The Dangers of Oxidizers

One of the hazard class label used when shipping oxidizers.

One of the hazard class label used when shipping oxidizers.

Many people have seen the symbol for oxidizing agents at one time or another.  It can be found on pails of pool chlorine, bags of fertilizer, crates of hydrogen peroxide and bottles of household bleach as well as the trucks that transport them.  The flaming “O” on a yellow background is easily recognizable but may not be fully understood by those who see it in passing.  Anyone who handles or stores oxidizing materials should be familiar with the potential dangers in order to reduce injuries and property damage.

Oxidizers pose the greatest risk during fires so it is important to first understand that a fire is a chemical reaction that cannot be sustained without three elements; heat, fuel and oxygen.  The atmosphere usually contains 21% oxygen so normal environments that sustain human life can sustain a fire as well.  Firefighters use foam or water spray to starve the fire by blocking oxygen from reaching the burning fuel.  Inversely, an increase in the amount of available oxygen near a fire allows the chemical reaction to accelerate and the fuel material burns more intensely.

From a HazMat standpoint, oxidizers are generally compounds that can release oxygen when heated or otherwise breakdown.  When an oxidizer material is involved in a fire, the oxygen it releases means that the fire is no longer dependent on oxygen from the air and typical firefighting methods are less effective.  Also, depending on the fuel material, the presence of an oxidizer near a fire can cause it to burn so quickly that the fuel explodes rather than burning steadily.  In some cases the oxidizer material itself can also decompose explosively during a fire.

These properties make oxidizers a crucial component in military and industrial explosives but there have been many instances where fires at facilities that stored oxidizing material have caused catastrophic damage and loss of life.  Recent events such as the explosion in West, TX have focused the public’s attention on the dangers posed by ammonium nitrate, a common oxidizer, but over the past century this oxidizer and others have contributed to massive explosions that have injured thousands of people in industrialized countries.

In the United States, the Department of Transportation usually sets the standard for what materials are considered oxidizers.  Materials that meet the DOT definition must be transported on trucks that display the hazard class 5.1 placard that consists of the yellow background with the flaming “O”.  Any organization that uses oxidizers, even in small quantities, should be mindful of safe handling practices and store them away from flammable materials like solvents and fuels.

Knowledgeable HazMat emergency response professionals should be called when cleaning up and disposing of oxidizer materials and Protect Environmental’s trained personnel are up to the task.  Our teams have been managing complex chemical spills on roadways and in warehouses in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for almost twenty years.  Rather than waiting until you’re faced with a spill situation, call our office today and learn about how you can make Protect Environmental a part of your company’s chemical emergency response planning.

Hazardous Chemicals and Safety Data Sheets

Safety Data Sheets (also known as Material Safety Data Sheets) are a common sight in workplaces across the country but some employees may still be unaware of what an SDS is and how it affects them.  OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard requires them to be made available to employees of businesses that work with or otherwise handle chemical products.  The goal is to help employees protect themselves by understanding the risks associated with exposure to chemicals in their workplace.  The manufacturer, importer or distributor of a chemical is responsible for providing the SDS for a product to the end user.

An SDS is broken down into sections that give specific types of information about the product in order to allow the reader to easily locate the data they need.  In an emergency an employee or first responder will skip to the section that contains the information pertinent to their situation, whether there is a fire or an employee injury due to overexposure.

SDS Photo

Some notable information in an SDS includes the product’s flashpoint, pH, optimum storage conditions, recommended PPE for safe handling and exposure limits.  This information not only assists emergency responders like Protect Environmental, it also helps employers design controls and procedures that prevent accidents and contain spills when they do happen.

Although OSHA adopted the Globally Harmonized System that sets a uniform format for Safety Data Sheets, some SDS may still exclude certain pieces of information that were unknown to the author at the time the SDS was published.  Missing information can include but is not limited to the pH, transportation classification or waste disposal determinations.  Since some common chemical products (e.g. Xylene or Sodium Hydroxide) have SDS published by more than one manufacturer or distributor, employers can most often find a copy that contains the information they are looking for.

