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Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials are a necessary part of research and operations at Penn State, including hazardous chemicals, infectious materials and radioactive materials. The handling, transportation, and disposal of these materials are strictly regulated by Federal and Pennsylvania regulations and Penn State policies and monitored closely by EHS to protect those handling these materials and to protect the environment from improper management.

Chemical Safety

Many facilities within the University contain chemicals and hazardous materials that are essential for their operation. The Chemical Safety Program is responsible for the development and oversight of programs to ensure the safe handling, use, transport, collection, storage, and disposal of chemicals generated by teaching, research or administrative support activities.

Asbestos Management

Asbestos was widely used in building materials from around the 1940's to the early 1980's and since many University buildings were constructed during that time, asbestos management is a major program.

The University's policy is management in-place, meaning asbestos is only handled or removed when necessary, before renovations, demolitions, when the material could be disturbed or is damaged. Several federal and state agencies also regulate asbestos-related activities including US EPA, PA DEP, PA Department of Labor and Industry, and OSHA.

Chemical and Hazardous Waste Management

The University is required, by regulation 25 PA Code Ch. 260 a - 262 a and by Environmental Protection Agency regulation 40 CFR 260-262 to ensure the proper disposition of hazardous wastes. Proper handling of reaction by products, surplus and waste chemicals, and contaminated materials is an important part of safety procedures. Each worker is responsible for ensuring that wastes are handled in a manner that minimizes personal exposure and the potential for environmental contamination.

Environmental Emergency Plans

Penn State has a variety of plans that address facilities that store fuels, oils, and hazardous materials.  The purpose of these plans is to describe measures to prevent spills and releases from occurring and to prepare for an effective, safe, and timely response to mitigate the impacts of a spill/release.

Environmental Site Assessments

Environmental Site Assessments are used to determine the presence or absence of recognized environmental conditions. They are usually related to property acquisition, but may be performed in response to the discovery of potential environmental contaminants at a facility.

EHS staff may also perform site-specific assessments to identify other environmental health and safety considerations such as the presence of hazardous materials and occupational safety issues that may impact the environment or occupancy.

Infectious Waste Management

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental (DEP) regulations require that infectious waste (also known as regulated medical waste or red bag waste) be handled, stored and disposed of properly.  Laboratory-generated waste that is or may be contaminated with disease causing organisms, or that has been in contact with recombinant DNA molecules, must be collected in a manner that prevents release or spillage of the material, must be autoclaved before EHS will collect the material for final disposal.

Hazardous Materials Shipping

Hazardous materials for shipping may be generated by a variety of activities such as teaching, testing and research laboratories, maintenance, housekeeping and agricultural operations. These materials may cause severe illness or death or pose substantial environmental threat when improperly transported or shipped. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) established the regulations for the shipping of hazardous materials.

Chemical Inventory Management

University safety policy SY39 requires that all work areas maintain a chemical inventory in the Chemical Inventory Management System (CHIMS).

Regular use and required annual updates of the chemical inventory is an essential part of Penn State's efforts to comply with various regulations as well as to provide critical information to emergency responders entering an area where hazardous chemicals are present.

Work areas are also required to maintain a hard copy of their CHIMS chemical inventory.

Storage Tank Management Program

The Storage Tank Management Program is responsible for oversight of aboveground and underground tanks that are used for the storage of fuels, oils, and chemicals.  The program provides requirements for these tanks to protect both the people that use them and the environment. The goals of the Storage Tank Management Program are to minimize the number of tanks and the volume of material stored, develop alternatives to storage tanks where feasible, ensure good installations, meet regulatory requirements, and remove tanks that put the University at risk of causing environmental damage.


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