8 Best Practices for Handling Hazardous Materials in 2023

8 Best Practices for Handling Hazardous Materials in 2023
keyKey Takeaways:
  • Understand the hazardous materials you work with to ensure proper handling and mitigate risks.
  • Add proper labeling of materials to communicate hazards effectively and comply with regulations.
  • Implement appropriate storage areas to minimize accidents, spills, and environmental contamination.

Hazardous materials require special care, be it at home or at warehouses. Improper handling of hazardous materials not only harms employees but also adheres to regulations that affect the materials solely. 

As of February 2021, more than 50 million tons of hazardous waste had been thrown away globally. To collect the waste and dispose without any mishap, it’s always good to brush up on the best practices for handling these hazardous substances. We have listed below the 8 established procedures for safe handling.

1. Understand the Hazardous Materials

Imagine you own a construction company or work in a laboratory. Handling different materials and chemicals every day is dangerous. Substances like asbestos or lead-based paint can be hazardous and are associated with related risks. 

When a company understands the risk and types of hazardous waste that employees could encounter, it becomes easy to find the risk involved and develop the right strategy to handle the materials carefully. But why is it important to understand the different hazardous substances? Let’s find out. 

Why is it important to identify and classify hazardous materials? 

  • Personal safety

    Understanding the properties and potential health effects of hazardous materials helps you take appropriate precautions to protect yourself. This knowledge enables you to use the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) for a particular substance. For example, handling corrosive chemicals may require wearing gloves, goggles, and a lab coat to shield yourself from burns or eye damage.
  • Risk assessment

    Being familiar with hazardous materials allows you to conduct thorough risk assessments. By assessing the potential hazards associated with specific substances, you can identify control measures and implement proper handling procedures. For instance, if you know a chemical is flammable, you’ll take extra care to prevent ignition sources and check on the proper storage conditions.
  • Emergency procedures

    In the event of spills, leaks, or accidents, understanding hazardous materials enables you to respond effectively and efficiently. You’ll know how to contain the spill, mitigate risks, and communicate the appropriate information to emergency responders. Timely and accurate knowledge can make a significant difference in minimizing the consequences of an incident.

2. Ensure Proper Labeling of the Materials

If your job duties are in a storage facility filled with containers and packages, ensure to keep clear and accurate labels for each. You can provide adequate protection to anyone walking blindfolded. Proper labeling of hazardous materials is essential for several reasons, and let’s dig into them.

Ensure proper labeling of the materials

Why labeling is important?

  • Hazard identification

    Labels act as visual cues, providing critical information about the hazardous properties of the materials. By understanding the risks associated with specific substances, you can take appropriate precautions. Labels include symbols, signal words (e.g., “Danger” or “Warning”), and hazard statements that convey potential dangers, such as toxicity, flammable liquids, or contamination risks.
  • Safe handling and storage

    Properly labeled containers guide you in handling and storing hazardous materials correctly. Labels often provide instructions on storage conditions, compatibility considerations, and any specific handling requirements. For example, a label might indicate that a chemical needs to be stored in a cool, well-ventilated area, or that it must be kept away from certain incompatible substances.
  • Emergency response

    In the event of an accident or spill, labels are invaluable in guiding emergency responders. Clear labeling helps them quickly identify the substances involved, assess the risks, and determine the appropriate response actions. This ensures a swift and targeted approach to mitigate the situation, protecting both people and the environment.

Let’s take a peek into a scenario where proper labeling makes a world of difference.  

Warehouse Management
Large warehouses or storage facilities often handle a diverse range of hazardous materials. Labels provide essential information for workers to handle, segregate, and store materials properly. 

For instance, materials labeled properly might specify that certain substances need to be kept away from heat sources or require specific ventilation arrangements to prevent chemical reactions or explosions.

3. Keep Appropriate Storage Areas

Finding a warehouse filled with various hazardous materials scattered and stored haphazardly is a misery to watch. That is why ensuring proper storage is crucial to maintain and mitigate risks that are associated with hazardous chemicals. 

Keep appropriate storage areas

What is the significance of keeping the right storage areas?

