A long time ago, when I was first living on my own, I made, or tried to make, a cheesecake. All the ingredients had been mixed and poured carefully into the pan. All I had to do was put it in the oven and leave it for the appropriate baking time. Unfortunately, as I was transferring it from the counter, the oven door shifted and jarred my hand. My delicious cheesecake batter ended up sloshing into the preheated oven, solidifying and creating a long and tedious cleanup instead of a tasty treat. All I could tell myself as I scrubbed away was, “It’s a learning experience.”
The same is true of hazardous materials (HAZMAT) incidents. While they produce short-term pain, the long-term gain is that we learn more about how to handle them safely. Therefore, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has required for many years that incidents such as fires, spills or the discovery by the carrier of unidentified hazardous materials should be reported to them. Under the DOT, the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which is responsible for the Hazardous Materials Regulations, established a specific form for this, called DOT 5800.1, the Hazardous Materials Incident Report.
What Needs to Be Reported?
The requirements for reporting are given in 49 CFR section 171.15, “Immediate notice of certain hazardous materials incidents.” A reportable incident is defined as Continue Reading…
Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) have been an important tool for worker safety for decades. In Canada, they became mandatory for hazardous materials in 1988, and although their basic format has been modified by WHMIS 2015 (the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System 2015), one constant has always been a heading for “emergency telephone number.”
This brings up the question of what number should be on the SDS. Yes, it’s possible to run the emergency number internally, but most companies don’t use this solution. First, if you’re using it for transportation purposes, the law requires that the number be staffed 24 hours a day. Even if you have staff to do that, they must be trained to give effective advice over the telephone. That can be a difficult job, and requires professionals with both technical knowledge and the ability to remain calm in emergencies. Therefore, most companies these days outsource this function to specialist services.
Having a direct line to a live, knowledgeable person can be a true lifesaver in an emergency. Early in my training days, a customer told how he’d been given the job, late at night, of cleaning out a tank of chemicals by siphoning them into a waste container. In those days, safety standards were sometimes lax, and he was taught to start the siphon by mouth. Unfortunately, he was distracted during the procedure and ended Continue Reading…
After an Unfortunate Incident USPS New Rules are Being Created
It was a normal day at the Westgate Post Office, on the outskirts of Rochester, NY. Then a strange odor filled the air, irritating people’s eyes and respiratory passages. By the time the emergency crew had finished its investigation, six people had been sent to hospital for observation, and ten more had been evacuated. At last the culprit was discovered, lurking in an innocuous-seeming package. It turned out that a bottle of nail polish remover inside had broken and the liquid was dripping from the box.
Luckily, no one was seriously hurt. “This was unfortunate, but it could have been worse,” said Karen Mazurkiewicz, spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). It isn’t actually illegal for people to ship small amounts of hazardous materials through the mail in the U.S., as long as shippers comply with the “Hazardous Materials Regulations” of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR), as well as the “Postal Service Regulations” in Title 39 of the Code (39 CFR). Guidelines for mailing hazardous materials can be found in USPS Publication 52 – Hazardous, Restricted and Perishable Mail.
Unfortunately, many shippers in private life (and even some in industry) aren’t even aware that these regulations exist. And what was created by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for commercial shippers may not provide workers and Continue Reading…
On June 30, 2018, Transport Canada issued a proposed amendment to Part 7 of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (TDG). This part covers the requirements for Emergency Response Assistance Plans, or ERAPs. Details can be found on Government of Canada’s website.
Canada’s ERAP requirements are unique, not being adopted from the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. Essentially, they require consignor of significant amounts of high risk dangerous goods to establish a specific protocol, often involving an on-call response team, that can assist local responders in case of a release. Transport Canada must review and approve the plan before the consignor can offer or import affected shipments (although the approval only has to be issued once.) Since the Lac-Mégantic disaster in 2013, improving ERAP requirements has been a particular concern of Transport Canada’s.
The June amendment has four main goals:
To clarify how an ERAP should be implemented;
To enhance emergency preparedness and response;
To reduce the regulatory burden for those affected by the requirement; and
To make some general “housekeeping” changes to keep all parts of the regulations harmonized.
Clarifying Implementation of ERAPs
Currently, the regulations are unclear as to how exactly an ERAP would be implemented – presumably it would be by emergency responders or by the person with control of the released material, but it’s never been Continue Reading…
Paperwork – it’s one of the worst parts of dealing with hazardous waste shipments. In both Canada and the United States, hazardous wastes require a special document, the Waste Manifest that will not only serve as the transportation document for the dangerous goods/hazardous materials transportation regulations, but also allow environmental authorities to track the waste from the generator, who sends it for disposal, through the hands of the carrier, to the end receiver (in the US referred to as a TSDF, for Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility).
In Canada, some jurisdictions have eased the burden by allowing the waste manifest to be created electronically. For example, in Ontario, the HWIN system has been used for years. However, until now, the United States has not had a system for electronic documentation, called e-Manifests. On June 30, 2018, that has changed.
