Federal Agencies Involved in HazMat Response

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Government officials and Protect personnel inspect an abandoned waste site.

There are millions of chemical products that are used for industrial and consumer applications.  These chemicals are used all across the country in processes that range from growing apples to manufacturing zippers.  These products play a crucial role in our economy but misuse or mishandling of chemicals can lead to severe consequences for human health and the environment.

The United States congress has passed laws governing the handling, transportation and disposal of certain chemicals.  A majority of Federal regulation and enforcement efforts are handled by a handful of entities; the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the Department of Transportation and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.  Each entity has a specific role to play in ensuring the safety of Americans when it comes to potentially hazardous chemicals.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for protecting the environment from contamination stemming from chemical spills, illegal dumping and pollution from industrial activity.  Since its creation the agency has been involved in the enforcement of federal laws such as the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.  The remediation of notorious superfund sites including “The Valley of the Drums” in Kentucky and Love Canal in New York were overseen by the EPA.  During large scale disasters like hurricane Katrina, the EPA works with other authorities to identify and safely recovery chemical containers that have been displaced by flood waters.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is responsible protecting workers from dangers they may encounter at their place of employment.  OSHA sets limits on the amount of exposure employees have to certain chemicals, requires the use of personal protective equipment and other safety devices and ensures that employees have access to information about the hazards in their workplace.  In 2012, OSHA adopted the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) as their Hazard Communication Standard; the standard format for labels on chemical containers and safety data sheets.  The goal of a uniform system like GHS is for workers to easily understand the hazards of chemicals so that injuries will be prevented.

101_2307Since chemical products are very vulnerable to spills and other accidents while being transported, the Department of Transportation broadly oversees the transportation of hazardous goods as well as ensuring safe and reliable transportation in the US in general.  In 2004, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) was established as an agency within DOT that specifically focuses on hazardous materials transportation.  The PHMSA investigates accidents and sets standards for how these chemicals should be handled in an effort to prevent spills and mitigate negative effects when there is a chemical spill.  In addition, the PHMSA also provides grants to improve responses to releases of hazardous materials.

When an accidental chemical spill occurs, companies frequently rely on private contractors such as Protect Environmental Services to respond rapidly and keep them within regulatory guidelines set by the EPA, OSHA and PHMSA.  Our goal at Protect Environmental is to help companies safeguard their employees, bystanders and the environment from the risks associated with the manufacturing, transportation, storage and disposal of hazardous chemical products.  Feel free to contact our office to see how our professional staff can help your company in the event of a HazMat spill.

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