  • Segregation and compatibility

    All the chemicals and materials may not have the same compatibility and keeping them together would end up in dangerous reactions. By providing safe storage areas, you can segregate materials easily. For example, flammable substances should be stored far away from oxidizers to avoid explosions. 
  • Risk reduction

    Safe handling of hazardous materials minimizes the potential for spills and accidents. Storing them in their designated areas in proper containment measures prevents leakage and reduces the impact on the environment. 
  • Accessibility and organization

    Well-organized storage areas verify the materials are accessible. This reduces the chances of mishandling if the inventory is labeled properly. Labeling containers will quickly help to locate and retrieve specific materials when needed. 
  • Temperature and ventilation control

    Other safety rules include materials that require specific temperatures and ventilation for storage. Plan ahead and train employees to store materials as per their suitable environment to prevent degradation or reaction from excessive heat or ventilation. 

4. Train Your Employees

Employees in every manufacturing industry should be trained to tackle emergency situations. For example, if you need to drive a car, you need to understand how it operates to avoid any disaster. Similarly, providing training to your employees on how to perform job duties as a fundamental practice will reduce the risks of medical emergencies.

Why is it important to train employees?

  • Compliance with regulations

    Training ensures that employees are aware of and comply with relevant regulations and legal requirements. It helps them understand their responsibilities and obligations in handling hazardous materials, including proper labeling, storage, record-keeping, and disposal procedures. Compliance with regulations not only provides safety but also avoids legal consequences and penalties.
  • Emergency procedures

  • Employees trained in hazardous materials are prepared to handle emergencies. They understand the emergency reporting procedures in case of spills, leaks, or accidents. Training includes practicing quick response to evacuation procedures, and notification protocols. This enables employees to swiftly act minimizing the potential impact of incidents. 

5. Manage Storage Areas

Once you find a proper storage area and dump the material, it is important to manage the containers piled haphazardly. Employees involved in this practice should properly manage storage areas for safety, prevent accidents, and damaged containers, and optimize workflow. 

Why managing storage areas are important?

  • Organization and accessibility

    A well-managed storage area ensure the safe handling of hazardous substances. These materials are organized, labeled, and easily accessible for employees to locate and retrieve anytime without any risk. Organized materials also facilitate inventory management, reducing the chances of damaged containers or deteriorated materials. 
  • Waste management

    Effective storage area management includes provisions for proper waste disposal. Hazardous materials that have expired, become unusable, or are no longer needed must be safely stored and appropriately disposed of according to regulatory requirements. Dedicated waste storage areas and clear procedures for waste handling help prevent environmental contamination and compliance.

    However, to collect this waste from various places, you can use Upper’s waste route planning software. It will help you plan, optimize, and schedule routes for waste collection. 

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6. Check if Containers are Closed

Imagine a container of hazardous material left open, allowing its contents to spill or release harmful fumes into the environment. It’s like leaving the gate wide open for trouble! Ensuring that containers holding hazardous substances that are securely closed are a fundamental practice for maintaining safety, preventing accidents, and safeguarding the well-being of all. Let’s uncover why this practice is critical.

Check if containers are closed

Why is it important to close the containers properly?

  • Containment and leak prevention

    Properly closed containers prevent leaks, spills, or releases of hazardous materials. This helps contain the substances within the intended storage area, minimizing the risk of exposure to workers, any medical emergency, and the surrounding community. Closed containers also reduce the potential for contamination and the spread of harmful substances.
  • Vapor control

    Many hazardous materials release toxic, flammable, or volatile vapors. By ensuring that an appropriate container is tightly sealed, you prevent the escape of these vapors into the atmosphere. This helps maintain a safe and healthy work environment, reducing the risk of respiratory problems, fire hazards, or chemical reactions.

7. Manage Mercury Waste

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been vigilant in cracking down on the improper storage and disposal of mercury-related products. They have imposed heavy fines for those who fail to handle mercury waste appropriately. This practice encompasses not only mercury-containing industrial waste but also discarded mercury-containing products. Considering the extreme toxicity of mercury and its compounds, it is paramount that we handle them with great care. 

