. This is where violations can occur, so it’s best to tackle this common complaint in a proactive manner.

If your company is a large or small generator of hazardous waste, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requires that you train your employees to handle and store the waste properly. Failing to do so could result in EPA fines for hazardous waste. Poorly trained employees could also endanger themselves, other people, and the environment. So, it’s essential to train employees on how to safely deal with this waste. If your company is not equipped to provide this training, a reputable hazardous waste management company, such as MCF Environmental Services can provide the training. It is important to supply this training early in the onboarding process to avoid potential accidents or violations.

The EPA has strict regulations concerning the disposal of mercury, and these are easy to violate. Simply throwing light bulbs or batteries in the garbage may result in a fine. Companies need to ensure mercury is handled properly to protect people and the environment from the serious harm mercury can cause, as well as to avoid fines and penalties.

03   /   Don’t Let a Hazardous Waste Oversight Cost Your Company Stiff Penalties, Fines and Potential Judgements

Dealing with hazardous waste can be complicated, and fines and penalties can be costly. Such violations can also open a business up to lawsuits and costly judgements. Avoiding the common violations listed above can help. If you need help ensuring your company is fully compliant, trust the waste experts of MCF Environmental Services to protect your business from costly hazardous waste mistakes. Reach out to learn more about our user-friendly training services and hazardous waste handling assistance. We take the worry out of waste for large and small businesses.

Robert Losurdo

President, COO