PHMSA Announces Public Meeting to Solicit Input for 2020 Emergency Response Guidebook

On May 7, 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced there will be a public meeting scheduled for June 17, 2019 to solicit input on the development of the 2020 edition of the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG). During the June 17 meeting, PHMSA will discuss different ways to determine the appropriate response protective distances for poisonous vapors resulting from spills involving dangerous goods considered toxic by inhalation in the “green pages” of the 2016 ERG. PHMSA will also discuss new methodologies and considerations for future editions of the ERG and outcomes of field experiments including ongoing research to better understand environmental effects on airborne toxic gas concentrations and other updates that will be published in the 2020 ERG. The 2020 ERG will be published in English, French, and Spanish and will increase public safety by improving emergency response procedures for hazardous material incidents across North America. For more information on how to be a part of the public meeting visit the link below:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/05/07/2019-09299/hazardous-materials-public-meeting-notice-for-the-2020-emergency-response-guidebook-erg2020

PHMSA first published the ERG Guidebook in 1973 for use by emergency services personnel to provide guidance for first responders during the critical first 30 minutes of hazardous materials transportation incidents. Since 1980, PHMSA’s goal has been to provide free access of the ERG to all public emergency response personnel including fire-fighters, police, and rescue squads. PHMSA has distributed more than 14.5 Continue Reading…

railroad crossing
PHMSA UPDATE: New Safety Rule to Strengthen Oil Train Spill Response Preparedness

Much like Sheryl Crow sang, “A change, could do you good”, at least one would hope. When it comes to PHMSA, change is aimed at improving an already existing process, or adding a new process we can all benefit from. So in this case, I believe Sheryl Crow is right.

With that being said, The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), recently issued a final rule that requires railroads to create and submit Comprehensive Oil Spill Response Plans for route segments traveled by High Hazard Flammable Trains also called HHFTs. The rule applies to these trains that are transporting petroleum oil in a block of 20 or more loaded tank cars and trains that have a total of 35 loaded petroleum oil tank cars.

Why the Change?

Incidents involving crude oil can have devastating consequences to local communities and the environment. Countering these effects on the environment can take between a few weeks to many years, depending on the damage caused. For this reason, fast and effective response is essential to rail accidents containing oil. The 174-page final rule is designed to improve the response readiness and decrease the effects of rail accidents and incidents involving petroleum oil and a flammable train. The agency said the rule also is needed due to expansion in U.S. energy production having led to “significant challenges for the Continue Reading…

Government Shutdown- How Does This Affect PHMSA??

With another government shutdown possibly looming again in the United States in mid-February, many are wondering how this affects the hazardous materials world, specifically those looking to ship domestically or shipments that are entering the U.S.  Whether or not you agree or disagree with the shutdown, I think it is safe to say we can all agree on the importance of the continuing enforcement of the hazardous materials regulations. So the million dollar question here is, will the government shutdown have an effect on PHMSA? The short answer here, for the time being, is yes, but not in all cases. While activities like program developments, research, and HMR permits have generally been suspended, enforcement of the regulations and investigations have continued. Below is a list of continuing operations and suspended activities while this government shutdown continues to take place.

Summary of Continuing Operations

• Investigations of pipeline accidents to determine the causes and circumstances of failure, the need for corrective action, and any non-compliance that might have contributed to the accident.

• Inspections of pipeline operators and systems to detect and remediate safety concerns and determine compliance with the pipeline safety regulations.

• Enforcement of the pipeline safety regulations through corrective action orders, notices of probable violations, letters of warning and other authorized enforcement activities.

• Investigations of hazardous materials accidents to determine the causes and circumstances of failure, the need Continue Reading…

ICC Compliance Center
Looking Forward to 2019

At the start of each new year lots of things are said about changes to make in order for the next year to be better. Many make resolutions about losing weight or getting healthy. Others decide to be nicer to people, spend more time with family or volunteer. It doesn’t mean the previous year was bad, but things can always get better. Let’s look at this from a regulatory compliance point of view, and see if things will be better in 2019.

Changes to Regulations:

Starting January 1, 2019 there is a new version of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations. You must now be using the 60th edition. Luckily, IATA does a great job of giving advanced notice about what is changing late in 2018 so people can start to prepare before the new version takes effect. You can see the list of “significant” changes here. The IMDG Code was also updated for 2019. The new version is the 39-18 Amendment. You are allowed to use the 39-18 starting in January 2019, but the older 38-16 version is still viable for the rest of this year. Again, a summary of the changes for that regulation was published as well. You can find them here. The US ground regulations of 49 CFR had a few amendments throughout 2018, and there is a large one looming for 2019. To stay up-to-date Continue Reading…

Another PHMSA Penalty Increase

In the dangerous goods world things can change fast, so it is very important to be aware of the most up-to-the-minute changes. Much like in the video below, this can feel like an endless chase, but nevertheless we have to keep up the pace to stay within compliance of the changing regulations.

This not only goes for the regulations themselves, but also the penalties involved with being out of compliance. In Subpart D of Part 107 Hazardous Materials Program Procedures, there is a section entitled Enforcement, which outlines the civil and criminal penalties in the event you are non-compliant with the regulations. Being a federal agency, PHMSA must adjust their penalty rates each year to account for inflation. As of Tuesday, November 27, 2018, the new penalty rates officially go into effect. For this year it is a simple calculation, multiply the existing penalty by 1.02041, round up, and this will give you the new penalty.

