What is Hazardous Materials Management?

Erin J. Hill

Hazardous materials management involves the proper storage, use, and disposal of any material that poses a potential threat to people or the environment. These materials can include industrial waste, medical waste, or chemical waste. There are specialized companies and government offices that transport, store, and dispose of potentially harmful materials. It is recommended, and often required, that businesses and individuals handle these materials in the proper manner.

Motor oil is considered a hazardous material.
Motor oil is considered a hazardous material.

There is generally a separate hazardous materials management system for every type of material. Medical hazards, for example, may be handled differently than chemical hazards at someone’s home. Additionally, there may be several subtypes of hazardous materials. Bio-hazardous waste, medications, and used needles are all subcategories of medical-related hazardous materials.

Medical waste is considered hazardous because infection can be spread through contact.
Medical waste is considered hazardous because infection can be spread through contact.

Of primary focus, in hazardous materials management, is the proper storage of materials that are being used. Industrial materials and chemicals are an example, and they must be stored in leak proof containers with no risk of puncture. Other examples can include medications and blood that are stored in hospitals and blood banks.

In some instances, proper storage or containment is not possible or is not properly implemented and the environment becomes contaminated. The systems which clean and reverse this pollution are another big part of hazardous materials management. Water plants filter and purify polluted water so that it is usable again, and solid materials that are not properly disposed of may be moved to a suitable storage or waste facility.

Sometimes hazardous materials management deals with the destruction or transportation of harmful waste. Medical waste is generally stored in sealed and labeled containers, and much of it is incinerated to prevent human contamination. Old batteries, motor oil, and other hazardous household materials may be taken to facilities which specialize in the proper disposal or recycling of these materials. Even the sewer systems running beneath cities are part of the hazardous materials management system because they flush potentially contaminated or infected water to plants where it can be cleaned.

Citizens are encouraged to play their part in hazardous waste management by properly disposing of harmful materials used in the home. Cleaning solutions, oil, gasoline, batteries and other materials should be taken to the proper facilities for disposal. Throwing them away with the rest of the garbage could result in unnecessary leaks, which can contaminate the soil or water in the area. To find a proper disposal facility, check with the retailer where the materials were purchased.

Used needles are a subcategory of medical hazardous waste.
Used needles are a subcategory of medical hazardous waste.

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