Safety is paramount to all organizations. Many organizations have lost many man hours and good people as a result of accidents and due to the fact that safety procedures were not practiced continuously. The US Navy is one organization that has experienced the loss of its best officers because of accidents. Hazardous material, commonly denoted as Hazmat, are materials that can cause harm to health or ship conditions if used incorrectly/improperly, accidentally spilled or deliberately mixed (Martin, Lipitt, Webb, 2000). The chemical characteristics, quantity, concentration and the physical traits of the materials determine their hazardous category. Every user of Hazmat needs to be aware of the Material Safety Data Sheets assigned to each item, and which contains information related to manufacturing, handling, precautions and the clean-up procedures. Hazmat control and management (HMC&M) control and safety management in the US Navy addresses the policy requirements related to the procuring, receipt, storage, use and disposal of all hazardous material. It is noted that special requirements are needed for the storage, handling and the usage of hazardous material aboard a ship and the adjacent environs. It is mandatory for all the naval officers and the other people accessing naval bases such as suppliers to comply with the hazardous material control and safety.
Over the decades, the management of hazardous material has become an increasing burden for the coast guard operational units, and industrial and support systems. The mandate to comply with the environmental regulations prompted the increase in costs and the labor hours that are devoted to the storage and maintaining an inventory of the hazardous materials, disposal of hazardous waste and the collection of data regarding to the same. Hazardous waste and hazardous material reporting requirements are authorized by the executive order (EO), the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), OSHA act and the various state and local agencies with regulatory requirements over environmental and safety related issues ((Martin, Lipitt, Webb, 2000). A workshop was held in Mystic in the year 1992 with the primary focus on the issues of environmental management, health and safety, pollution prevention and environmental compliance. The workshop was comprised of 60 coast guard officials who had major responsibilities in the named fields. The workshop provided a better definition of hazardous waste and the various health and safety concerns related to hazardous materials. Representative came from EPA, Department of Defense (DOD) and the US navy among others. It was recognized that hazardous material posed safety risk to people and caused environmental pollution. This led to the formulation of the Hazardous Material Control and Safety that has played an important role in maintaining safety standards in the US Navy.
The Hazardous Material Control and Safety is targeted for all coast guards (civilian or military) and individuals from the various industrial and support systems such as suppliers and manufacturers of various hazardous materials. It is intended to minimize the types and amounts of Hazmat used aboard ships and reduce the hazards related to those materials. It was noted that all these individuals played a key role in ensuring the safe handling, use and disposal of hazardous materials to ensure the safety of the naval bases and the coast lines in general. Most jobs in the US Navy require the interaction with hazardous materials on a regular basis. Hazmat can cause harm to the health and shipboard conditions if they are not stored and used properly, accidentally spilled or deliberately mixed. As a result, the hazmat control and safety policy was targeted to all naval officers who occasionally came into contact with hazmat. It is mandatory for the naval officers to master MSDS before putting into use the various hazardous materials (Zurlo, 1994). Hazardous material in the navy include cleaning products, detergents, soap, chemicals greases, acids, hydraulic fluids, lead batteries and alkaline batteries among many others (Woodside, 1999).
Hazardous material when improperly handled, accidentally spilled or deliberately mixed with each other can pose health risks and safety concerns that can lead to injuries or fatalities on extreme instances (Woodside, 1999). Having in place a hazmat control and safety policy ensures that proper preventive measures are instituted to maintain the safety of the bases and also to prevent environmental pollution. The naval officers or any other people handling hazmat are required to be conversant with the MSDS provided for each item and also be in personal preventive equipment (PPE). Some of the PPE’s used in the US Navy include chemical gloves, ear plugs, safety boots and reflectors. It should be noted that the improper use of the PPE’s could lead to serious bodily harm. The putting on of PPE’s ensures that all the necessary precautions are taken to avoid injuries, loss of lives and loss of man hours. The abandoning of hazardous material could pose danger to the personnel of the ship. For example, class B fires could be ignited by the abandoning of oil rags in angle irons and this could lead to the loss of property or loss of lives. As a result, the Command Hazmat Control and Management Program instruction states that such a person would be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. All these measures are put in place to ensure the health and safety of the personnel and the ship (Zurlo, 1994).
