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These can be classified according to the hazard as explosives; compressed gases, including toxic or flammable gases; flammable liquids; flammable solids; oxidizing substances; toxic materials; radioactive material; and corrosive substances.

A client’s/investee’s operations may involve the production, handling, storage and use of large quantities of hazardous materials. This can result in uncontrolled releases of hazardous materials or accidents if the necessary measures to prevent accidents such as fire and explosions or leaks and spills are not in place or the client/investee does not have procedures to respond to emergencies. The client/investee needs to ensure that prevention and control measures are in place to ensure the protection of the workforce and surrounding communities from hazardous materials used at a facility. Typically, prevention and control measures of hazardous materials include:

  • Non-hazardous substitutes. Avoiding or minimizing the use of hazardous materials in processes by using nonhazardous alternatives. For example, there are non-hazardous materials that can be used as substitutes for asbestos in building materials, PCBs in electrical equipment, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in pesticides formulations, and ozone depleting substances in refrigeration systems.
  • Release prevention and control planning. When handling hazardous materials, a client/investee needs to develop procedures and practices for quick and efficient responses to accidents. Where there is risk of a spill of hazardous materials, facilities should prepare a spill control, prevention, and countermeasure plan, which would include training and drills of key staff on release prevention, inspection programs, and secondary containment structures.
  • Hazard communication and training programs. Workers should be able to recognize and respond to workplace chemical hazards and have a clear understanding of hazard identification and safe operating and materials handling procedures. This also requires the need for suitable personal protection equipment (PPE includes footwear, masks, protective clothing and goggles), emergency eyewash and shower stations, ventilation systems and sanitary facilities.
  • Hazardous materials transfer. Uncontrolled releases of hazardous materials may result from small cumulative events or from significant equipment failure associated with events such as manual or mechanical transfer between storage systems or process equipment. Hazardous material releases from processes can be prevented through the use of dedicated fittings, pipes, and hoses, regular inspection and maintenance of fittings, pipes, and hoses, and the use of secondary containment.
  • Overfill protection. The overfilling of vessels and tanks is among the most common cause of spills resulting in soil and water contamination, and can easily be prevented.
  • Reaction, fire, and explosion prevention. Reactive, flammable, and explosive materials should be managed to avoid uncontrolled reactions or conditions resulting in fire or explosion. Incompatible materials (acids, bases, flammables, oxidizers, reactive chemicals) should be stored in separate areas, and with containment facilities separating material storage areas.
  • Secondary containment. The use of secondary containment is a critical aspect for controlling accidental releases of liquid hazardous materials during storage and transfer. Appropriate secondary containment structures consist of berms, dikes, or walls, made of impervious, chemically resistant material, capable of containing the larger of 110 percent of the largest tank or 25% percent of the combined tank volumes in areas with above-ground storage tanks (ASTs) with a total storage volume equal or greater than 1,000 liters.
  • Underground Storage Tanks (USTs). Although there are many environmental and safety advantages of underground storage of hazardous materials, including reduced risk of fire or explosion, and lower vapor losses into the atmosphere, leaks of hazardous materials can go undetected for long periods of time with potential for soil and groundwater contamination. The risk of leaks can be reduced by installing impermeable liners or structures such as concrete vaults under and around tanks, reconciling tank contents by measuring the volume and comparing it against the expected volume, regular testing of the integrity of the tank, and monitoring down-gradient groundwater quality for potential contamination.
  • Pesticide use. When pest management activities include the use of pesticides, pesticides that are low in human toxicity and have minimal effects on non-target species and the environment should be used. Selected pesticides should be packaged in safe containers, clearly labeled for safe and proper use, and manufactured by a licensed entity. Pesticide should be handled, stored, applied, and disposed of in accordance with best international practice (Food and Agriculture Organization’s International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides). Pesticides that are categorized as extremely hazardous, highly hazardous, and moderately hazardous by the World Health Organization Recommended Classification of Pesticides should not be used.

Where possible, a client’s/investee’s operations should reduce the use and/or potential spills and releases of hazardous materials at the facility. A financial institution can help a client/investee to identify environmental business opportunities.

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