Chemical disposal major concern

FLASHBACK: Firemen perfecting their skills at a chemical fire simulation.

by Shawn Cumberbatch

The management and disposal of chemicals in Barbados is a source of major concern.
Among the “critical areas”, which are to be addressed by Government agencies led by the Environmental Protection Department via a new National Implementation Strategy, is the lack of a chemical waste processing facility.

As a result, there are fears that personnel from the Sanitation Service Authority and Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre “are also at risk when handling these chemicals since they are not currently trained in chemical hazard assessment”.

Barbados TODAY examined the final draft of the strategy document, which is now being circulated for both expert and public comment.

And based on its contents, there are a number of other areas of concern related to the classification, and labeling of chemicals in Barbados, which authorities here have to fix.

These included inadequate legislation and standards, lack of enforcement of existing standards, limited capacity for hazard classification, lack of awareness of procedures and protocols, chemical waste processing facility, public education and training, limited involvement of civil society organisations, and lack of data collection and monitoring.

As far as the absence of a chemical waste processing facility was concerned, the 59-page strategy noted that while international standards required hazard communication to take place at all stages of the chemical lifecycle, so as to safeguard human health and the environment, Barbados’ lack of a facility for the disposal or handling of chemical wastes prevented this.

“It also leaves the public with few options: store the chemical in perpetuity, ship overseas pursuant to the provisions of the Basel Convention or send to the landfill in the household refuse,” the document stated.
“The latter situation places sanitation workers and the wider community at risk should the chemicals be released on route to the landfill or trigger a fire at the landfill.

“Sanitation workers and workers at the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre are also at risk when handling these chemicals since they are not currently trained in chemical hazard assessment,” it added.
The report also identified “inadequate standards” as a key issue to be resolved, noting there was “no systematic approach for classifying and labelling chemicals and the existing Barbados National Standards do not promote effective hazard communication”.

“In some areas the BNS conflict with the requirements of the GHS (Globally Harmonised System). Consequently, chemical users and handlers might be at risk because hazards are not effectively communicated,” it stated.
Beyond that, however, there was also concern that existing standards related to the treatment of chemicals were not being enforced because of inadequate staff, and the strategy pointed out that “this lack of enforcement is a recurrent theme across sectors and actor groups”.

The EPD noted that one major advantage Barbados had was that it had “a small chemicals industry and a highly literate population”, which suggested that the implementation of the GHS “should be relatively easy compared to other countries”.

Ultimately, the EPD noted, the aim of the classification and labeling of chemicals here under the GHS was to “ensure that information on chemical hazards is made available to workers and consumers in a harmonized and comprehensible format in countries around the world”.

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