Why Some Excluded RCRA Wastes Need HazCom Labels

Posted on 4/12/2021 by Joel Gregier, CDGP

If your site generates hazardous waste, you will be subject to EPA’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). RCRA imposes requirements for time limits, marks/labels, on-site storage, and ultimate disposal of your wastes, among other things.

But within those RCRA rules, there are some exclusions that could get you out of the definition of hazardous waste. Most of these exclusions are found at 40 CFR 261.4 (there are some others scattered in other parts of the regulations), but the benefit of these exclusions is that you are not subject to all those RCRA requirements we just mentioned. Nice!

But sometimes, when you get out of one set of rules, it drags you into a different set of rules: in this case, OSHA’s Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard.

Hazardous Wastes are Normally Excluded from HazCom

Under OSHA’s HazCom Standard (also known as the “Right-to-Understand” Standard), workers have the right to know what kind of “hazardous chemicals” they might be exposed to as they do their job. As such, companies are required to have labels on their chemical containers (typically a “GHS label”) that include safety pictograms, hazard statements, and precautionary statements (as well as other elements). Companies are also required to have Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for each of these chemicals.

Most RCRA “hazardous wastes” would also meet the definition of an OSHA “hazardous chemical.” What that means is these wastes would normally be required to have a GHS label on the container and an associated SDS. However, there is an exclusion specifically for hazardous wastes in the HazCom Standard:

“This section does not apply to: Any hazardous waste as such term is defined by the Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, as amended (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.), when subject to regulations issued under that Act by the Environmental Protection Agency;” [29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(6)(i)]

So if you are managing your hazardous waste under RCRA, OSHA says “follow those marking/labeling rules instead of ours.” But the key is that the waste is only excluded from HazCom if you are actually following the RCRA rules.

Join an expert Lion instructor for a live RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Refresher webinar on April 20 to fulfill EPA's annual hazardous waste training mandate.

Excluded Wastes Typically Get Pulled Back Into HazCom

As we mentioned earlier, there are some exclusions under RCRA that can get you out of the hazardous waste rules. If you take advantage of one of those exclusions, you are now not subject to hazardous waste regulations. However, because you are no longer managing the waste under RCRA, you will not be able to take advantage of the HazCom exclusion. You will need GHS labels (or other acceptable hazard communications) and Safety Data Sheets for those excluded wastes.

To be clear, an excluded waste is only subject to HazCom if it meets the definition of a “hazardous chemical.”  Some excluded wastes will be a hazardous chemical while some will not.

Here are two examples of excluded wastes: one that would be a “hazardous chemical” and one that would not.

At 40 CFR 261.4(a)(23), there is an exclusion for hazardous wastes that are “generated and reclaimed under the control of the generator.” So if you had something like spent acetone that you used to clean some machinery, that was distilled on your own site with your own distillation unit, and you met all the conditions of the exclusion at (a)(23), that would not longer be considered hazardous waste (in fact, it’s not even “solid waste”). But since that spent acetone is flammable, it would be a “hazardous chemical” under OSHA and that container would now need a GHS label and an SDS.

At 40 CFR 261.4(a)(13), there is an exclusion for recycled scrap metal. If you were to send your scrap metal off to a metal recycler, that scrap metal is now excluded from being a hazardous waste (as well as a “solid waste”). That scrap metal is also not going to meet OSHA’s definition of a hazardous chemical. So for this scenario, the scrap metal is subject to neither RCRA nor HazCom.

As you can see, whenever you deal with “hazardous” things, regulations can get complicated when different regulatory agencies are involved.

RCRA Training to Manage Your Site's Hazardous Waste

Be confident that your employees know the RCRA regulations that impact your operations and the consequences for noncompliance. Employees who know the regulations behind your workplace policies are more likely to recognize the importance of compliance.

At, find live RCRA training for new and experienced personnel to get everyone up to speed on the regulations they must know to safely manage hazardous waste and help avoid accidents, injuries, and costly fines and penalties.

RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Webinar
Develop the in-depth expertise you need to identify regulated wastes and meet your responsibilities for proper storage, labeling, and safe disposal. 
  • April 27–28
RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Refresher Webinar
Help satisfy EPA's annual RCRA training mandate with this streamlined course for experienced hazardous waste professionals. 
  • April 20
  • May 4

Tags: EPA, hazard communication, hazardous waste, hazardous waste management, HazCom, osha, RCRA

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