PHMSA Civil Penalties Increase 2019

Effective July 31, 2019 the fines for civil penalties within the Department of Transportation are increased.  This increase impacts the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Pipeline of Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

The fines are increased as a result of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015.  This happens every year, so you would think it would have an abbreviation at this point.  This act basically requires federal agencies to adjust civil penalties each year to account for inflation.  A list of the increases for 49CFR is shown below.  These are found in 49CFR Part 107. A definition for “Penalties of non-compliance” is found in 171.1.  To see the full ruling with the changes to the other agencies, go here

PHMSA Adjustments:

  • Maximum penalty for a hazardous materials violation is $81,1993.
  • Maximum penalty for hazardous materials violation that results in death, serious illness, or severe injury to any person or substantial destruction of property is $191,316
  • Minimum penalty for hazardous materials training violations is $493.   
  • Maximum penalty for each pipeline safety violation is $218,647
  • Maximum penalty for a related series of pipeline safety violations is $2,186,465
  • Maximum penalty for liquefied natural gas pipeline safety violation $79,875
  • Maximum penalty for discrimination against employees providing pipeline safety information = $1,270

Keep in mind Continue Reading…

World Hepatitis Day

Since 2010, World Hepatitis Day is observed on July 28th.  The goal is to raise awareness of hepatitis as well as the prevention and treatment of the disease.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hepatitis cause two in every three liver cancer deaths and overall 1.34 million deaths a year.  We all need to be educated.  This is not a disease found in just one country, a particular ethnicity or age.  Here is the chance to educate ourselves. 

Hepatitis is the inflammation of liver tissue.  It is most commonly caused by a virus and there are five main ones commonly referred to as Types A, B, C, D and E.  Types A and E are usually short-term (acute) diseases.  Types B, C, and D are likely to become chronic.  Type A is contracted by direct contact with fecal matter or drinking water contaminated with fecal matter.  that has the virus in it.  Type E is the result of indirect contact with fecal contaminated food and water.  This is why many people are under the misconception that you can only get hepatitis in 3rd world countries where sanitation is not the best.  Types B and C are caused by contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids such as blood. Type D can only happen if someone is currently infected with Type B.

This year’s theme is to “Find Continue Reading…

Eureka Moment with Batteries

Every year when teaching the concept of density to high schoolers, I would use the story of Archimedes and the king’s crown. They really enjoyed the part of him running naked through the streets shouting, “Eureka, I have found it.” Since that time, the concept of “eureka moments” has become a thing. The moment you finally realize, understand, or discover something is a “eureka moment”.

My most recent one occurred while updating ICC’s lithium battery courses. You see, I’ve always struggled with a few paragraphs in 49CFR 173.185. The paragraphs in question are (c)(1)(iii) and (c)(1)(iv) for those smaller or “excepted” cells and batteries. My brain just couldn’t comprehend or truly understand what they were telling me. Add to that the changes brought in by the interim final rule HM-224I and my brain was just fried. Both paragraphs are shown below for your reference.

173.185(c)(1)(iii)
Except when lithium cells or batteries are packed with or contained in equipment in quantities not exceeding 5 kg net weight, the outer package that contains lithium cells or batteries must be appropriately marked: “PRIMARY LITHIUM BATTERIES—FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT”, “LITHIUM METAL BATTERIES—FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT”, “LITHIUM ION BATTERIES—FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT” or labeled with a “CARGO AIRCRAFT ONLY” label specified in §172.448 of this subchapter.

173.185(c)(1)(iv)
For transportation by highway or rail only, the lithium content of the cell Continue Reading…

Lithium ION Battery Phrase Confusion with HM-224I

Laurel and Hardy the comedy duo from the 1930’s coined the phrase, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” Sadly, I believe this is the situation DOT created with HM-224I which is an interim final rule published in March.  When this new rule is taken into account along with the general frustration many shippers face when shipping lithium batteries, it is easy to see how the mess was made.

Basically, here’s what happened.  The 49 CFR can be used to make air shipments along with going by ground and vessel.  In the “old” version of the regulations, you were allowed to put lithium ion batteries on passenger planes as long as the net weight of the batteries was below 5 kg.  Well, DOT has finally admitted it is NOT a good idea to put lithium ion batteries on passenger aircraft.  They also wanted to be in closer alignment with the IATA which restricted ion batteries to cargo planes just a few years ago.  This is where HM-224I comes into play.

One of the biggest changes is the addition of a phrase to section 173.185 for small powered or excepted batteries.  It is paragraph (c)(1)(iii) that is causing the most trouble.  Keep in mind nothing changed with the existing phrases in this paragraph. It is simply a matter of a new one being added.  Also, this paragraph Continue Reading…

International World Day for Safety and Health at Work

The International Labour Organization (ILO) was created in 1919.  It is a United Nation’s agency that sets standards, policies and programs for the work force.  Comprised of workers, employers and governments the main goals are to “promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues.”  Each branch, if you will, has equal footing in regards to what programs and actions are implemented.  

Starting in 2003, the ILO started “International Worker’s Memorial Day” as a way to bring awareness to workers and the workplace including accidents, diseases, safety and health.  It has evolved into the “International World Day for Safety and Health at Work” and is celebrated every year on April 28.  This date also coincides with the International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers. 

Since the ILO is celebrating 100 years of existence in 2019, they are looking back at what the past 100 years and using that experience to look at the current and future workplace.  The theme to this year’s event is “A Safe and Healthy Future of Work: Building on 100 Years of Experience”.  There is a fantastic video on the ILO site found here that focuses on this year’s theme.  The longer report covers the changes to the workforce overtime and what are some of the upcoming changes.  The numbers in it are staggering when viewed from a global perspective.  It is well worth the read and is free to download.

