How do you remember the meaning of something? Do you try to KISS it where KISS stands for – Keep It Simple Silly? Do you use mnemonics from elementary school and even through college to trigger your memory? I do, and boy how they make things easier. I bet you can remember ROY G BIV, the colors of the rainbow from art class. Music class they gave us easy ways to remember the treble clef with Every Good Boy Does Fine for the lines on the staff and FACE for the spaces. One of my favorites however, is PEMDAS to help remember the order of operations in math!
I am always looking for a fun way to help reinforce my memory. In the hazardous transportation industry there are so many things to remember or define. Oh and the acronyms!
What is a Placard?
Let’s take a look at placards. What is a placard? As defined in the Merriam – Webster dictionary a placard is defined as:
–a large notice or sign put up in a public place or carried by people
Placards provide pertinent information about an area, a specific instruction, or a hazard. Placards are used in work places to communicate to people of special operating procedures. Placards are also used in transportation to warn of hazards that are present in a truck on the road, in a rail car chugging down the tracks, and in a container for vessel transport. Placards are especially important to our first responders, because they inform personnel of the hazards they may face while responding to an incident. By seeing the placards they will be better equipped to determine what precautions they may need to take, what PPE they my need to don, and what additional response they may need. This helps not only save lives of the general public but the lives of our first responders who we are indebted to everyday for the risks they take.
Placarding for air is the easiest. You simply cannot affix placards to airplanes! If we did we would have to walk around with hardhats from raining placards every day. Keep in mind that you will need to placard a truck taking your shipment to the airport.
Requirements for placarding under IMDG Code are pretty simple. These requirements can be found in Chapter 5.3. Where a label appears on a package a placard must appear on the cargo transport unit. Of course there are always going to be a few exemptions or specials cases.
Placarding becomes a little more complicated for road (ground) shipments. In the USA the DOT actually provides 2 tables that give us the guidelines on what needs to be placarded. Any material or class that appears in table 1 must be placarded regardless of the amount you are shipping. This includes bulk package which has to be placarded for all classes that appear on table 1 and 2. Whereas, table 2 sets forth a threshold that can be met before placards are required. This requirement states that a transport vehicle or freight container will not require a placard for a shipment which contains less than 454 kg/1001 lbs aggregate gross weight of hazardous materials covered by table 2. Once that threshold is met a placard will need to be affixed for the hazard(s) present. Of course there are many exceptions and special cases for DOT as well. ICC carries a Hazmat Placarding Guide for Road & Rail that encompasses pictorial guidance to help make placarding a little easier.
Whether it is a helpful guide, cheat sheet, or a fun mnemonic memory system there are many tools to use to help us be in compliance with placarding. When people ask me what a placard is, I can simply put my own mnemonic out there for a placard in the transport industry.
As always, if you need help with placarding requirements for your state/territory or mode of transportation, please give our regulatory helpline a call. You can also order your placards from ICC today!