The Clock is Ticking – 3 Recent TDG Proposals

Red semi truck on highway

An Easter Parade!

(Marine Amendment-Part 11, Rail Car Standard TP14877 Revision, ERAP- Part 7 Consultation)

Transport Canada is heading into what seems to be an ambitious spring/summer period with a variety of projects related to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) regulations. The latest notices are open for comment until the end of April and cover aspects of Parts 5, 7 and 11 (with implications for other parts) of the TDG regulations (TDGR).


Significant changes are proposed to TDGR Part 11 and Part 1 Special Cases to reflect the current Canada Shipping Act (CSA) and associated regulations, as well as commercial considerations. These affect definitions, terminology and the ability to efficiently transport fuels or medical/diving gases on passenger vessels.

In addition to the changes highlighted in the notice, there are several other noteworthy changes in the proposal.

“Near coastal” versus “Home-Trade” Voyages

The current Part 11 has been the subject of confusion regarding what constitutes the use of the IMDG Code versus the TDGR, particularly with voyages between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Retailers in particular have had difficulty in determining when consumer commodities can continue on to NL under TDGR Special Case 1.17. The wording in the current TDGR implies that the voyage would fall under a Home-Trade Voyage Class 1 from the Home-Trade Voyage Regulations. At certain times, the Marine Safety branch of Transport Canada has indicated that, this voyage could be considered a Home-Trade Voyage (HTV) Class II (not referenced directly in the TDGR/old Canada Shipping Act wording) – i.e. within 120 nautical miles from shore and within 200 nautical miles of a port of refuge- and be considered a “domestic voyage” as described in §.11.2.

Thus, the voyage could fall under TDGR Special Case 1.17, Limited Quantity (LQ) exemption, which references a “domestic voyage” as eligible for the exemption, use TDGR placarding, etc.

However, the proposal- instead of maintaining this distinction- adopts the Vessel Certificates Regulations (VCR) terminology without providing an “equivalent” to a HTV Class II. The proposed version of 11.2 defines, in effect, a domestic voyage subject to TDGR (without any proposed amendment to 1.17).

The VCR terminology reference in the proposed 11.2 is for a “near coastal voyage, Class 2” to be the longest voyage to be considered “domestic”. This reduces the allowable voyage to one where the vessel is not more than 20 nautical miles from shore and within 100 nautical miles from a place of refuge.

Perhaps retailers might want to consider commenting to Transport Canada on this aspect- or start preparing to submit equivalency certificate requests (under TDGR Part 14).


In addition to expanding some exemptions and increasing the distance from 3 to 5 km, exemptions in the current TDGR 1.6, 3.9 and 8.4(4)(d) are proposed to be dropped. These affect adherence to Schedule 1 Column 6 limits for passenger vessels, on-board access to shipping documents and reporting releases.

Flash Point Marking

The TDGR 4.13 to mark the flash point on packages is to be repealed, presumably since it’s not required in the IMDG Code.

Ammonium Nitrate-Explosives Notification

Notification of loading/unloading these commodities will no longer be required under the TDGR. Presumably this is considered a duplication of requirements under the CSA Cargo, Fumigation and Tackle Regulations.

A six-month transition period is proposed to follow publication date of the final amendment in Canada Gazette II.
The Canada Gazette I notice provides for comments until May 1, 2017 and may be obtained at:

Rail Car Standard TP14877

The first revision to this 2013 standard has reached a final (at 2016 12) draft stage and is available, on request, for review and comment by April 30, 2017:

The major changes, as highlighted in the above reference, will incorporate the improvements in tank car design; and various other safety aspects covered in Protective Directions following the Lac Mégantic disaster in 2013. The draft also includes changes to further harmonize with the 19th Ed. of the UN model regulations and 49CFR.

Before Offering versus After Loading

One significant item in section 10 (Selection and Use of Containers…) is a change in the obligation for ensuring loaded containers are in safe condition for transport.