For example:

  • A violation of hazardous materials transportation law under 49 U.S.C. 5123(a)(1) is going from $78,376 to $79,976.
  • A violation of hazardous materials transportation law resulting in death, serious illness, severe injury, or substantial property destruction under 49 U.S.C. 5123(a)(2) is going from $182,877 to $186,610.

A complete list of the penalty rate changes can be found at the link below:

https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-11-27/pdf/2018-24930.pdf

Why is this an issue? If you have the latest hardcopy of the 49 Continue Reading…

PHMSA Amendment HM-259

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a final rule on October 18th. As you know, the only way to amend or change Title 49 for Transportation in the Code of Federal Regulations is through a rule making process. This particular docket number is HM–259. Its goal is to “align the U.S. Hazardous Materials Regulations with current international standards for the air transportation of hazardous materials”. It has an effective date of October 18, 2018. While the published rule is 23 pages long, I have attempted to hit the highlights here.  If you wish to read the entire final rule with the discussion on comments received, you can go to https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/regulations-fr/rulemaking/2018-22114.

Highlights of HM-259

  • 172.101 – Removal of A3 and A6 from Column 7 for multiple entries in the HMT. Provision A3 will be removed from all Packing Group I entries. Provision A6 will be removed from all liquid entries to which it is assigned.
  • 172.102 – A3 revised and now reads as follows: “For combination packagings, if glass inner packagings (including ampoules) are used, they must be packed with absorbent material in tightly closed rigid and leakproof receptacles before packing in outer packagings.” There is no longer a mention of using “tightly closed metal receptacles”.
  • 175.10(a)(18)(i) – Revised portable electronic devices by passengers and crew. This section has been expanded to include portable medical electronic devices with lithium metal Continue Reading…
PHMSA Has New Portal for Reporting Incidents
Palais des Nations in Geneva

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…

HazMat box with tape gun
PHMSA Update: Tape Specifications vs Packing Instructions

Man preparing shipment

PHMSA Changes Mind on Tape

If you are a frequent shipper of dangerous goods, then surely you know the importance of the type of tape that you use to close your hazmat packaging. In fact, a while back I wrote a blog on this very topic.

It doesn’t take much to fall out of compliance of the regulations outlined in the 49 CFR 178.601 (4) (ii) when it comes to tape. It’s quite simple, you either use the type of tape the package was tested with and is outlined in the closing instructions, or it is considered non-compliant.

Per the interpretation below, PHMSA even went as far as saying that using a wider version of the same exact type of tape was not permitted when using a UN tested outer box, stating specifically that, “it does not conclusively demonstrate how the package will perform when tested or transported.” Meaning if the box was tested with a type of tape that is 2 inches wide, you couldn’t use a 3-inch wide version of the same exact type.

Read the original interpretation.

However, recently PHMSA seemed to have a change of heart on this topic.

What’s The Change?

Recently PHMSA has decided to rescind the above interpretation, stating that, “increasing the width of the tape from that specified in the packaging test report and closure notification does not constitute a change in design, provided the Continue Reading…

DOT 49 CFR USA
Updates to PHMSA HM-218H – New Compliance Dates

Winston Churchill and the 49 CFR

As a former high school science teacher, I had a few choice quotes posted around my classroom.  Some were motivational while others were thought provoking. One of my favorites was by Winston Churchill.

“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”
-Winston Churchill

Granted I tweaked it from “men” to “people” so as not to exclude the other genders in my class. My purpose for that one was to prevent frustrations over calculations, lab results, or high school in general.

On June 2, 2016, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a final rule on Docket No. HM-218H. That docket number had some as miscellaneous amendments to Hazardous Materials Regulations. Now, two years later we have a corrective rulemaking to HM-218H. Published on June 18, 2018 with an effective date of July 18 and compliance date of September 17, it addresses some appeals and comments to that previous rulemaking. Let’s see what changed or was corrected.

Updated/Changed Sections

  • 604 Emergency Response. Emergency response telephone numbers must be displayed in numerical format only. A shipper is no longer allowed to use alphanumeric phone numbers for the emergency response number. For example, 1-800 CLEAN IT is no longer an acceptable emergency response phone number. It must be listed as 1-800-253-2648 going forward. No enforcement actions will be taken from July 5, 2016 to Continue Reading…
Help Make the ERG Better

Emergency Response Guidebook

Calling All ERG Users

Many have heard the phrase, “Calling all cars” used in an emergency situation. The phrase references back to the old police radio days. It was used to call all patrol cars to help other officers. The phrase was the title for an old radio show back in the 1930’s, but also more recently as an episode of HBO’s “The Sopranos”.

How is that phrase being used here? The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has put out the call for input on ways to improve the Emergency Response Guidebook, or ERG. The new version is due for publication in 2020. To see the full notice go to https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-05-23/pdf/2018-11055.pdf

What is the ERG?

It is a booklet that provides technical information and advice for those responding to emergencies involving hazardous materials as defined in 49 CFR. It is used mainly by emergency personnel such as police, fire-fighters, paramedics or other emergency responders. First issued in 1973, PHMSA’s goal is for all emergency response folks to have immediate access to it. As time has progressed there is a free online version and a downloadable app. Other countries may also have their own versions of the ERG. It is updated every 4 years.

It is broken down by the following color-coded sections:

  • White pages – At the start of the booklet, gives the instructions for how to use it and Continue Reading…