Q. We are a conditionally exempt small quantity generator (CESQG). We hold waste on site in a central storage area for up to six months before we ship everything off site, but we don’t follow the actual 180–day rules while we’re storing the waste. We mark the words “Hazardous Waste” on our containers but nothing else. Since some of the waste is flammable, do we need to label the containers with either DOT labels or OSHA hazard communication labels while we’re storing them?
A. If you are a conditionally exempt small quantity generator, you would not need to mark your hazardous waste containers with either DOT or OSHA hazard communication (HazCom) labels on the containers while the waste is being stored at your site.
The DOT hazardous materials transportation rules (49 CFR 171-180) do not apply while you are storing/accumulating the hazardous waste on site. The DOT rules would apply only when you begin the process of preparing/offering this material for transportation. However, there is nothing wrong with affixing a DOT flammable liquid label on a container while it is sitting in storage.
The OSHA HazCom standard actually has an exclusion for hazardous waste that is subject to Federal EPA regulation [29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(6)]. Although the CESQG rules at 40 CFR 261.5 mandate very few specific handling requirements for managing hazardous waste while it is on site (i.e., CESQGs are not required to follow either the 90-day or 180-day rules), the CESQG’s waste is still subject to Federal EPA regulation under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Therefore, the hazardous waste does qualify for the exclusion under OSHA’s HazCom standard. However, as with DOT labels, there is no prohibition against placing HazCom labels.
In both cases, there may be added benefits to affixing either or both types of labels. Provided the labels accurately represent the hazards, these labels may provide further information to employees managing these hazardous waste containers. This good management practice may reduce the risk of improper handling or exposure to employees. Each site will need to evaluate its specific conditions to see if this practice is appropriate. Factors to consider include the diversity of the types of hazardous chemicals/wastes the employees are working with and the likelihood that there may be different handling precautions, the experience of your employees, the turnover rate of your employees, and whether the accumulation container is the authorized DOT package for off-site shipment. (You probably don’t want to place a DOT label on an accumulation container that is not authorized to ship the waste, as it may create a false perception that the container can be shipped as is.)