Section 10.8 has been changed from “Before Offering for Transport” to “After Loading”. This may be to reflect the desirability of discovering errors when they’re most likely to occur; but perhaps the former aspect should be maintained for situations where there is a delay between loading and offering. In section 10.9 (“Before Transporting”), the carrier is no longer specifically responsible for remediating deficiencies that could impact public safety.

ERAP Review

The TDGR Part 7 ERAP (registered “Emergency Response Assistance Plan”) requirements have been under a Task Force review for several years. Proposals for amending Part 7 include clarification on circumstances and parties’ rights/obligations with respect to accessing (for information) or activating an ERAP.

Also, the proposal would allow an ERAP holder to extend the right to third party to return “residue last contain” shipments under the holder’s ERAP without notifying Transport Canada, update the infectious substance ERAP list, and outline ERAP termination protocols when a holder no longer consigns the substances covered by the plan.

Transport Canada has established a comprehensive website to review and provide feedback on these and other aspects of ERAP requirements, by May 1, 2017, at:

Considering that we’ve already seen consultations on an Harmonization amendment (expected to be finalized in Canada Gazette II in June/July); a review on possible changes to Part 6 “Training” requirements; and a pre-gazette “Canadian Update” amendment proposal- not to mention ongoing committee work to update standard TP14850 for small packaging and possible development of a large packaging standard- the balance of this year will be busy for both regulators and the regulated community.

Shipping by Road
TDGR US Import Cross-Docking – All We Want are the FAQs…*

Cross-Docking is Reshipping

On February 8 Transport Canada issued an addition to FAQ regarding the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (TDGR) Part 9, s. 9.4. This section deals with the re-shipping of dangerous goods (DG) received by road from the US when safety marks differ from those specified in the TDGR. In general, (more on this later**), TDGR 9.1 allows receipt of US shipments to first destination with the safety marks that were legally applied under 49 CFR at the US shipping point.


The FAQ defines “cross-docking” as “the process of transferring dangerous goods from one vehicle to another before reaching their final destination”. Changing drivers or tractor units does not trigger the term. When DG are cross-docked, Transport Canada considers this to be “re-shipping” and the provisions of TDGR 9.4 apply (note: although the FAQ refers to “reshipping” in quotes, the term is not specifically defined in the TDGR other than as described by s. 9.4).


Basically, the requirements in s. 9.4 are to remove placards which do not meet TDGR requirements and replace them with TDGR-compliant versions. Examples of these could be US “DANGEROUS” placards; or those with the midline adjusted (e.g. Class 7, 8, 9); or worded and “combustible” placards.
In addition, if means of containment (soon to become “packaging” we hope!) have labels or other safety marks differing from TDGR requirements, then the shipping paper must be annotated accordingly as indicated in s. 9.4 (2).

Part 10 is not referenced in the FAQ, but presumably similar logic will apply to cross-docking rail car shipments (TDG s. 10.4) – or to transfers between rail/road vehicles.

Just the FAQs

Although the author hasn’t seen anything in official consultation documents, statements in casual conversations on two occasions indicate that the current practise of including interpretative guidance as italicised text within the body of the regulations will likely be discontinued. Apparently, this very useful (in my humble opinion) practise is at odds with regulatory convention that expects only the mandatory legal requirements to appear in the regulation. FAQ are the preferred vehicle for the type of information we currently see italicised within the TDGR.

The FAQ referred to in this Blog is available at:

* with apologies to Sgt. Joe Friday/Jack Webb’s often misquoted statement:

** Reciprocity has its limits
Although we often hear of “reciprocity” for shipments inbound from the US, we must remember that it has limits. As referenced in the above-mentioned FAQ, the “inhalation hazard” version of Class 2.3 and 6.1 labels or placards are not acceptable even to first destination. The “regular” versions, applied with qualifying marks as required by TDGR SP 23 also need to be present. Similarly things done by US special permit- although potentially to be accepted to first destination under the CG I International Harmonization proposal- will not necessarily be approved for reshipping. Perhaps once the CG II is finalised we’ll have another Blog on this aspect…

HO! HO! HO! TDG Under the Tree – Proposed Harmonization

The November 26th Canada Gazette I provides an early “gift” to the regulated community which may help relieve boredom over the holiday season.

