You may already be aware of the requirement for large quantity generators of hazardous waste to train their facility personnel annually. And you may be aware of the responsibility of small quantity generators of hazardous waste to ensure that all employees are thoroughly familiar with proper waste handling and emergency procedures [40 CFR 262.34(d)(5)(iii)]. You may not know that if you generate a universal waste, you have an additional responsibility to train/inform your employees depending on your handler status.
Universal wastes are hazardous wastes that have the option to be managed under the less restrictive universal waste regulations of 40 CFR 273. Federal universal wastes include those listed below. Check with your state to determine if they have added any state-specific universal wastes to this list.
- Mercury-containing devices
- Recalled or canceled pesticides
There are two levels of universal waste handler status determined by the amount of universal waste accumulated at any one time in the calendar year, they are:
- Small Quantity Handler accumulates <5,000 kg of universal waste.
- Large Quantity Handler accumulates ≥5,000 kg of universal waste.
Note that your universal waste handler status is distinct and separate from your hazardous waste generator status. Also, the employee training requirements for universal waste are separate and distinct from those for hazardous waste.
Pursuant to 40 CFR 273.16 a small quantity handler of universal waste must inform all employees who handle or have responsibility for managing universal waste. The information must describe proper handling and emergency procedures appropriate to the type(s) of universal waste handled at the facility. Though entitled”Employee Training” the regulation only requires you to “inform” applicable employees, this could be done through instructions, signs, etc. You may not, however, assume they have the necessary knowledge due to experience since the regulations requires you to actively “inform” them of what they need to know.
Pursuant to 40 CFR 273.36 a large quantity handler of universal waste must ensure that all employees are thoroughly familiar with proper waste handling and emergency procedures, relative to their responsibilities during normal facility operations and emergencies. Note the – deliberate – similarity between the training requirements for a large quantity handler of universal waste and a small quantity generator of hazardous waste. They both must ensure their employees are thoroughly familiar with their job duties and know what to do in an emergency, but they have no direction on how this is to be done or are required to document the process or maintain records. How you comply with this regulation is up to you, it could be signs, labels, on-the-job training, or other.
The regulations of the USEPA (and authorized states) are deliberately vague on the subject of training for employees who work with universal waste. It is the responsibility of the handler to determine if its training is adequate. However, I have been advised of a good way to ensure compliance. I was told by an authority of a state environmental regulatory agency that compliance with OSHA’s regulations at 29 CFR Part 1910 for worker protection will ensure compliance with the universal waste training requirements. Indeed, such an achievement was referred to as the “Gold Standard” for compliance.
The training requirements for handlers of universal waste must be completed in addition to the required training for generators of hazardous waste. My training, either at public workshops or at your facility, addresses the both of these regulations and much more.