One of my favorite childhood shows was “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?”. How he and his group of friends could solve all those crazy hauntings and monsters always amazed me. Nothing made me happier than when the culprit was discovered and he uttered the words, “If it weren’t for you pesky kids, I would have gotten away with it.” After all I was only a kid and catching the bad guys was a big deal.
Occasionally during a training class odd questions or little mysteries arise. In those times I can feel like Thelma from my childhood show tracking down the clues and getting an answer. Here is one from one mystery from a recent training. It came about after our discussion on United Nations (UN) Specification Packaging. We had just finished reviewing all the parts of the packaging codes and discussing the manufacturer’s packing instructions as they apply to 49 CFR – US ground regulations. This lead to talking about their actual facility. Below is a picture of a box they have on site for use. They wanted to know if it was in compliance.
Ah, a mystery I can solve.
In case you didn’t catch why they asked about this particular box and compliance, take a look at the FOUR package specification codes on the box. For most boxes, there is only one code derived from the Continue Reading…
Birthdays are important milestones and should be celebrated. One important one for parents is a baby’s first birthday. This is often followed by apprehension when a child reaches their teenage years. Many people in the United States enjoy turning 21 because that means alcohol is legal for us to consume. After that there are the “round” birthdays – those dreaded ones that have a zero after them. You know, turning 30, 40, 50, etc. We also celebrate the birth of nations. In the US it is every July 4th. For Canada the celebration is on July 1st. Many religions celebrate birthdays too. Christmas in the Christian faith is the birth of Jesus. Buddhists celebrate Buddha’s birthday on the 8th day of the 4th month in the Chinese lunar calendar. Companies also follow this same practice. In fact, ICC Compliance Center just turned 30 last month.
What does all of this birthday talk have to do with the transport of hazardous materials? January 12, 1966 saw then President Lyndon B. Johnson declare in his State of the Union address his plans to create a Department of Transportation (DOT). It was on April 1, 1967 the DOT was open for business. Think about that for a moment. That means in the 1940s when the first atomic bomb was created, there were no regulations around the transport of Class 7 radioactive materials. Other materials such Continue Reading…
Have you ever seen an aircraft fire extinguisher? If not, they don’t look anything like a regular fire extinguisher. For most of us when someone says, “fire extinguisher”, we imagine some kind of red cylinder with a pin, nozzle, and trigger. But an aircraft fire extinguisher looks like a ball with antennas sticking out. That’s why I call them “funky looking fire extinguishers”.
I was asked if I can assist with shipping out an aircraft fire extinguisher via air for a client. Absolutely I can. The client dropped off the fire extinguisher which was wrapped in bubble wrap. As per the SDS it was classified as UN1956 but for those with equivalency certificates/special permits it can be classified as UN1044. Now since these funky fire extinguishers don’t exactly have the surface area to place the markings and labels, I used a strong tag to affix the label and markings as per Section 220.127.116.11 (d) of the IATA Regulations. I wrapped the fire extinguisher in more bubble wrap in such a way to prevent any accidental activation during transport. I used a strong outer packaging and filled the void space with packing peanuts. Placed all the labels and markings on the outside of the package and send it out the same day with FedEx. The package arrived at its destination nice and early at Continue Reading…
A warehouse in South St. Louis caught fire on Wednesday and is still burning today.
Listed as a five-alarm fire by some media outlets has caused major problems for the St. Louis area for several reasons. First, multiple-alarm fires are ones where multiple fire stations, firetrucks and firefighters are called in to battle the fire. This number can increase or decrease depending on just how much equipment and manpower is needed to contain the situation. The scale general ranges from one to ten, so a five-alarm fire is of definite concern. The next concern is over the decay of the building as the fire continues to burn. Yesterday, the roof collapsed forcing the fire higher and spreading debris. Following that collapse a section of wall came down damaging one of the trucks. Most alarming is the need for a HazMat Team.
Why a HazMat Team?
Check out these links to see pictures and videos showing the extent of the fire:
As you may have heard, a major hazmat incident occurred in Niagara Falls, not far from ICC Compliance Center’s location. On a late Monday night in October, a tanker truck carrying nearly 13,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen (UN1966) hit the base of a light pole in the parking lot of a local grocery store as the driver was attempting to turn around. This resulted in a valve on the truck to become damaged and could have caused the highly flammable liquid hydrogen to be released from the truck triggering a very serious situation for nearby residents and businesses. Although the driver received a traffic violation, nobody was physically harmed by the incident. Watching this news story unfold made me think about how this incident could have turned out much differently if hazmat protocol wasn’t followed.
As the tanker truck crashed into the pole, local officials on hand realized the dangers of what was inside the truck because it was properly placarded with a UN1966 placard. Had the truck not been placarded correctly, officials would not have known what was inside the truck and what dangers could come from exposure to the highly flammable liquid hydrogen. As a result, officials were able to respond quickly and evacuated all local businesses and roads leading to the grocery store parking lot the accident took place in. Officials Continue Reading…
A gentleman called to ask if we can help him ship out a small sample (125mL) of sodium hydroxide via air. I said, “absolutely”! He then asked, “maybe you can send it out as limited quantity?”. He was trained to ship dangerous goods via ground but not air. Folks trained in both modes of transport will agree that sending something using the limited quantity exemption by ground is tremendously different from sending that same product using the limited quantity exemption by air.
