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…
Lithium
How to Ship Damaged or Defective Lithium Batteries

Swollen lithium polymer batteries. Dangerous and harmful electronic waste

Regular Damaged or Defective or Dangerous Damaged or Defective?

There is a fair amount of interest in the topic of preparing Damaged or Defective (DoD) lithium batteries for transport and how to make a determination of the degree of hazard they present.

The current (20th) 2017 Edition of the Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (UN Model) Regulations have addressed the former (packaging for transport) aspect, but the documents currently posted have not yet established firm protocols for the latter.

The situations involving recalls of defective, unsafe batteries and incidents during transportation has sustained the efforts to find better ways of dealing with them. The topic has been under discussion at the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) in most sessions over the last several years.

For this discussion we’ll refer to cells/batteries that do not meet the UN Manual of Test criteria due to damage or defect, without specific safety hazards, as “regular” DoD; and those that “are liable to disassemble rapidly, react dangerously, produce a flame or a dangerous evolution of heat, or produce a dangerous emission of toxic, corrosive or flammable gases or vapours” as “dangerous” DoD.

This distinction is proposed for clarification in the next version (21st Edition) of the UN Model. See, for example, working document ST/SG/AC.10C.3/2018/51:
http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/trans/doc/2018/dgac10c3/ST-SG-AC.10-C.3-2018-51e.pdf

Batteries or Reactive Substances?

As a technicality, we should pause to consider the basic Continue Reading…

PHMSA/DOT Update: Label Border Line Thickness

HM-215N Update: Clarification on 2mm label border line thickness

2mm Label Border Requirement Changed

As most hazardous goods professionals know, HM-215N was intended to harmonize the 49 CFR regulations with the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods—Model Regulations (UN Model Regulations), International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code), and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (ICAO Technical Instructions).

Among many other mandates, the final ruling ultimately revised §172.407 (c)(1)(iii), which changed the required width of the solid line forming the inner border of hazard class labels to a minimum of 2mm thick allowing for a transition period for domestic transportation to be in effect until December 31, 2018 in a final rule published in March of 2017.

“Approximately” vs “At Least”

Although this ruling intended to improve consistency in labeling specifications worldwide, the language has caused confusion at the international level, and The United Nations Subcommittee of Experts recently adopted new language to clarify the width of the line may be “approximately” 2 mm instead of “at least” 2mm.

As a result, earlier this year in response to the industry’s request for clarification, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) rescinded the requirement for label borders to be at least 2mm in thickness.

This action will officially take effect on January 1, 2019. However, US enforcement inspectors currently still have been referring to the Continue Reading…

HazMat box with tape gun
Am I Using the Right Tape on my HazMat Shipment? (FAQ)

Man preparing shipment

Frequently Asked Questions About Tape Being Used With UN Boxes

Often times I get questions regarding which type of tape could be used with the various packaging we sell here at ICC Compliance Center. Like many other answers to questions, most of the questions can be answered straight from the regulations. As many of us know, sometimes when it comes to packaging, the regulations may not be specific enough to the questions we have. That’s when I turn to the PHMSA Interpretations for guidance.

What are PHMSA Interpretations?

PHMSA interpretations are written explanations of the hazardous materials regulations by various members of the D.O.T. They come in in the form of letters that are answering specific questions asked by a wide variety of dangerous goods professionals. They are to be used only as a form of guidance when following the regulations.

Do keep in mind that the interpretations that are currently posted in the database reflect the current application of the 49 CFR to the specific questions and may be removed if there are changes to the regulations or deemed inaccurate. The PHMSA interpretation browser can be found on PHMSA’s website.

HazMat Shipment Tape FAQs

Q. Can I put more strips of the tape than what is referenced in the closing instructions along the seam of the box?
A. Yes. Per Interpretation Response #06-0129 at the link below, as long as the specified Continue Reading…
PHMSA
PHMSA & OSHA Make a Video Together – an Oxymoron?

Warehouse with chemicals

PHMSA vs OSHA

George Carlin will always be a favorite comedian for people of a certain age. One of his best-known bits is on oxymorons. An oxymoron, is basically a set of contradictory terms that work together. While not the greatest of explanations, let’s have George give you some examples to make the point.

This concept came to mind on the heels of the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) joint video on labeling. Those two organizations are just that, 2 different organizations, yet they released a joint video? It sounded like a setup to a bad joke. Turns out I was wrong.

The video does a great job of explaining the focus of each organization and goes a long way to clearing the air. There are references to the regulations used by each, but not a lot of time is spent on “regulatory language” or the details of either one. 

Comparing PHMSA vs OSHA

Here is my version of the comparisons between the two and how closely the align based on the video.

PHMSA OSHA Take Away
Regulates hazardous materials in transport Regulates hazardous chemicals in the workplace Both want people to be safe.
Uses the Hazardous Materials Regulation Uses the Hazard Communication Standard Both have a set of “rules”.
Defines Hazardous Material as those that pose an unreasonable risk to health, safety and property when transported in commerce Defines Hazardous Chemical as Continue Reading…
PHMSA Change Notice

Man preparing shipment

PHMSA Issues Notice of Change on Termination of M-Number and R-Number Approvals with no Expiration Date

PHMSA has made a proposal to terminate previously approved M-numbers and R-numbers that were issued without an expiration date. Unless approval holders can either show why their approvals should not be terminated as provided in 49 CFR 107.713(c)(1) or apply for a modification of their approval in accordance with 49 CFR 107.705 prior to the effective date, their M-number may be considered expired. Modified approvals will conform to the Approvals and Permits Division’s standardized format in which all approvals have a 5-year expiration date.

M Number on UN packaging

What is an M-Number?

An “M-Number” or manufacturer number is issued by the D.O.T. to a manufacturer of packaging related to hazardous goods as a means of identification. This number is used in place of the manufacturer’s name and address as authorized in 49 CFR 178.503. In addition, an “R” number was a number previously given to companies that recondition their hazardous goods packaging, but PHMSA now uses M-numbers in their place. Often times the M-number is displayed on the outside of a package (like in the above picture). Manufacturer’s symbols can come in two formats. The first format lists the manufacturers sequentially by Identification Number (M#). The second format lists each state’s manufacturers alphabetically by city and company name. The identification number, the name and address, the status, and Continue Reading…

PHMSA
49 CFR – There’s an App for that?

oCFR Regulation Smartphone app

We’ve Come a Long Way

Technology is everywhere we look now. Think about some of the advertisements on television you see for what is available today in the realm of technology. There is the refrigerator that sends you pictures of its insides and keeps your grocery list. A device that can regulate your thermostat, turn on your lights, and send you reminders about events. Cell phones can now stream videos, search the internet, pay your bills, and still make calls. All of these are just in the past year.

Think back about ten years ago. It doesn’t seem that long ago, now does it? It is around this time that the iPhone craze was starting. In 2008 the iPhone 3G was released. As the second generation of iPhone, it came preloaded with such features as a GPS, special email capabilities, and the App Store. App stands for Application. It is from the App Store that people could download various tools, games, and software. Around this time, Apple began to advertise with the slogan, “There’s an App for that”.  You can watch one of the original commercials here.

So, why all the history? Because there is a new app available from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). This app called “oCFR” (Online Code of Federal Regulations), which allows access to a simplified, mobile version of Continue Reading…