Let’s explore why this practice deserves our attention.

Best practices to manage mercury waste

  • Environmental protection

    Proper management of mercury-containing waste is crucial for safeguarding the environment. When mercury is released into the environment, it can contaminate soil, water bodies, and the air we breathe. This poses significant risks to wildlife, ecosystems, and human health. By managing mercury waste properly, we minimize the chances of contamination and contribute to a cleaner and healthier environment.
  • Health and Safety

    Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic substances that can cause severe health effects, including neurological and developmental disorders. By managing mercury-containing waste properly, we minimize the risk of exposure to employees, waste handlers, and the general public. It is our responsibility to prioritize the well-being and safety of all individuals who come into contact with these materials.

8. Perform Regular Inspections

As hazardous waste generators, we have a responsibility to ensure that our waste storage areas are properly maintained. Regulatory requirements often mandate weekly inspections of these areas to prevent potential hazards and maintain compliance. By performing regular inspections, we can identify issues promptly and take corrective actions, ultimately minimizing risks and protecting our reputation. Let’s explore why this practice deserves our attention.

Why is it important to inspect these storage areas? 

  • Preventative maintenance

    Inspections go beyond identifying existing issues; they also help us uncover potential maintenance needs. Regularly evaluating storage areas allows us to detect signs of wear and tear, structural weaknesses, or equipment malfunctions. By addressing these issues promptly, we prevent further damage, ensure the longevity of storage facilities, and reduce the chances of unforeseen incidents.
  • Reputation and public perception

    Demonstrating a commitment to safety and compliance through regular inspections enhance your company’s reputation. Customers, stakeholders, and the public value businesses that prioritize environmental protection and employee well-being. By actively managing storage areas and conducting inspections, you can maintain a positive public image and instill confidence in your practices.

Maintain the safety of your employees and facilities by following these 8 suggestions.  If you require assistance, the right hazardous disposal can assist you in setting up the procedures and managing to keep you one step ahead of the authorities.

Get the Best Routes for Hazardous Waste Collection on Upper

Optimized material handling can help you move, store and protect products throughout the material pickup process. If you are involved in the distribution of the supply chain, for example, the delivery service provider, implement route optimization with Upper Route Planner.

Upper’s routing software helps you to optimize the routes for your waste collection team. It helps them pick up the hazardous materials and deliver them to their respective storage spaces carefully and quickly. Upper can reduce your fuel costs and time to help you handle hazardous materials efficiently.


Safe handling of hazardous materials refers to the practices and procedures used to minimize the risks associated with the storage, transportation, and use of substances that pose a threat to human health, the environment, or property. Safe handling includes proper storage, labeling, personal protective equipment (PPE) use, training, and adherence to regulatory requirements.

Handling and storing hazardous substances require careful attention to minimize the risks associated with their use. Here are some key steps:

    • Assess the hazards
    • Proper labeling
    • Adequate storage
    • Use appropriate containers
    • Implement engineering controls
    • Training and Education
    • Use personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • Establish standard operating procedures (SOPs)
    • Regular inspections and maintenance
    • Emergency preparedness


This is merely a short list of safety regulations to maintain the security of your institution. There are definitely additional safety guidelines you can add to the list.

It’s a good idea to discuss these guidelines at your upcoming safety meeting and invite staff to contribute to the list’s expansion. You can give them a sense of ownership over your safe chemical handling guidelines by soliciting their advice.

However, you need advanced software to manage the pickup of hazardous waste. With route planning and automatic optimization software like Upper, you can schedule multiple routes for your hazardous waste collection process. To start with, get your .

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel is the founder and CEO of Upper Route Planner, a route planning and optimization software. With 28+ years of experience in the technology industry, Rakesh is a subject matter expert in building simple solutions for day-to-day problems. His ultimate goal with Upper Route Planner is to help delivery businesses eliminate on-field delivery challenges and simplify operations such as route planning, scheduling, dispatching, take a proof of delivery, manage drivers, real time tracking, customer notifications and more. He loves sharing his thoughts on eliminating delivery management challenges via blogs. Read more.