The appropriate procedures for handling drums depend on the drum contents. Thus, prior to any handling, drums should be visually inspected to gain as much information as possible about their contents. The inspection crew should look for:
- Symbols, words, or other marks on the drum indicating that its contents are hazardous, e.g., radioactive, explosive, corrosive, toxic, flammable.
- Symbols, words, or other marks on a drum indicating that it contains discarded laboratory chemicals, reagents, or other potentially dangerous materials in small-volume individual containers.
- Signs of deterioration such as corrosion, rust, and leaks.
- Signs that the drum is under pressure such as swelling and bulging.
- Drum type.
- Configuration of the drumhead.
Conditions in the immediate vicinity of the drums may provide information about drum contents and their associated hazards. Monitoring should be conducted around the drums using instruments such as a gamma radiation survey instrument, organic vapor monitors, and a combustible gas meter. The results of this survey can be used to classify the drums into preliminary hazard categories, for example:
- Contains small-volume individual containers of laboratory wastes or other dangerous materials.
As a precautionary measure, personnel should assume that unlabelled drums contain hazardous materials until their contents are characterized. Also, they should bear in mind that drums are frequently mislabeled-particularly drums that are reused. Thus, a drum's label may not accurately describe its contents.
If buried drums are suspected, ground-penetrating systems, such as electromagnetic wave, electrical resistivity, ground-penetrating radar, magnetometry, and metal detection, can be used to estimate the location and depth of the drums.
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