Harmonization Transportation Style

Although the DG world (unlike WHMIS/OSHA) has been fairly well harmonized under the UN Recommendations for some years now, there have been issues from time to time with; the editions standards referenced in the TDG regulations (TDGR); differences between DOT/TDG requirements for pressure receptacles; and confusion in the status of cross-border shipments when special permits (DOT) or equivalency certificates (TDG) are applied to consignments (for brevity, we’ll refer to these both under the generic term “permit for equivalent level of safety”- PELS).

Ambling Along

An example of the former is the Table of Safety Standards in TDGR 1.3. The recognized edition of the UN Recommendations is the 17th Ed. (2011)- despite the fact that we’re currently looking at the 19th Ed. (2015) and are on the verge of the 20th (2017). This can lead to confusion since the modal regulations are usually consistent with the current edition of UN Recommendations.

To help resolve this issue, and presumably to reduce the amount of catch-up amending necessary, Transport Canada proposes to expand the listing of “ambulatory references” – refer to the latest edition (i.e. “as amended from time to time” rather than a specific date)- for equivalency of other regulations and some selected technical standards.

Canada-US Regulatory Cooperation

Issues reviewed at the joint Canada-US Regulatory Cooperation Council are also appearing in this harmonization proposal.

The US DOT is following a parallel track, with proposed amendment HM-215N published in September, to include similar provisions in 49 CFR. (see Barbara’s Blog of Oct. 13, 2016)

U.S. Publishes Proposed Rule HM-215N on International Harmonization

Key aspects of this initiative include expanding the reciprocity provision to fill and use US DOT pressure receptacles in Canada rather than only accepting those which had been filled within the US. Requalification, repair, marking, etc. must be in accordance with the country where it’s done.

TDGR Parts 9 and 10 also would extend recognition of US PELS regardless of the existence of a Transport Canada-issued corresponding permit, reducing the need to apply for, or determine the existence of, a similar provision. The PELS number would have to appear on the shipping document. Application of the reciprocity would continue to be disallowed for things that are forbidden in TDGR or are not regulated under 49CFR. Each country’s regulations would still have to be reviewed regarding general special case/special provision exemptions.

Additionally, “one-time movement approvals” (OTMA) for moving damaged tank cars, for example, would be recognised in each country to facilitate dealing with situations where the car must be moved to safely empty and repair the means of containment.

Safety Marks, Labels, and Placards

Lithium Battery Mark, Label and Placard

The adoption of the “new” lithium battery mark will replace the provision for marking equivalent wording on packages subject to SP 34. This includes indicating the UN number of the contents instead of just the battery type by name. All SP34 packages will require the mark, but a notation on documentation will no longer apply.

The TDGR also will adopt the new lithium battery Class 9 label for packages requiring this hazard label. As with the other modal/US regulations/proposals, the mandatory use will have a 2-year transition period.

Placarding May not be Harmonized

The TDGR amendment as proposed will require the use of a placard corresponding to the lithium battery Class 9 label instead of a standard Class 9 placard when means of containment require placards.
This is at odds with the 49CFR HM-215N proposal to maintain the use of a “regular” Class 9 placard despite the new lithium battery Class 9 label (“…Class 9 placards, when used, must conform to the existing requirements in …172.560”).
Ditto final (i.e. adopted) IMDG Code Amendment 38-16 -see “For dangerous goods of class 9 the placard shall correspond to the label model No. 9 as in; label model No. 9A shall not be used for placarding purposes.” – i.e. must use the standard Class 9, not the lithium version.