Thinking about how Continue Reading…

OSHA HazCom 2012
OSHA Stance on Wearable Lithium Batteries

Here’s the thing. I am a TV junkie. A huge amount of my time has been dedicated to researching new shows, setting them up on my DVR, and watching said shows. One that has my attention right now is “The Rookie” starring Nathan Fillion. In the show, he is a 40-year old rookie cop in Los Angeles. It has my attention for multiple reasons aside from the obvious. The main REGULATORY one is the fact that every officer on the show wears a body camera. It got me to thinking … surely those body cameras come with rechargeable batteries. If so, what happens when in the course of the show, one of those cameras is damaged? My brain then jumped to what about workers who wear battery powered devices.

Believe it or not, OSHA recently published in their newsletter an article called, “Preventing Fire and/or Explosion Injury from Small and Wearable Lithium Battery Powered Devices”. You can find the article at https://www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib011819.html.

In this article, they do a good job describing batteries and cells as well as how they work. There is also a lengthy section on lithium battery hazards including what can cause enough damage to create fire and explosion risks. These include such things as physical impacts, usage/storing at temperatures too high or too low and failure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

As to ways to prevent injuries Continue Reading…

ICC's Regulatory Helpdesk
49CFR Precedence Table

Every now and then as a trainer I get a question that appears to come out of nowhere. When those happen, classes become quite lively. These questions can happen before training starts, as it is happening or even after we are done. The human brain is a pretty amazing organ that way.

One case in particular happened after a training occurred last April. Yes, even a year later, we still provide Regulatory Support to our customer via our Customer Service line. To set the stage, this particular company took our 49CFR class. The class goes through all the steps needed to transport a hazardous substance correctly and within compliance of 49CFR. Now, we didn’t spend very much time on classifying materials in that courses simply because by this point you know what you are shipping and just need training on how to do that. Class went along without a hitch.

Fast forward now to last week and I received an email. The gist of the email is as follows:

We have a product that is both flammable and corrosive and are having trouble getting both hazard class labels to fit on the box. Can we use the Precedence Table in 173.2a to label the product as just a class 3 and omit the class 8 label?

What’s odd about this particular question is our standard transport class which this company Continue Reading…

Skull and Cross Bones
National Poison Prevention Week

The main part of my job is to train companies, workers, handlers, and the like on how to manage hazardous materials or hazardous chemicals safely. This can be done under the umbrella of the transport regulations of 49CFR, IATA, and IMDG, or under the OSHA HazCom standard. However, not everyone is going to take one of my courses. Sad, but true.

Granted all of those folks do their jobs well and use marks, labels, placards, and safety data sheets to convey information about their products to other users. But it begs the question, how is the general public made aware of the “other” dangers or poisons out there? Think about the laundry pod scare recently to make my point.

Back in 1962, the first-ever National Poison Prevention Week was announced. In 2019, the week will be from March 17-23. Supported directly by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), the goal is to promote safety tips and the emergency services provided by the Poison Control Centers in the US.

To emphasize just how important Poison Control Centers are, take a look at some numbers from 2016 taken directly from the AAPCC website at www.aapcc.org.

  • There were 2,700,000 cases managed by the centers.
  • Someone called the centers every 14 minutes.
  • Over $1,800,000,000 saved in medicals costs.

For this year’s event, people are encouraged to use the hashtags #NPPW19, #PreventPoison, and #PoisonHelp. Continue Reading…

Lithium
49CFR Trying to Catch Up for Lithium Batteries

Lithium Batteries, Laptop battery
Every year at this time training is busy at ICC. It happens for various reasons. The one that causes it most often is companies are due. As we know each transport regulation has a training requirement to it. Many decide to do all transport training at one time which is great.

Here’s the rub though. To me, 49CFR is always just a few steps behind all of the other transport regulations. I get the whole rulemaking process but it is frustrating to constantly have to explain or mention times when the US ground regulations don’t align with other international ones. When you add lithium batteries to the mix, it just complicates things even more.

For once, efforts are being made to catch up with all of the other regulations. On Wednesday, February 27, the Department of Transportation published HM-224I which is an Interim Final Rule (IFR) centered around transporting lithium batteries. Take note, this is a final rule with no advanced notice and was not open to comment. Comments will still be accepted and reviewed which could cause amendments later on but for now, this is what is required. DOT believes this IFR was “necessary to address an immediate safety hazard” presented when shipping lithium batteries.

So, what changes did this IFR bring in to the regulations? Let’s take a look.

HM-224I: Enhanced Safety Provisions for Lithium Batteries

ICC Compliance Center
Stranded in a Vehicle During a Winter Storm

Living in the St. Louis Metro Area planning before heading out onto the highways is a good idea. With a population upwards of 2 million, there are always lots of vehicles on the roads. Add to that the number of those passing through on their way out west, and you can imagine some of the traffic snarls happening on a daily basis. If there should be any sort of inclement weather, the number of accidents multiply on an exponential basis. Given we just passed the first official day of winter, it seems appropriate to think about what to do if you get stranded in your car during a winter storm.

After researching this a bit, it was interesting where I found the best advice. The Weather Channel, and several insurance agencies seemed to provide the most logical ones. Many ideas center around concepts that make sense for being a responsible car owner.

What to do when stranded:

  • Have a survival kit in your car. Create one for the types of situations you could find yourself. It should include extra gloves, water, a flashlight, a blanket, a cell phone charger, and an ice scraper just to name a few items. 
  • Stay inside the vehicle with your seatbelt connected. By staying in place you avoid exposure to the elements, which can put you at risk for hypothermia, frostbite, and getting lost. Your seatbelt is Continue Reading…