Boasting the fifth-largest worldwide economy, the state of California is a hub of diversity and growth. From new pharmaceutical research and refinement of fossil fuels to the development of next-generation green energy sources, there is no doubt that the many facilities involved in these activities contribute significantly to the growth of California’s economy and the improvement of living standards. Often, the processes for innovation that are employed across these sectors include the manufacturing, use, storage, or handling of hazardous chemicals.
Recognizing that the concentration of hazardous chemicals at these facilities exposes the public to potential harm in the case of their accidental release, the California government established the Hazardous Materials Business Plan (HMBP) Program to regulate facilities handling these dangerous substances. HMBP reports are overseen by the California Environmental Reporting System (CERS), which was initiated to streamline the submission of these reports and communicate inspection and enforcement actions. This article will provide an outline for completing the HMBP report, including an explanation of who must file it, how to comply with the reporting requirements, and tools to guarantee accurate reporting.
An annual HMBP report submission is necessary to ensure that businesses are constantly aware of the risks of handling hazardous chemicals and that they have created a plan that will cover what needs to be done in their facilities in case of emergencies. It also provides emergency responders with critical information to act swiftly and effectively in emergencies and mitigate the potential damage to exposed communities. Submitting the HMBP report is a requirement for a California-based facility that, at any time during the reporting year, handled hazardous chemicals in any of the following quantities:
- 500 pounds, 55 gallons, or 200 cubic feet of gas* or more.
- Meeting or exceeding federal threshold planning quantities (TPQ) for an extremely hazardous chemical.
- A level of radioactivity that would fall under federal and state regulations requiring the submission of emergency plans.
- 1,000 cubic feet of gas* or more, if it is
- Classified as hazardous only due to simple asphyxiation or release of pressure,
- Oxygen, nitrogen, or nitrous oxide maintained by those involved in the practice of medicine in their place of business,
- Carbon dioxide,
- A non-flammable refrigerant gas, or
- A gas used in closed fire suppression systems.
*Measured at standard temperature and pressure.
Facilities that qualify should submit a completed HMBP report to the local Certified Unified Program Agencies (CUPA) via the CERS online platform by March 1 every year. However, some facilities may have chemicals that are exempt from filing as well as chemicals that need to be reported. Additionally, CUPA has the authority to set an earlier deadline, so coordinating with the local office is important to clarify submission specifics and avoid hefty fines.
The HMBP satisfies the Federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and necessitates the inclusion of the following information:
- The nature of the business and business owner/operator details.
- The active hazardous material inventory and associated identities, quantities, locations, health hazards, and safety procedures.
- An annotated site map that shows access and internal roads, adjacent properties, loading points, parking lots, storm and sewer drains, emergency response equipment locations, and evacuation areas.
- Procedures for notifying local emergency response teams and evacuating personnel.
- Notations identifying vulnerable areas and mechanical systems within the facility.
- Descriptions of the medical assistance required for different scenarios.
- Employee training details, which should cover the safe handling of hazardous materials, use of emergency response equipment and supplies, and emergency response procedures of the facility.
The CERS platform allows for manually selecting chemicals in the system, as long as the CAS number or common name of the substances is known. There is also the option to upload a completed CERS-template inventory spreadsheet. Finally, to assist facilities in developing emergency response procedures and employee training plans, the California Environmental Protection Agency (CEPA) has developed a template. Note, however, that small facilities can use the training plan template, and the local CUPA may require separate documentation.
Accomplishing the HMBP report can be daunting as it requires keeping track of every hazardous chemical in a facility and the potential changes in emergency planning that the addition of new chemicals creates. Variations in reporting protocols for each local CUPA complicate this further. In addition to the documents and other resources that are available online to clarify the HMBP reporting process, if facilities have the following, it can alleviate the compliance workload:
- A designated compliance officer to keep track of regulatory changes and local variations.
- An up-to-date chemical inventory with an accompanying electronic SDS library.
- Regularly conducted safety training with an emphasis on emergency response procedures.
- An integrated EHS management software solution to streamline data collection, organization, and communication with authorities.
EHS software with chemical inventory and SDS management features can significantly streamline HMBP reporting compliance. This sort of solution can assist facilities with tracking chemicals from reception through disposal, displaying real-time quantities for users to know with certainty the volume, location, and emergency information for any of their hazardous chemicals in storage, use, or transit. Additionally, built-in reporting functionality can make it a much more straightforward process for users to communicate this information to the appropriate agencies.
Further supporting the requirements specific to HMBP reporting, having a chemical inventory that is integrated with a hazard assessment tool and training tracker ensures the proper creation and facilitation of emergency preparedness and chemical safety training. When hazardous chemicals are entered into the inventory, the hazard assessment tool will immediately detail what PPE and other resources will be necessary to safely handle and store that chemical in the designated location. Using these recommendations, safety managers can then create and assign a safety training program for the facility. Then, the training tracker can be used to notify employees of upcoming, completed, or overdue training requirements. As this solution compiles all this information in a centralized database, it also makes it easier to export this information to authorities and emergency responders.
The California HMBP reporting requirement for facilities that handle hazardous chemicals protects everyone from the potential harm involved with chemical accidents. By requiring businesses to annually report chemical inventories, emergency preparedness plans, and workplace training programs, facilities can be better stewards of hazardous chemicals in California. Accomplishing HMBP reports can take time and effort due to the extent of information needed from facilities and specific reporting requirements by different local CUPA. With the help of integrated EHS software, the processes of chemicals management, safety training creation and communication, and compliance reporting can be streamlined, ensuring the timely submission of HMBP reports.
- American Chemical Society. (2023). CAS Registry and CAS registry number FAQs. CAS. https://www.cas.org/support/documentation/chemical-substances/faqs
- California Environmental Protection Agency. (2023). CERS central. CA.gov. https://cers.calepa.ca.gov/
- California Environmental Protection Agency. (2017, May 9). Unified program guidance letter 17-01: Consolidated emergency contingency plan template- revised. CA.gov. https://calepa.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2017/12/17-01-Revised-Consolidated-Emer-Cont-Plan_new.pdf
- California Environmental Protection Agency. (2023). Hazardous materials business plan. CA.gov. https://calepa.ca.gov/hazardous-materials-business-plan-program/
- California Environmental Protection Agency. (2023). More about the unified program. CA.gov. https://calepa.ca.gov/cupa/about/
- California Environmental Protection Agency. (2015). Unified program regulator directory. CA.gov. https://cersapps.calepa.ca.gov/public/directory
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, June 23). Emergency planning and community right-to-know act. EPA. https://www.epa.gov/epcra
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, May 9). Threshold planning quantity for extremely hazardous substances in solid form. EPA. https://www.epa.gov/epcra/threshold-planning-quantity-extremely-hazardous-substances-solid-form
- PR Newswire. (2023, April 27). SafetyStratus accelerates reporting capabilities for chemical inventory users. Yahoo!Finance. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/safetystratus-accelerates-reporting-capabilities-chemical-120000077.html
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