Updating to Current International Regulations

Other proposals will “catch up” the TDGR with many of the changes in the UN Recommendations regarding classifications and listings in TDGR Schedule 1 with applicable editing of special provisions (e.g. specific entries for the various types of combustion engines, solid/liquid polyester resin kits, etc.).

Overpack Marking Clarified

Included in 2 dozen or so “typographical corrections and minor miscellaneous changes” is the removal of the need to mark “Overpack” when the DG marks are visible; but when it is required it must be in minimum 12 mm high characters.

Other Safety Marks (in addition to lithium batteries discussed above)

The proposed amendment will adopt the international standard Class 9 convention of underlining the “9” on both labels and placards.
Also the new “fumigation” label is included in the Appendix to Part 4, presumably to catch up with the information included in the amendment in SOR/2014-159.

Missing from this proposal however, is the requirement for a 2 mm thickness for the inner border line on labels, as currently specified in the UN Recommendations, 49 CFR, IATA DGR and the IMDG Code.

The amendment will not, of course, be finalized until published in Gazette II, with a proposed 6 month general transition period (but until Dec.31, 2018 for the lithium battery mark and lithium battery Class 9 label). There is a 60 day comment period on the proposal and the detailed version may be consulted at:

If you have any questions about these changes and how they can affect your operations, please contact us here at ICC Compliance Center at 1-888-442-9628 (USA) or 1-888-977-4834 (Canada).

IATA DGR 2017 FedEx Limitations Re-organized

FedEx Changes Style & Substance

The 2017 IATA DGR Limitations (Section 2) has a bit of a curve ball thrown to those who have become familiar with the common FedEx (FX) limitations found throughout the Section 5 packing instructions (PI).

In addition to the substantive changes in lithium battery shipment acceptance, the complete FX series has been re-arranged. The restrictions in the previous (57th) edition are still there but have been largely consolidated as sub-items; often within a different FX number. The change results in going from 18 FX numbers, 17 of which were active (FX-08 was “Not used”) to essentially the same topics covered in a list of 9 active FX numbers (FX-01 through FX-08 & FX-18)- i.e. FX-09 through FX-17 are currently not in use.

A quick reference guide for those who had memorised the common FedEx exemptions appears below:

FedEx-Changes in IATA DGR Limitations

TOPIC 57th Ed 2016 58th Ed 2017
Class 1 FX-01 FX-01 (a), (b)
Class 6.1, PIH, Class 2 with sub. FX-02 FX-02 (a), (b)
Class 7…+ excepted pkg FX-03 FX-03 (a)- (d) + (e)
Nitrating acids FX-04 FX-04 (a)
Haz waste FX-05 FX-04 (b)
PCBs FX-06 FX-02 (c)
Li Batteries FX-07 FX-05 (a) – (d)
not used FX-08
Class 6.2, WHO RG4 FX-09 FX-04 (c)
Class 4.3 FX-10 FX-02 (d)
Pkg must accommodate labels FX-11 FX-06
Typed ShDec FX-12 FX-07
Compressed oxygen FX-13 FX-02 (e)
Shipper’s Dec, 3 copies… FX-14 FX-08
Acetylene; DiMeDiClsilane; Zr suspension FX-15 FX-04 (d)
Sp A2, A183 not recognised FX-16 FX-04 (e)
IE/IEF require “V-pkg” FX-17 FX-02 (f)
Software for ShDec FX-18 FX-18

Note: Although there are several “FX-” limitations relating to, for example, marking and documentation; the majority of limitations are referenced in the PI. For details on FedEx’s current approach to lithium batteries, see Paula’s Blog of Nov. 3:

New Lithium Battery Rules for FedEx

Transport Canada Consults on Revised Packaging Standard TP14850

A draft version of the 3rd Edition of Transport Canada’s TP14850- Small Containers for Transportation of Dangerous Goods, Classes 3, 4, 5, 6.1, 8 & 9” is available for public review and comments will be considered when received by October 13.

