What is Hazardous Waste Management
Hazardous waste is a critical issue for many companies and organizations. For this reason, the management of hazardous waste has become a highly specialized and important career path.
Hazardous waste management involves the knowledge and skills required to identify hazardous waste, ensure safe handling and disposal, and work to reduce the generation of hazardous waste. Another aspect of hazardous waste management includes being aware of environmental regulations and how companies or organizations can stay compliant.
A career in hazardous waste management requires some scientific / technical background as well as the ability to remain organized and up to date. A certain level of leadership and communication skills are also required as hazardous waste managers may work as department heads, consultants, or in a teaching role.
Highly Versatile Profession
The hazardous waste industry involves many different participants, such as hazardous waste generators, transporters, storage, treatment, destruction, and regulatory agencies. In each of these scenarios, the responsibility of the manager can vary.
For example, for hazardous waste generators, employee and customer safety – as well as compliance with regulations – are key priorities. Meanwhile, hazardous waste managers working for regulatory bodies must understand the methodology to evaluate compliance.
One of the most dynamic, and highly important, aspects of hazardous waste management revolves around how to reduce the volume or impact of hazardous waste in relation to any given organization or ecosystem.
In nearly every scenario, the hazardous waste manager must have insight about many different aspects of hazardous waste and its impact upon various endpoints.
Niches in Hazardous Waste Management
If we take a closer look at hazardous waste generators, we can see a wide diversity among career options. For instance, hospitals or pharmaceutical companies may generate biological waste that requires specialized waste handling knowledge. In other cases, health related waste management may also include radioactive substances that are used in the treatment of some illnesses.
Nearly every industry – from energy to petroleum to automotive and mining – has their own specific hazardous waste profile. For managers, therefore, it’s not uncommon to specialize in one or two specific fields.
Full Time and Consultant Positions
Depending on the size of an organization and the amount / complexity of their hazardous waste, the company may require a full-time waste specialist or even an entire department dedicated to hazardous waste management. In these cases, professionals may begin at the level of technician then later move up to specialist or department leader positions.
Other hazardous waste professionals work under consultant or freelance contracts for various organizations that don’t require a full-time employee. The companies still have important waste issues to resolve from time to time, and therefore, they seek expert advice.
Typical Hazardous Waste Manager Tasks
For hazardous waste managers who work for a company that generates hazardous waste, some typical tasks might include:
- Ensuring the collection, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste is in accordance with RCRA and DOT regulatory requirements.
- Compiling waste reports and chemical consumption reports.
- Applying software tools regarding new products, applications, and ongoing process improvements.
- Assisting in planning and data analysis related to material conservation, product substitution, raw material quality, and product quality.
- Verifying raw material quantity, expiration dates, and stock supply registry.
- Maintaining and verifying compliance with EPA and OSHA requirements.
- Performing basic statistical analysis and forecasting.
- Communicating in an effective, timely, and appropriate manner to all parties involved in, or impacted by, waste management (peers, support teams, management, etc.).
- Promptly addressing and communicating any escalating or emergent incidents or issues.
- Complying with all local, state, federal, and company safety regulations, policies, and procedures including RCRA Hazardous Waste regulations.
Hazardous Waste Management Research
As mentioned previously, one of the most important aspects of hazardous waste management is in the reduction of waste production as well as the optimization of waste handling, storage, transport, treatment, and destruction.
For this reason, a large part of the hazardous waste sector is dedicated to research into the most effective management methods. Through research, surveys, and experimentation, the hazardous waste specialist holds a critical role in environmental issues within a wide range of industries.
Take hazardous waste cleanup, for example. What are the current best practices? What innovations have appeared recently? What unique experiences point the way to potential improved cleanup methods? What new science might be applied to hazardous waste spill containment? Hazardous waste researchers typically focus on these types of questions.
While there is no single standard, hazardous waste managers may hold degrees in chemistry, industrial engineering, environmental safety, or other related areas. Additionally, specialized courses and training may help to improve a manager’s knowledge base and chances for finding employment.
In most cases, the companies themselves also provide on the job training which will complement any educational background the manager brings on board. Also, continued education is another important aspect of the hazardous waste managers professional profile maintenance.
Salary Range and Job Market Outlook
The average salary for a hazardous waste management technician is around $42,000. Senior level managers and team leaders can earn up to $100,000 or more. The jobs outlook for hazardous waste managers appears to be close to average compared to other careers.
Is Hazardous Waste Management Right for You?
If you thrive in an environment that involves technical, scientific, and organizational challenges, then a career in Hazardous Waste Management might be for you. The industry is constantly evolving and diversifying, which creates plenty of opportunities to pursue a particular career interest.
Hazardous waste management requires dynamic technical and assessment skills and the ability to keep up with the latest industry trends. For project managers, team leadership capabilities are essential. For some, an emphasis on research allows you to carve out professional recognition which can later be leveraged into more lucrative positions.
The hazardous waste manager is important to any organization’s sustainability and long-term success.