The Hazardous material control and safety ashore governs the proper storage and management of hazardous materials at Navy shore facilities in the United States (United States, 1999). Specifically, the Hazardous Materials User Guide (HMUG) functions as a supplement to the MSDS. Each section covers the storage of the hazardous material type alongside the safety and first aid precautions. For example, the storage of hazardous material should be in such a way that it is at the correct temperature and not in the vicinity of other materials that could induce a reaction when they come to contact. The hazmat material control and safety ashore ensures that all items are managed in a way that would ensure the safety of the shore. All hazardous materials should contain MSDS and the personnel should take time to familiarize with them before putting to use any given hazmat. Continuous training usually takes place to ensure that all people are conversant with the proper management of hazmat. In the event of a chemical spill on board, the fire marshal or the Damage Control Central should be contacted so as to initiate the appropriate level of response.
Training identifies the work force, personnel and the training requirements that needed to support the safety of the Navy and the Occupational Health and Safety program. Information gathered from the training programs ensures that the management, planning and budgeting for the various safety programs conducted by the Navy (Naval safety Centre, 2010). Every person involved with the production, packaging, handling, treatment or transportation of hazardous waste receives the applicable training on the management of hazardous material. Every person at the naval shore facilities involved with the management of hazardous waste must undergo training on environmental management, various regulations on hazmat and job-specific training on hazmat safety. With training, the navy is able to ensure the maximum utilization of resources, promote continuity and promote the general safety of the shore. Training programs are usually targeted at workplace safety and the many ashore operations (United States, 1999). Civilian and military employees at the shore commands usually receive an initial training of hazmat management and safety before they commence their first activity. The training must provide the personnel with sufficient knowledge for their effective participation in hazmat safety as they carry out their operations ashore. Training covers a wide range of topics including the command policy of safety, individual responsibility for health and safety, awareness of the hazard arising from hazmat and the use of PPE’s when handling hazmat.
Hazardous material and safety afloat delineates the functional responsibilities of key participants aboard the Navy ships. It is expected that the receiving shore activities shall coordinate with the ships regarding the movement of used and excessive hazardous material and ensure that they are labeled accordingly. Also, it ensures that the MSDS not possessed by the shore activities are provided for along with the applicable used or excess hazardous material. Hazardous material and safety afloat ensures that the ship is safe during the storage, use, transportation and movement of hazmat (United States, 19991). Aboard the ship, hazmat are used in the daily maintenance, repair and the cleaning of various parts or items. It is expected that the amounts of hazmat used will be decreased and that they will be managed according to the stipulations on the MSDS. The ships are expected to maintain a ships hazardous material list (SHML) that manages hazardous material in the ship. The SMHL also prevents the stocking of dangerous materials that are of no use to the ship. There should also be a shell-life management and the correct labeling of the hazardous materials. In case of accidents with hazmat, first aid should be administered first to the casualties, and in serious cases the Hazardous Materials Minimization Center (HAZMINCEN) or the fire marshals should be called so that the can be able to contain the situation (Naval safety Centre, 2010). Training on hazardous material is carried out to all people in the ship that are involved with hazmat. This training ensures that the crews and other personnel are equipped with knowledge about MSDS, PPE’s, policies and regulation on the environment and safety and work safety (Zurlo, 1994). As a result of the training, ships afloat are able to maintain high safety standards and limited risks related to injuries and damage.
As it can be seen, the US Navy is an organization that values not only the safety of its personnel but also that of the communities around. Environmental management is also a key issue that they have taken into consideration. Hazardous materials, which are always a risk to health and safety, need practical steps to be taken to avoid the detrimental effects they may bring when not properly managed. The US Navy has taken the practical steps of adopting policies and carrying out trainings to ensure that safety is maintained both afloat and ashore.
Martin, W. F., Lippitt, J. M., & Webb, P. J. (2000). Hazardous waste handbook for health and safety. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Naval Safety Center. "Hazardous Material Safety." N.p., 12 Mar. 2010. Web. 9 Nov. 2014. Retrieved from http://safetycenter.navy.mil/
United States., United States., & Defense General Supply Center (U.S.). (1991). HMC & M: Hazardous material control & management ; HMIS : hazardous material information system. Richmond, Va: COMNAVSUPSYSCOM.
Woodside, G. (1999). Hazardous materials and hazardous waste management. New York: John Wiley.
Zurlo, J. M., & Logistics Management Institute. (1994). Improving the Navy's material safety data sheet management process. Bethesda, Md: Logistics Management Institute