Transport Canada began planning the review in Q3 2015 and announced the formation of a Technical Committee in a public notice in early 2016.

The Committee was formed in April; consisting of participants representing interests from production, marketing, distribution, sales, use and/or regulation of dangerous goods packaging. The Committee met initially by phone and, following the review of a preliminary draft, followed up with a meeting in Ottawa in May to provide input for the aforementioned first draft.

The intent of the 3rd Edition is to incorporate updates from the 19th (2015) Edition of the UN Recommendations and possibly prepare for inclusion of aspects of the 20th Edition expected in 2017.

Some features of the first draft, in addition to the harmonization with the 2015 model UN Recommendations, include:

  • clarification of the requirements for packaging distributors to provide instructions on assembling and closing packages;
  • removal of some redundant provisions that are already in the regulations;
  • clarification of special cases and expanding some Substance Specific Provisions (SSP) removing the need for certain Equivalency Certificates (e.g. UN3268);
  • locating SSP within the packing instruction (PI) applicable to the UN number, similar to the UN Recommendations & the IMDG Code practise;
  • requiring Transport Canada “acceptance” of alternative leakproofness testing procedures;
  • consideration of using plastic containers beyond the 5-year limit when the use is under the control of a fleet operator registered with Transport Canada;
  • mandating a periodic (5 year) retest by manufacturers of prototypes from production of approved containers

Following the comments received on the first draft of the 3rd Edition of TP14850, the Committee will meet again in Q4-16 to review the comments and provide input for a 2nd draft. The 2nd draft is expected to be released for additional public comment in the Spring of 2017. The objective is to release the final 3rd Edition in October 2017.

To obtain a copy of the first draft click here »

Lithium Batteries Explode (Again) on the Scene

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Recall is a Counterpoint to IATA Joint Petition

The announcement of a recall of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones due to a possible defect in the assembly of the batteries (remember that batteries are a collection of “cells”) followed a bit of online chatter on discussion groups a week or so ago. IATA, in concert with battery manufacturers, users, and shippers, sent a letter to various governments urging increased enforcement of the enhanced regulations in effect since April 1, 2016 (see previous Blogs for summaries of changes).

The gist of the letter is that the majority of problems in transport are caused by the “wilful disregard of the regulations by rogue manufacturers and shippers” that is leading to “overwhelming” pressure on airlines to stop carrying lithium batteries altogether. The industry position is that the development of “increasingly draconian regulation” will not significantly improve safety but will disadvantage the majority of law-abiding parties. The letter goes on to urge increased cooperative government enforcement and imposition of fines and, “where appropriate” incarceration as the solution to the issue.

The letter includes alleviation of “consumer safety issues” as a point in support of the petition, which no doubt is valid, but may not be as significant as “non-wilful” defects, carelessness, or ignorance of the regulations.

The preliminary report on the Galaxy Note 7 recall is available from “AppleInsider” »

Although only one aspect, the recent expansion of incident reporting in Canadian TDG Regulation Part 8.14, to include undeclared and misdeclared dangerous goods incidents with air cargo will assist in the ongoing effort to improve safety in transporting lithium batteries.

See Barbara’s Blog:

Transport Canada Amends TDG Reporting Requirements

Although the utility of enforcement- particularly at the source of counterfeit and wilfully supplied non-compliant batteries- may be underutilized, continued promotion of awareness of requirements to those not intimately involved in routine DG/Hazmat issues will be key to reducing incidents affecting public safety.

WHMIS 2015
Bulletin – Saskatchewan Puts WHMIS 2015 in Force

Saskatchewan Joins the Fold- WHMIS 2015 Implementation Starts August 17

The “Land of Living Skies” (SK) has become the 6th province to finalize regulatory amendments to implement WHMIS 2015 in workplaces under their jurisdiction.