Shipping Limited Quantities by Ground vs Shipping by Air
Let’s just say for ground, life is good when you can apply the limited quantity exemption to the shipment. It’s easy and cheaper. Yes, it takes a while to get wherever it is going but that’s what you pay for. Sending the same product for a quantity that falls within the limited quantity exemption for air transport may save you a couple of bucks, but that’s it. The only place to really save some money is on packaging. Sending a product using the limited quantity exemption for air exempts you from using a UN standardized package; however, there are some tests that are required for that package. That’s why I said, “may”.
If you ship this small of a volume on a regular basis then it may be worth doing the tests, but if you only Continue Reading…
What do you do when an empty package weighs almost as much as the maximum weight allowed?
Those who ship dangerous goods via air understand there are maximum weight restrictions per package to abide by. For example, in the case of ID8000 the maximum weight per package is 30 kg G. The “G” represents gross weight.
I had a packaging service request to prepare a shipment (2 boxes) heading to Europe via air. As per the SDS the goods are classified as ID8000 for air transport. No problem! Normally ID8000 packaging jobs are pretty straightforward. When the boxes arrived at our warehouse, I was shocked at how big they were. I attempted to lift one off the pallet and move it to my packaging area, and our warehouse coordinator said, “Easy there, Muscles. Those are heavy boxes.” I asked him how much the packages weighed. He grabbed the courier slip and it said 89 kg (196.11 lbs).
Right off the bat, the maximum weight per package was now exceeded. I opened one of the boxes to see inside (as I always do with any packaging job) and inside were a bunch of smaller boxes with aerosol cans. I took out all the smaller boxes and weighed the empty box (yes, I got help from Mr. Hercules … there is a lot of love around our office) to find Continue Reading…
I had a client inquire about shipping acetic acid, which looks very much like apple juice, via air.
I asked him about the quantity, the concentration, and current packaging of the product. There was approximately a total of 11 litres, contained in 2 plastic jugs with 90% concentration. I asked him which carrier he wanted to use and he said, “whichever one I recommend“. Based on the volume of the product I advised him he could do one of two things. Either ship 11 individual boxes (definitely the more costly option), or ship it all in one box via carrier of his choice.
Of course, it made sense to put them all in one box and ship with a cargo aircraft only mark. I asked him to decant the 2 jugs into smaller inner containers with a maximum volume of 2.5 litres each. Plastic is preferred for this chemical. He brought in 11 individual plastic bottles that completely resembled an apple juice bottle. Using adequate UN packaging I packaged the bottles with plenty of vermiculite and sent it with FedEx. The package arrived the next day without any hiccups. I love these straightforward packing jobs!
Once again lithium batteries are in the news. The FAA is proposing a worldwide laptop ban in checked bags on international flights. Tests conducted by the FAA have concluded that when large electronics like laptops overheat in checked luggage, they run the risk of combustion when packed with aerosol canisters like hairspray and dry shampoo. As a result, the potential for explosion becomes a danger to the entire aircraft. The risks are certainly a lot higher if your lithium battery device does in fact catch fire on an airplane, but what exactly is the reason lithium batteries catch fire and what should you do if your device does catch fire during your daily routine?
What is Thermal Runaway?
Previously I wrote a blog on how to prevent lithium batteries from catching fire. But why exactly do lithium batteries catch fire? Lithium-ion and lithium-metal cells are known to undergo a process called thermal runaway during failure conditions. Thermal runaway results in a rapid increase of battery cell temperature and pressure, accompanied by the release of flammable gas. These flammable gases will often be ignited by the battery’s high temperature, resulting in a fire similar to the video below.
Another major reason behind thermal runaway is other microscopic metal particles coming in touch with different parts of the battery, resulting in a short-circuit.
Anyone who ships by air these days can relate to the frustrations associated with shipping lithium batteries.
A gentleman (let’s call him Jack for reference purposes) was given our contact information by Air Canada to get his motorcycle declaration completed. I provided Jack with the shipper’s declaration and he was able to ship his motorcycle with Air Canada. Jack is moving to Faro, Portugal (yes, I am jealous too!) and he is shipping all his personal effects. The broker that is helping Jack with shipping his belongings told him lithium batteries (his power drills) are dangerous goods and Jack needed to remove them, which he did.
Unfortunately the broker didn’t provide Jack with any directions on how he can ship them. So, when Jack went to drop off his motorcycle to Air Canada he asked about shipping his power drills and Air Canada cargo folks told him it’s DG and he needs to get it prepared for transport, and to call Air Canada (yes, you need to call the 1-800 number) for more information. Of course Jack did and Air Canada told him they can accept the shipment as long it’s prepared for air transport. That’s where I come in.
What Are Jack’s Options?
Jack then called me back. He said to me, “You seem to know what you are talking about when Continue Reading…