As an emergency response and remediation contractor, Protect Environmental frequently reviews Safety Data Sheets when responding to spills or handling and disposing of chemical wastes.  We take safety seriously and use information to protect our employees, our clients and the environment.  We also urge any business that uses chemical products to keep their SDS library up to date and periodically train their employees on how to use Safety Data Sheets.

More information about Safety Data Sheets can be found on the OSHA website.  To find out how you can make Protect Environmental a part of your company’s spill response planning; contact our office today.

Protect’s Hazardous Waste Disposal Services

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At Protect Environmental we believe that knowledge is critical to waste management and spill response.  If your company generates hazardous waste, universal waste or other regulated waste you must comply with stringent EPA and DOT guidelines when disposing of these wastes.  Generators in the state of Texas must also comply with regulations established under Title 30 of the Texas Administrative Code as well as federal regulations.  Failure to follow the law when it comes to waste disposal could mean stiff penalties from the TCEQ.

Protect frequently assists our in determining which of their wastes are regulated and what the best disposal options are by reviewing generator process knowledge and using waste characterization techniques such as MSDS (SDS) examination or sampling and analytical testing.  We then help guide clients on how to safely store their wastes until they can be disposed of by providing recommendations on marking packages, packaging materials in correct and compatible containers, segregating incompatible wastes and setting up secondary containment or spill response procedures.

Protect staff are familiar with state and federal waste rules so when a waste stream is ready for disposal, we can arrange for transportation and disposal of wastes at permitted facilities with supporting documentation such as manifests and profiles for waste reports.  In addition, we specialize in hand-on waste minimization services such as source reduction, waste consolidation and researching recycling options to reduce the overall amount of waste being produced at your facility.

Whether you need someone to completely manage your wastes or just need help disposing of a few hazardous chemicals, Protect can offer insight and solutions that fit your situation.  Protect staff can even direct you on how to keep up to date with training requirements for waste generators and transporters.

We encourage our clients to call us with any questions they may have.  A simple phone call can often let you avoid a very economically damaging mistake down the road.  We hope that some day Protect can give you peace of mind by meeting your waste management and spill containment needs.

Illegal Dumping Information from Protect Environmental Services

Many businesses will at some point find themselves in possession of special wastes that they are not accustomed to dealing with.  This can happen when a product expires, when materials are left over after a project, when a business is preparing to move or when a tenant vacates a property and leaves waste behind.  However they came about, it is important that these wastes be disposed of in a responsible manner to ensure that they don’t end up posing a threat to human health or the environment and costing you in fines and legal trouble.

Any action where a was2549 004 touchedte is disposed of in a way that does not comply with the law is generally considered illegal dumping.  Even if a waste ultimately ends up in a landfill, if that landfill isn’t constructed and permitted to accept that particular waste it is still a crime.  It may be tempting to place hazardous waste into receptacles meant for regular trash; especially if it is a small amount, but disposing of any amount of waste in an illegal manner could mean major fines.

Some individuals may attempt to transport and dump waste in remote or concealed areas as a means of saving money or effort.  Regardless of the type of waste, it it is placed in an area that is not intended for waste disposal it is considered an illegal dump.  Many cities and small municipalities enforce penalties for violations but in some cases of dumping the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will get involved and purse criminal punishment against the offender.  The increasing prevalence of security cameras and bystanders with smart phones also means that the people who engage in illegal dumping are more likely than ever to be caught.

Paints, solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, used oils, tires, medical wastes and cleaning chemicals all require special consideration during disposal.  Organizations that fail to budget and plan for waste disposal run the risk of going out of business but trying to handle waste while complying with the environmental laws can prove to be a challenge for managers who are already busy with their normal responsibilities.

Protect Environmental not o
nly responds to chemical and bio-hazard incidents, we also work for our clients to manage their wastes in the most economical way possible.  Our staff can arrange for transportation of wastes to legal disposal sites while providing documentation and removing the threat of your company being fined for illegal dumping.  We specialize in handling and disposal of hazardous and special wastes so that your organization can focus on what it does best.  You will find that Protect Environmental outperforms and costs much less than all other competitors working in the North Texas region.

To learn more, feel free to contact our office by phone or email today.

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Protect team removing medical waste that was illegally dumped in a recycling container.

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