HazMat FAQs


1. What is a Hazardous Material?

“Hazardous material” means any material that, because of its quantity, concentration, or physical/chemical characteristics, poses a significant present or potential hazard to human health and safety or to the environment if released.

Hazardous waste can be in a solid, semi-solid, liquid, or a gaseous substance that may have one or more of the following properties:

  • Ignitability
  • Toxicity
  • Reactivity
  • Corrosivity
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Carcinogenicity

The federal government defines extremely hazardous substance as a substance listed in the appendices to 40 CFR part 355, Emergency Planning and Notification.

2. What is a Hazardous Material Business Plan?

A Hazardous Material Business Plan (HMBP) is a document containing detailed information on the:

  • A chemical inventory of all hazardous materials at a facility
  • Emergency response plans and procedures in the event of a reportable release or threatened release of a hazardous material
  • Training for all new employees and annual training, including refresher courses, for all employees in safety procedures in the event of a release or threatened release of a hazardous material.
3. What is the purpose of the HMBP?

The intent of the HMBP is to:

  • Provide basic information necessary for use by first responders in order to prevent or mitigate damage to the public health and safety and to the environment from a release or threatened release of a hazardous material.
  • Satisfy federal and state Community Right-To-Know laws.
4. Who must complete and submit a HMBP?

An owner or operator of a facility must complete and submit a HMBP if the facility handles a hazardous material or mixture containing a hazardous material that has a quantity equal to or greater than:

Businesses that have underground storage tanks that store hazardous materials, aboveground storage tanks that store petroleum, and businesses that generate any amount of hazardous waste must are also required to provide information for these systems.

5. How do I file a HMBP?

For the State of California, all existing businesses that store threshold quantities of hazardous materials or hazardous waste are required to annually update their hazardous materials information on California Environmental Reporting System (CERS).

New businesses need to complete the one-time registration on-line at the CERS website. Once the registration is completed, businesses will be walked through the steps to complete the required information for hazardous materials storage and associated documentation.

The Federal government requires all Tier II forms be submitted to the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), and the local fire department 40 CFR Section 370.25

6. What forms do I use to submit a HMBP?

The State of California developed the following forms for businesses to use to submit their HMBP:

  • Business Activities Page of the Unified Program Consolidated Form
  • Business Owner/Operator Identification Page 
  • Hazardous Materials – Chemical Description Page. The state form contains all state and federally required inventory information. The use of this form will meet state and federal reporting requirements
  • Annotated Site Map.

Complying with these requirements can be difficult. But we can make it easy for you.  We can develop the plans for you, covering all regulations and compliances. 

7. When do I need to submit a HMBP?

A business must update and submit their hazardous materials inventory annually.

8. How often do I need to update my Hazardous Material Inventory and HMBP?

 It must be submitted if any changes in your inventory have occurred after initial submittal. If no changes in your inventory have occurred over the previous year, you may submit a certification statement of “no changes made”, to indicated that nothing has changed from the previous submittal.

However, a business must review their HMBP and contingency plan at least once every three years after the initial submission to determine if revision is needed or any changes need to be made.

9. Am I subject to inspection by the local Certified Unified Program Agency (CUPA)?

Yes, the federal and state government have the authority to any employee or authorized representative to inspect the premises for hazardous waste to determine if the business is in compliance with HMBP requirements.

10. What should I expect during an inspection by my local county’s CUPA at a minimum of once every three years?

You should always be prepared for an inspection at any time. You should take the following steps to insure that you are in compliance with state and federal regulations:

  • All hazardous waste must be disposed of within one year from when the waste was first placed in the container (accumulation date), or 90 days after it has been placed in the 90-day accumulation area or if it is 1 pound or 1 quart of acutely hazardous waste. Prudent practice is to dispose of all waste within 90 days.
  • Each chemical hazardous waste container must have a hazardous waste label that is completely filled out, including the date (month, day, year) when waste was first placed in the container (accumulation date).
  • Keep hazardous waste containers should remain closed with a secure lid except when adding or removing waste.
  • Hazardous waste containers must be in good condition and compatible with the chemical constituents of the waste.
  • Hazardous waste containers must be properly managed. Incompatible waste should be segregated, ignitable waste should be stored at least 5 feet from ignition sources, and secondary containment used when there is a possibility of leakage/overflow.
  • An accurate, updated chemical inventory must be submitted in CERS annually.
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) must be available for all hazardous chemicals in your facility. Although on-line access is acceptable.
  • Personnel must be trained on procedures for spills of hazardous waste and/or hazardous materials. Spill procedures must be posted in the onsite. All personnel must be trained initially and have refresher training annually thereafter. Training must be documented with subject content, signature and date.