REG 6, officially named “The Occupational Health and Safety (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) Regulations, takes effect August 17, 2016 –as published in the June 17 Saskatchewan Gazette.

The regulation supplements The Saskatchewan Employment Act WHMIS requirements (Part III, DIVISON 7 of Statute S-15.1). As long as employers comply with the WHMIS 1988 requirements during the transition period, full compliance with WHMIS 2015 labelling/SDS at a worksite does not become mandatory until December 1, 2018.

The requirements mirror those in the model regulation which have been included to varying degrees in the FPT (federal/provincial/territorial) workplace regulations issued to date.

As with most OHS (occupational health & safety) regulations, training must be provided for hazards in the workplace- so employers receiving WHMIS 2015 labeled products/SDS will be expected to have trained workers in using the new system before they are able to be introduced to a worksite or place of employment (the defined terms for what other FPT refer to as a “workplace”).

Oh – “Land of Living Skies”?:
Saskatchewan is called the Land of Living Skies for a reason »

But if you visit, beware of Captain Tractor:

WHMIS 2015
WHMIS 2015 Update – Ontario Joins the Fold

UPDATE – The June 29 Canada Gazette II contains the Federal Canada Labour Code adoption of WHMIS 2015 into the various CLC OHS Regulations (SOR 2016/141).

The amendments are effective immediately with an employer operating transition period until Nov. 30, 2018 – i.e. WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 may be used for products in/entering the workplace.

WHMIS 1988 may be used for products already present in the workplace at Dec. 1, 2018 until May 31, 2019.

Details can be found:

Watch our Blog site for more information

Formal Transition to WHMIS 2015

July 1st Ontario begins the formal transition to WHMIS 2015- Ontario Gazette June 25, 2016 –O.Reg. 168/16 amends O. Reg. 860

Ontario employers must prepare to convert their workplace programs to WHMIS 2015 during the period from July 1, 2016 through May 31, 2018. Stock under WHMIS 1988 already in the workplace may continue to be used until Nov. 30, 2018. Product received under WHMIS 1988 must comply with supplier labeling requirements (e.g. hatched borders/symbols) and MSDS requirements (e.g. 3 year “expiry” date) under the WHMIS 1988 (CPR) regulations.

Introducing new products under WHMIS 2015 will require training workers in WHMIS 2015 before they are used.

This information is referenced in the amended O. Reg. 860 s. 25.1 “Transition”; and the enforcement policy as last reviewed December 2015:


As before, the majority of details are contained in the amended O. Reg. 860 (WHMIS) under the ON Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Act. However readers are reminded that Part IV “Toxic Substances” of the OHS Act itself, deals with WHMIS issues in s.37-41.

In addition to the requirement to the general requirements in making available SDS to the workplace parties, the amended OHS Act requires making them “readily available to those workers who may be exposed”. The same section (38) also clarifies that SDS may be in an electronic format, while stipulating that the JHSC/Rep must be consulted on the means of making them available. Instruction and training requirements remain unchanged from the existing provisions in s. 42(3).

O. REG. 860

O.Reg. 860 has modified the definition of hazardous waste (subject to workplace labelling) to include that which is “acquired or generated” rather than “sold” for recycling or recovery. In keeping with the “may be exposed” in SDS provision in s. 38 of the Act; s. 6.(2) of O. Reg. 860 requires education of “workers who may be exposed…” rather than only those who work “in proximity”.

The revised s. 17(1) appears to remove some (not all!) of the responsibility from the employer to research for new information, presumably due to the potential reduction in ingredient disclosure presented by the elimination of the Federal IDL. Also the obligation to solicit an updated – i.e. “current” SDS is no longer in O. Reg. 860 (This contrasts with other jurisdictions- e.g. BC, NT-NU, YT- where the employer is expected to check the status of a 3 year old SDS with the supplier.).


