Because most hazardous materials accidents are caused by human activities,
communities and employers can influence the probability of incidents and the magnitude
of their effects by emphasizing prevention/mitigation in hazardous materials emergency
management. Hazardous materials prevention and mitigation efforts focus on helping
communities and citizens avoid becoming disaster victims in the first place, and reducing
the impact of incidents when they occur.
Hazardous materials prevention/mitigation includes efforts to eliminate or reduce risk
due to either accidental releases of hazardous materials or exposure to toxic
substances. Basic hazardous materials prevention/mitigation strategies can be broadly
summarized as follows:
- Improve methods and procedures for storing, transporting, handling, and processing hazardous materials.
- Promote compliance with safety codes, regulations, and statutes.
- Develop and enforce land-use plans that regulate the location of sites with hazardous chemicals.
- Increase public and community awareness and support for prevention.
Well-designed hazardous materials prevention/mitigation programs have been shown to
reduce loss of life, property, and environmental damage from disasters. The
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concludes that “a strong
correlation [exists] between the application of sound management practices in the
operation of safety and health programs and a low incidence of occupational injuries and
illnesses. Where effective safety and health management is practiced, injury and illness
rates are significantly less than rates at comparable worksites where safety and health
management is weak or non-existent” (Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines; Issuance of Voluntary Guidelines).
For all general hazards and risks, as well as for hazardous materials, experience has
shown again and again that lives can be saved, damage to property can be reduced
significantly, and economic recovery can be accelerated by consistently building safer
and stronger buildings, strengthening existing infrastructures, ensuring safer transportation, enforcing building codes, and making the proper preparations BEFORE a disaster occurs. More important, mitigation investments by businesses and citizens will enhance and strengthen the economic structure, stability, and future of the community regardless of when a disaster may strike.
In recent years, both government and industry have made significant strides in hazardous materials prevention/mitigation. However, more must be done to encourage a change from the traditional focus on disaster preparedness and response to a new emphasis on accident prevention. This shift in perspective by business leaders and emergency management professionals will require adjustments in corporate and community attitudes about prevention/mitigation, improvements in safety management methods and technologies, better access to information and research, and a strengthened cooperation between government agencies and hazardous materials end users.
One of the most effective ways of promoting this transition is through hazardous materials prevention/mitigation training and education programs. Training helps employees understand the nature and causes of potential safety problems, apply safe work practices and procedures, and participate in the design of effective prevention programs. For this reason, federal and state agencies have consistently identified training as a critical component in all prevention activities.
This document identifies training requirements for public and private sector personnel who have a role in hazardous materials prevention/mitigation.