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Environmental Safety Best Practices: Successful Programs Go Beyond Regulations

By Steve Bonoff posted 01-02-2019 10:32


By, Jodi Drew, EHS Manager, ITU AbsorbTech and Jerry Chapman, Corporate Safety Manager, ITU AbsorbTech

There are many regulations covering how to use, store, and handle the chemicals and materials used by printers. Agencies such as EPA, state environmental agencies, OSHA, LEPCs, fire marshals and others have input into process requirements.

But industry best practices go far beyond those requirements. Some key areas to focus on are discussed below.

  • Strong partnerships with chemical suppliers are essential to taking the next steps toward environmental safety. Measurable goals are fundamental to providing environmentally and human friendly chemicals, while maintaining product quality and efficient operations. Partnerships with the best suppliers usually include trials with options specific to each facility and the downstream impacts. These suppliers will also work to drive down cost and provide training and new technology. While major raw material suppliers are frequently in this group, don’t forget to include smaller maintenance chemical providers and cleaning providers.
  • People are your greatest risk due to the human factor and error potential. Contractors lead the way as they are the least familiar with and often harder to control to best practices and standards. Use Standard Operating Procedures for initial training and updates so that contractors, visitors and employees have a consistent message and defense against human error. People are also the most valuable asset when they are empowered to react to deviations in processes and are rewarded for the success and improvement opportunities they are a part of every day.
  • Front line managers are the most important enforcers of existing Standard Operating Procedures. They help implement, support, and evaluate the effectiveness of PPE used, spill control efforts, and emergency response. They also set the culture of acceptable behavior, provide hands-on training, and drive the effectiveness of drills with accountability of teams and individuals. Good communication to and from upper managers provides a framework to be successful.
  • Understanding chemicals is critical to proper handling and exposure. Safety Data Sheets are a valuable tool in identifying what chemicals to use. Often an environmental engineer or chemist is needed to identify and recommend specific process controls and handling needed for employee safety and environmental protection. Insurance carriers can supply industry specific knowledge about new and emerging risks and technology to mitigate them
  • The ancillary products used in processes play a role in achieving safety and environmental goals. Supplies such as wipers affect time spent in maintenance, cleaning, and waste stream handling. Single use wipers can be cost friendly on the front end, which must be balanced with proper waste disposal and recordkeeping. Reusable wipers can be cleaned in-house or offsite at an industrial laundry. The elimination of disposal often makes reusable wipers a preferred choice over single use wipers. Other ancillary products like those used during maintenance activities can impact the way waste streams must be handled. Careful coordination can prevent inadvertent creation of a non-recyclable stream or a hazardous waste.
Another ancillary risk is in storage and handling of chemicals and materials contaminated with chemicals. Airborne, liquid and solid materials should be considered. Some significant risks that should be assessed include:

  • Housekeeping – slip trip and fall avoidance
  • Proper waste identification
  • Chemical reactions including spontaneous combustion, incompatible materials and degradation of containers or process equipment
  • Airborne contamination that could impact people, machinery and the general environment
  • Potential impact to downstream processes or environmental exposure – drains, exhaust vents, waste containers, and runoff
  • Industrial hygiene monitoring

Regulations provide a solid foundation to begin the quest of a safe and effective environmental program. Setting and achieving goals beyond compliance and being a leader in industry practices requires integration of best practices with corporate culture. The journey to “beyond compliance” begins with a culture where employees are an integral part of continuous improvement. The result is well worth the effort.

Jodi Drew is the Corporate Environmental Manager for ITU AbsorbTech. She is also the Corporate ISO Coordinator for ITU AbsorbTech’s ISO 14000 and 9000 Management Systems. She holds a US Patent in her field and is a requested speaker on a variety of environmental topics.

Jerry Chapman is the Corporate Safety Manager for ITU AbsorbTech and a Certified Safety Professional.  ITU AbsorbTech is a multiple time Wisconsin Corporate Safety Award winner (five time winner, three time finalist in the last eight years) and requested speaker at the annual Wisconsin safety conference.


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