Regulations: 2015 in Review and What to Look for in 2016

Well, 2015 is behind us and 2016 has begun.  This is always a good time to take a look at what transpired in the previous year and what might be coming in the new year.  In 2015 we saw the feds work on several big changes to safety and environmental regulations.  Some of which came to fruition and some of which are still being “worked out”.  Highlights include:

GHS Implementation Deadlines

Many of the standards under the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) were adopted into OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard in 2012 featuring a variety of implementation dates.  Employees were required to be trained on the changes to labels and SDS in late 2013.  Manufacturers were to label containers under the new GHS standard by the end of 2015.  In 2016, employers are to have internal labeling and SDS compliant by June 1st. For more information see the OSHA website.

EPA’s Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) Ruling in 2015.

This rule affected the recycling of hazardous secondary materials and strengthened federal rules governing who recycles, and what constitutes recycling.  It was put in place to help eliminate sham recycling and established four main factors that must be met for recycling.  These factors are 1) hazardous secondary material must provide a useful contribution to the recycling process or product; (2) the recycling process must produce a valuable product or intermediate; (3) hazardous secondary material must be managed as a valuable commodity; and (4) the recycled product must be comparable to a legitimate product or intermediate.  Additionally, the DSW ruling created a “verified recycler exclusion”.  Recyclers operating under this provision must be RCRA permitted or obtain a variance for these activities.  Bear in mind, that many states have not adopted the DSW ruling, and generators in those states should check with their local agencies before implementing any changes.  For example, neither California or Washington have adopted this new ruling.   Finally, the DSW Ruling has many other changes that affect definitions, exclusions, and re-manufacturing.  Make sure you fully review the ruling before making any changes to your processes.

EPA’s Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule

This rule was proposed in 2015. Among other things, this ruling is supposed to change the rules to make them more easily understood, and allow more flexibility for generators to comply with the rules.  Some of the more notable proposed changes include allowing CESQG’s to ship their waste to a LQG as long as that LQG is under the control of the same company as the CESQG, allowing a CESQG or SQG to retain their generator status when a non-routine event generates a lot of hazardous waste, and requiring hazardous waste containers to also be labeled with the hazards of the waste within.  If this ruling becomes effective, check with your state to ensure whether, or when, your state adopts the ruling.  Some states already have stricter rules in place.  For example, many states already require hazardous waste labels to include hazard warnings.

EPA’s Electronic Manifest Ruling (e-manifests) of 2014.

This rule authorizes a national electronic manifesting system.  The system is anticipated to be online in 2018. The new rules allow for the use of the e-manifest for both RCRA and Non-RCRA wastes, and like the current rules, prohibit states from requiring additional formats or requirements.  A caveat, the hazardous manifest also must meet DOT requirements for wastes that are also “DOT hazardous materials”.  One of these requirements is for a paper copy to accompany all shipments of hazardous waste.  So even if the EPA’s e-manifest system goes live, the DOT (unless it changes its rules) will still require a paper copy accompany the shipment.

California’s on-again off-again changes to the Medical Waste Management Act.

We wrote about the changes when they went into effect in early 2015, and then again when state changed the act back.  This created a several month period where some medical waste generators were changing processes in order to comply with the new act, only to see all their efforts were for naught when the rule was changed back again.  We also saw several medical waste generators receive violations due to changes in the act that, had they been inspected only a few months earlier or later, would not have resulted in any violations.  My gut feeling here is that the state received many complaints and criticisms about the changes that occurred in early 2015, and this prompted the state to change back again.  So the take away here is to get involved and let your state and local regulators know what you think.  Kudos to the California Department of Health for their many workshops soliciting comment on the changes to the act.  A copy of the current California Medical Waste Management Act can be found here.

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