The change has been a long time coming. Although the initial proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was made in 2001, it was not until 2012 that Congress passed the “Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act.” Under the Act, a final rule was published in 2014 that approved the use of such manifests. Since then, the EPA has been working to create an online system that will allow the e-manifest to eliminate substantial chunks of the burden of manifests, as well as Continue Reading…
On a winter’s day in February, 1891, my great-grandfather was working in a coal mine in Springhill, Nova Scotia, when in an instant his world changed. An explosion deep in the mine erupted, sending fire sweeping through the tunnels. About 125 of his friends and coworkers died that day. With the rest of the community, he helped carry out the dead from the shattered pits. The story passed down in my family how he found the worst was carrying out the bodies of the children, some as young as ten, who worked beside him in the mine.
How Did This Happen?
How did this disaster happen? The inquiry never reached a firm conclusion, but such incidents were common in those days, when mines filled with coal dust were time bombs waiting for a spark. One might think the mine operators would have learned, but two more high-fatality accidents happened in Springhill (1956 and 1958), before the mine was closed for good.
In some ways, we live in a lucky era. Most of us who go to work each day expect to return home alive and well. Historically, though, the workplace could be a deathtrap. Although even the earliest farming and gathering communities faced hazards, the Industrial Revolution brought more people into contact with dangerous working conditions than ever. Workers in factories could be Continue Reading…
One of the highlights of the year, at least for those of us involved in dangerous goods regulations, is the annual summit meeting of the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council (DGAC). This year, it was held in Crystal City, just outside of Washington, DC, and as always had many speakers from both government and industry. Of course ICC attended, and I was graciously invited to give a couple of talks on the Canadian Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) Regulations, and to take part in a fun closing activity known as “speed-dating the regulators”.
The introductory talk was given by Brigham McCown, former deputy administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). As a longtime political insider, he discussed the state of the department under the new administration, and how the once “sleepy little agency” was moving forward. He identified top trends in transportation such as infrastructure investment, autonomous (self-driving) vehicles, drones, and of course reducing unnecessary regulatory burden while still ensuring public safety. He mentioned that the new Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, was experienced and would help the department adapt.
This September, ICC was offered an interesting opportunity – presenting a class on North American hazardous materials regulations in Switzerland! So, I gathered my passport and computer, and set off for Europe.
The course was organized by SAFETY Training Plus GmbH, a well-known provider of dangerous goods training in Germany and Switzerland. However, SAFETY Training Plus found that many of its customers were looking for help with shipments to North America. Although European and North American regulations are usually based on the UN Recommendations for the Transport of Dangerous Goods (better known as the Orange Book based on its cover), a number of variations still exist between the various countries and regions.
For example, a European shipper to the United States might be puzzled about why a product not classified as an environmental hazard under the EU regulations (ADR/RID) or the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG) for ocean would have to be treated as such for entry into the U.S. Surprise! It’s the Hazardous Substance rule, involving a list of over a thousand chemicals that are classified as environmentally hazardous in Title 49, U.S. Code of Regulations (49 CFR). Another shipment may hit a snag entering Canada due to Canada’s requirement for an Emergency Response Assistance Plan. This requirement usually applies to high-risk goods in large means of containment, but may sometimes affect smaller materials Continue Reading…
This year has seen environmental disasters that have put millions of people at risk. From the incredible one-two-three punch of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, to the Bangladesh floods, to the recent earthquake in Mexico, we see people facing lack of food, clean water and shelter. All of us need to protect ourselves and our loved ones during these periods when outside help hasn’t arrived. But while we’re watching out for what Mother Nature can throw at us, we must also remember hazardous chemicals and articles, even those that can help us survive, can put us in danger as well.
How to Prepare for Natural Emergencies
What does a typical household need to prepare for natural emergencies (or even man-made ones such as chemical spills that can isolate and endanger communities)? A number of websites list “must haves” and “should haves” for these situations, including:
What are some of the hazards that our own preparations can create?
One of the biggest dangers during emergencies is generators. These internal-combustion power sources can be lifesaving, especially for those with special health needs, and can make life during power outages more bearable. But they function by burning fuel, which can Continue Reading…
It seemed such a simple task at the time. A company decided to expand their consumer product line to include perfumes. They expected to send orders to customers, as they did their other products, by airmail. Yet, when setting up the shipment, an unexpected roadblock appeared. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) told them that the perfume was a hazardous material.
How can a common consumer product like perfume be hazardous for transportation? Most perfumes have an alcohol base, designed to evaporate quickly leaving the scent behind. Unfortunately, this means that such perfumes are flammable liquids for transportation and are subject to Department of Transportation (DOT) as well as USPS restrictions for both ground and air transport.
So, the decision to go into perfumes created some major headaches for the company. But they recently got some good news. If the perfume is based on ethanol, one of the most common alcohols, the company will get a break – USPS has reduced the requirements for this one solvent. Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, can be found in many consumer products, ranging from perfumes to hairspray to bath oil. By reducing the requirements for shipment of these products, shippers will enjoy reduced costs and complexity.