As most readers are aware, Canada’s 2 –tiered constitution results in a division in workplace hazard communication regulations. The Federal government, via Health Canada establishes the requirements for manufacturers, importers & distributors to have (among other things) the information available for employers to have to use in their hazard communication programs- but what employers are required to do with the information depends on the jurisdiction of each particular workplace.

Consequently full implementation of WHMIS 2015, incorporating elements of the GHS, requires each province, territory and (for workplaces governed by Federal jurisdiction) Labour Canada to amend the hazard communication regulations that apply to their workplaces.

Since the adoption of the amended Hazardous Products Act/new Hazardous Products Regulations (“WHMIS 2015”) in February 2015, five provinces and the territories have amended their occupational health & safety (OHS) Acts/Regulations to harmonize with the Health Canada WHMIS 2015 provisions.

QC, BC, MB, NB (provinces) & NU/NT, YT (territories) all amended their regulations effective between June 2015 (QC) & April 2016. Ontario’s amended OHSA & WHMIS Regulation were published earlier in June, to take effect on July 1, 2016.

At the time of writing, SK & Labour Canada have published draft amendments which have yet to finalized/adopted; while AB, NL, NS & PE have yet to circulate their proposed amendments.

While, in the majority of cases, the changes largely recognize basic changes in terminology (i.e. references to SDS, HPR, updated HMIRA, etc.), some changes will require employers to re-visit training, availability of SDS and workplace labeling. Representatives from Health Canada, the Federal/Provincial/Territorial (“FPT”) partners and other stakeholders have developed a “model” WHMIS regulation which is intended to form the basis for all FPT workplace regulations.

The common elements deal with use of Health Canada mandated labels/SDS as the primary hazard communication vehicle- supplemented with the education, training and labelling required for effective protection of workers in FPT workplaces. This model (as with other “harmonization” processes!) still allows for variances among the final FPT regulations for application within the regulatory schemes in use.

Employers should also remember that products “exempt” from the WHMIS supplier label/SDS requirement still usually require workplace hazard identification/communication when decanted (or “transfilled”) into other containers.

Readers are advised to verify the status of WHMIS 2015 regulations in their jurisdiction.

OSHA Flammable
Fertilizers as Dangerous Substances – Lest We Forget (Again)

West, TX – April 17, 2013

As we approach the third anniversary of the catastrophic explosion involving ammonium nitrate fertilizer in West, TX, the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recently released the final report of their investigation into the disaster.

On April 17, 2013 during a fire at a fertilizer storage and distribution centre, a town was devastated when about 30 tons of fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate (FGAN), from a stored total of 40-60 tons, exploded.

Dangerously Close

The CSB conclusion examined the lack of awareness of the general hazard properties of ammonium nitrate (AN) on both the storage arrangements for the FGAN; and the response of emergency personnel to the incident. A related factor in the devastation was the gradual encroachment of residential/institutional property uses to the distribution facility. These failures resulted in the deaths of 15 people, including 12 emergency responders.

A video reconstructing the incident is available from the CSB »

In Spring a Growers Fancy … Turns to Thoughts of … Fertilizer
(with apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

Nitrogen is one of the four essential nutrients; along with hydrogen, oxygen and carbon; for the plants that are essential to human nutrition. Plants obtain hydrogen, oxygen and carbon fairly easily from carbon dioxide and water.

Nitrogen, however, is rarely found naturally in a form that can be used directly by the plants in quantities conducive to producing a viable food source. Often the form most efficiently consumed by plants, practically available for crop production, is found as either ammonia or ammonium nitrate.

Both of these ingredients have uses other than as crop nutrients – e.g. refrigeration, cleaning, pollutant scrubbing, etc. for ammonia; and explosives (UN0222), cold packs, etc. for AN.

Due to its pungent odour in all applications, ammonia hazards are fairly obvious to most people dealing with it. (Some of the initial reports emphasized the anhydrous ammonia at the facility- although ammonium nitrate turned out to be much more deadly).

