Disposing Of Chemicals

As well as dealing with chemicals in a safe and reliable manner when on a building site, which includes providing suitable PPE to all workers, construction companies may have to consider their disposal once a project has been completed.

From causing harm to those disposing and handling them to issues with the environment, chemicals should not just be grouped with general waste or disposed of via the sewer system. All chemicals will have to be treated individually based on their properties, too.

Chemicals are split into three categories:

  • always hazardous
  • never hazardous
  • may, or may not be, hazardous and need to be assessed

Even commonly used substances such as ink and paint are chemicals.

Another thing to consider is whether the chemicals are potential fire hazards. These can be used fairly regularly on a building site and include items such as petrol or paint thinners. Although these may not seem like potentially dangerous substances when they are no longer needed, they actually require care and attention.

The Health and Safety Executive notes a proper understanding of chemical disposal is essential and organisations using them are legally required to do so under the Hazardous Waste Regulations.


Why are chemicals dangerous?

A chemical is "a distinct compound or substance, especially one which has been artificially prepared or purified".

So, when working on a site or in construction, this may include:

  • Paint
  • Petrol and other fuels
  • Cleaning products
  • Caustic substances (such as drain cleaners, battery acids and cement)
  • Pesticides
  • Sealants, adhesives and glues
  • Some foams and resins

Chemicals are dangerous in several ways. They can release vapours which are inhaled, which is the most common risk involved.

They can also be accidentally ingested through eating and drinking, or cause damage to the skin and clothing if contact is made. Chemicals may enter the bloodstream if the skin has cuts or other openings, and can also enter the body via the eyes if splashed or on hands which then rub the eyes.

Some effects are acute, with sudden side effects, and can be remedied with immediate attention (such as washing the skin or removing the cause of the hazard). However, some of these acute effects can be fatal, such as exposure to carbon monoxide, so it is really vital to know the signs and prevent them from happening in the first place.

Some effects are chronic. Side effects will develop over a long period, and may reach a stage where they can't be treated. Exposure to asbestos is perhaps the most commonly known.

If you need to dispose of chemicals, it is vital to know what can go wrong if the chemicals get into the wrong hands.


How To Dispose Of Chemicals

1. Classify the waste

You must identify and classify waste before sending it for disposal or recycling. This includes chemicals, as well as packaging, building supplies and healthcare waste. Try to get as much understanding of the waste as possible.


2. Identify a registered waste carrier

A waste carrier will be able to suitably dispose of your chemical waste. Ensure you hire somebody who is qualified and can show the relevant paperwork for this. You will also need a waste transfer note.

The alternative is to take the chemicals to the disposal site yourself. You can find your local hazardous waste disposal site on the government website.


3. Fill in the waste transfer or consignment notes

You must describe your waste in the paperwork you give your waste contractor. As can be found on the GOV UK website, this must include:

  • the waste classification code also referred to as LoW (List of Waste) or EWC (European Waste Catalogue) code
  • whether it’s hazardous or POPs waste (chemicals will be)
  • the type of premises or business where the waste was produced
  • the name of the substance or substances
  • the process that produced the waste
  • a chemical and physical analysis of the waste and its components
  • any special problems, requirements or knowledge related to the waste


Your waste contractor will be able to give you any additional guidance required.


4. Ensure it is safe to transport

From sealed vessels to proper handles and weight guidance, you need to ensure the chemicals can be transported without risk of spillage or leaking. Similarly, if the materials are flammable, do not house them in a flammable container.


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