Don’t let a lack of knowledge get you into a bind when it comes to Hazardous Materials

Every day facilities across America send out thousands of shipments. 

We depend on safe and efficient transportation by air, land, and sea to get these goods to their destinations. Many of these materials require special attention.  

Some are fragile… others are bulky… some are hard to handle. Other shipments, however, need attention for a more important reason. 

These are the ones that pose health and safety risks.  

We’re talking about…hazardous materials. In the United States alone there are over 800,000 shipments of hazardous materials each day.  

It is extremely important to handle hazardous materials safely.  Not handling them properly can lead to serious incidents, such as chemical spills and fires, and even injury or death. 

Many materials that are classified as hazardous are essential products to the industry but can be potentially deadly weapons in the hands of a terrorist.  

When packaged individually they may not be dangerous but when in the wrong hands and combined with other materials they could create a powerful explosion.

The Hazardous Materials Regulations affect all “Hazmat Employees.” 

Because the safe transportation of hazardous materials is so important, a “Hazmat Employee” is defined very broadly. It includes anyone who directly affects a material’s transport, such as: 

  • Employees who load, unload or handle hazardous materials. 

  • Workers who prepare hazardous materials for transport, or who are responsible for ensuring that safe handling procedures are followed. 

  • Workers who manufacture, recondition or test containers and another packaging that is used in the transportation of hazardous materials are also covered. 

  • Vehicle operators, such as truck drivers and train engineers, who transport hazardous materials, are classified as “HAZMAT Employees” as well.

Employers take many different precautions to ensure that all “Hazmat Employees” are properly prepared for the position.  

They do this for many different reasons, one of the biggest is because the most likely terrorist threat will be from an internal source.  

The first step that the employer takes is to perform a careful background check and verification process.  Not all terrorists fit a preconceived picture of a criminal so this is a vital part of the process.   

Transporting Hazardous Materials can be dangerous because during transport is when the materials are the most vulnerable.  Some good ways to keep the transportation of hazardous materials safer is to:

  • Avoid discussions with strangers while transporting such materials

  • Always lock all of the doors of your vehicle while transporting the material

  • If you are questioned about what you are hauling avoid answering the question until you know for sure that the person asking has a true need to know.

  • Always ensure that you have the correct placard on the package or transportation container

  • Make sure that you have the proper shipping papers prior to transporting the material. Those shipping papers should include

    • Material Identification Number

    • Proper Shipping Name

    • The material’s hazardous class or division number

    • It’s packaging group

All of this information must be shown in sequence, with no additional information interspersed. And all paperwork must be accessible from the driver’s seat.

If you ever have any questions about how to transport any type of hazardous material please refer to the Emergency Response Guide (ERG) Book.