During an inspection, any violations should be corrected on the spot if possible. Remember, don’t argue with inspectors on compliance issues. Any violations that cannot be corrected on the spot, make sure to correct them in a timely manner, document any actions and follow up with your regulator once the corrective actions have been implemented.

11. What are the fees for noncompliance?

In California, any business in noncompliance is civilly liable to the administering county or city in an amount not more than two thousand dollars ($2,000) for each day in noncompliance.

If the business continues to be in noncompliance after reasonable notice of violating the HMBP requirements, the business is civilly liable to the administering county or city in an amount not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000) for each day in noncompliance.

12. What are common hazardous waste violations?
  1. Manifests, exception/biennial reports, and test results/work analysis not maintained for three years.
  2. Each container and portable tank is not marked “Hazardous Waste” including: composition and physical state of waste, hazardous properties (i.e., flammable, toxic), generator’s name and address.
  3. Each container and portable tank is not marked with beginning accumulation date.
  4. Generator does not store waste within approved accumulation times.
  5. Generator has not obtained proper identification number.
  6.  Containers are not tightly closed during transfer and storage.
  7. Facility does not have a contingency plan to minimize fires, explosions, or releases of hazardous waste (or hazardous waste constituents) to air, soil, or water.
  8. Hazardous waste determination is not made for all wastes.
  9. Manifests are not properly completed by generator or copy not sent to DTSC within 30 days.
  10. Facility is not maintained and operated to minimize possibility of fire, explosion, or release of hazardous waste.
13. What is needed for the facility layout and site map in the HMBP?

Submit a site map that includes, at a minimum, the following.

  • Scale of map or drawing
  • Site orientation
  • Buildings Location(s) of hazardous material handling and/or storage area(s)
  • Emergency meeting locations
  • Exits, evacuation route(s) and meeting location(s)
  • Loading area(s)
  • Parking lot(s)
  • Internal road(s)
  • Adjacent property use, streets
  • Location(s) and name(s) of adjacent street(s) and alley
  • All maps are to be no larger than 8.5 by 11 inches and must be legible.
14. What information do I need to include on a hazardous waste container?

Each hazardous waste container shall be labeled with the following information:

  • Contents or common name
  • Category of hazard, i.e. toxic, reactive, corrosive, ignitable
  • "Hazardous Waste"
  • Generator name and address
  • Physical state of waste (i.e. liquid, sludge, etc)
  • Accumulation and/or start date
15. Do I have to label each hazardous waste container with all that information?

Yes. Each portable container that is 110 gallons or less must be labeled with all the required information on the container as outlined above. The container must be labeled as soon as waste is put into the container— not right before the waste is hauled. Special adhesive labels are not necessary, just the information.

16. Labels don’t stick to my oily drums, how can I label the container?

Adhesive labels stick best on clean containers. By avoiding spillage and maintaining a clean container, you may find it easier to keep the container labeled. If the labels still do not stay on the container, try using a paint pen or stencil to write the information on the container.

17. What kind of paperwork do I need to keep onsite?

At a minimum the following paperwork or copies thereof must be kept onsite for this Agency’s inspection:

  • All hazardous waste disposal receipts and manifests for the past three years.
  • The current contingency plan.
  • All personnel training records of current employees must be kept until business closure. (Records of terminated employees must be kept for three years after the employee’s termination date.)
  • Waste analysis and or profiles. (Keep this paperwork onsite until the process changes or a new analysis is conducted.)
  • This Agency’s inspection reports for the past three years.
  • All Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for products used onsite.
  • A copy of your EPA ID number.