Even in transportation, there is a requirement to signal the inhalation hazards associated with the anhydrous (commonly used as a soil-injected fertilizer) ammonia. Despite this, there are fatalities all too often resulting from anhydrous ammonia exposure (viz a worker in Medicine Hat, AB in December when a valve opened after being accidentally struck by a piece of equipment during a weatherproofing operation.

FGAN, on the other hand, seems to be of lesser concern to a broader population despite its classification as an oxidizer (UN2067) or conditionally as a Class 9 miscellaneous substance (UN2071). There is a fine line between the physical form/composition sold as fertilizer and the transformation to an explosive when the form changes or there is the addition of fuel components.

History has shown the result of failure to recognize the basic potential of AN to explode in a variety of cases (excluding explosives factories/terrorist activities) involving transportation or storage of what was considered FGAN. Not the least of these is the April 16 (!) 1947 Texas City incident which resulted in 581 fatalities (including 27 first responders on the scene) when 7000 tons FGAN on board a vessel exploded; or a fertilizer storage incident in the Loire district of France in 2003 when a barn fire involving 3-5 tonnes of FGAN detonated injuring 26 people. Fortunately there were no fatalities in the latter incident.

Resources are Available

Hazards of AN are extensively covered under explosives, marine cargo, rail and various environmental/safety regulations. Reputable suppliers of the products put considerable effort into the quality of information on SDS, not just for FGAN, but for other nitrate-containing fertilizers (e.g. urea ammonium nitrate- UAN, which may not be “regulated” in the form used as fertilizer, but none-the-less present similar hazards during a fire).
Fertilizer associations in both the US and Canada have established codes specifically addressing FGAN storage and handling that include concerns regarding the transition of FGAN to an explosive (the same organisations also provide Codes for the safe handling of anhydrous ammonia).

Despite the fact that there are a plethora of regulations around industrial grade AN, all too often the relation of FGAN to these hazards is not well known outside of the directly-regulated community. This was a finding in the St. Romain-en-Jarez (Loire) incident in 2003 and was heavily emphasized in the CSB report of the West incident in 2013. In fact, among its recommendations the CSB recommended the disclaimer “Only Intended for Use When Responding to Transportation Incidents” for the 2016 ERG. Although this specific phrase may not be included, similar wording is expected on the front cover. We can only hope that those relying on this resource recognize that context is key when using any guide.

Read the full CSB report »

Lithium Ion Batteries to be “Cargo Aircraft Only”

Download links below.

Lithium continues to cause (as well as alleviate) depression!

IATA, reporting on the Feb. 22 ICAO Council acceptance of the ICAO Air Navigation Commission, has announced that they will be adding an Addendum to the 57th Ed. of the IATA DGR to prohibit shipping Lithium Ion Batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft. This applies only to UN3480 (i.e. batteries alone) prepared under PI 965.

The prohibition will take effect April 1, 2016 (along with other announced changes – state of charge limits, number of Sec. II exemption items/consignment, etc.) and will be in effect for an unspecified “interim” period.

This interim period will probably depend on the conclusion of developing performance-based standards announced earlier (see my previous article).

The notice also includes reinforcing the restriction to PI 965 Section II exempted items to 1 per consignment or overpack; and will add the requirement for a Cargo Aircraft Only handling label for these packages/overpacks.

UN3481 lithium ion batteries packed with/contained in under PI 966 and PI 967 are not covered by the prohibition.

The formal issue of ICAO Technical Instructions 2015-2016 4th Amendment and IATA DG 2016 2nd Amendment, introducing this restriction, are expected by Feb. 26th.

Shippers of lithium ion batteries may have to plan soon for alternate delivery modes if customers are not well served by CAO flights.

The pre-amendment notices can be found here:
Lithium Batteries as Cargo in 2016 Update III (PDF)

[Author Edit]
…and published as “ADDENDUM II” to the IATA 57thEd. DGR- posted February 26, 2016:

Read the announcement and addendum here »