Safety expert Andy Brousseau talks about the risks of working with and storing hazardous materials on The Workplace Safety podcast, streaming here!

Andy spoke with host Stephen “Sarge” Thomas for about 40 minutes about “Hazardous Waste – Are your Processes Preventing or Promoting Disaster?” The discussion focuses on the importance of safely working with chemicals, along with how every organization’s team should be prepared in case of an emergency. They also reviewed some helpful rules for organizations to follow for handling and disposing chemicals and discussed the three different levels of Hazardous Waste Generators, and how important it is that companies know and understand how this regulation applies to them.

“One of the most difficult areas of the safety profession is one concerning hazardous materials. The difficulty arises from the process of almost continuous hazardous material inventory and control of incoming hazardous materials,” Andy said.

Some people may not know that hazardous materials go beyond chemicals or fuel. According to Andy, “a hazardous material may be radioactive, flammable, explosive, toxic, corrosive, a biohazard, an oxidizer, an asphyxiant, or an allergen, or may have other characteristics that make it hazardous in specific circumstances.”

Hazardous waste can be a solid, semi-solid, liquid, or a contained gas that has one or more of the following properties:

  • Ignitability
  • Toxicity
  • Reactivity
  • Corrosivity
  • Persistence or Bioaccumulation
  • Carcinogenicity

The conversation also brings up the key regulations that govern hazardous materials and hazardous wastes, such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 and the Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act of 1986.

Andy, a professional firefighter, and medic for 22 years stressed the importance of employee training, the value of a contingency plan to prepare in case of an emergency. A proper plan “should be designed to minimize hazards to human 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,” he said.


“The provisions of our plan are to be carried out immediately whenever there is a fire, explosion, or release of hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituents that could threaten human health or the environment.”

Besides the physical hazards associated with hazardous materials, other risks include over-pressurization, an increase in temperature surrounding a container or other systemic failures, fires and explosions, corrosion, thermal decomposition, water reactions, and personal health hazards, which happens when toxins are inhaled, ingested, or absorbed by workers.

Hosted by Lancaster Safety Consulting, a nationwide OSHA consulting firm that focuses on workplace safety, The Workplace Safety podcast focuses on “common health and safety issues found in workplaces across the nation” and gives listeners “an inside look at what it takes to be, and stay, compliant with OSHA’s ever-changing regulations.”

Listen Now