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…
If you’ve ever applied for an interpretation from the U.S. Department of Transportation, or even looked one up online, chances are you’ve found a solution to your problem in a letter signed by Edward Mazzullo, longtime Director of the Office of Hazardous Materials Standards of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Mr. Mazzullo’s commitment to clarifying the complexities of the Hazardous Materials Regulations, as well as his career devoted to developing and improving regulatory standards, has resulted in him being awarded the George L. Wilson Award by the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council (DGAC) at its 40th Annual Summit and Exposition in Arlington, VA.
Each year, DGAC, a major organization for the education of the private and public sectors on transport of dangerous goods issues, presents the George L. Wilson Award to an individual, organization or company that has demonstrated outstanding achievement in the field of hazardous materials transportation safety. Previous winners include former members of the DOT, but also representatives of industry, and international representatives such as Linda Hume-Sastre, who labored for many years on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations for Transport Canada. Even CHEMTREC, the well-known emergency information service, has received the award.
DGAC presented the award to Mr. Mazzullo at a lunch attended by many hazardous materials professionals who have benefitted from his guidance through the years. We applaud his long service, and dedication to Continue Reading…
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…
Shippers of Hazardous Materials (or Dangerous Goods) know that the packaging they use has to meet certain specifications and pass standard tests before it can be considered appropriate for the hazardous shipment. Most training classes will explain that the package design must go through various tests to simulate conditions they may encounter during transport.
I started to wonder if users of the packaging really understand the conditions these designs are put through. No, it doesn’t look like this…
… but a few of the tests are quite rigorous! Below are some examples.
Drop Test – Drop testing is done on five test samples. The samples are prepared as they are intended to be used by a shipper. Each sample is dropped on a different surface of the package (top, bottom, long side, short side, and corner) from a height between 2.9 and 5.9 feet (0.8 – 1.8 meters), depending on the packing group of the materials that are going to be authorized. Any release of sample material during any of the drops is considered a failure.
Stack Test – Stack testing is done on three test samples. The samples are subjected to force that is equivalent to the weight of identical packages stacked to 3 meters. The samples must withstand the weight for 24 hours without leaking or showing any damage or distortion that could reduce Continue Reading…
Zika virus – the name itself sounds exotic and dangerous. It is believed to be a serious risk for pregnant women. And it’s due to arrive in North America. Just how great a danger is this virus, and how should research and medical facilities prepare for the regulatory burden?
First of all, Zika is not a new virus. It has been known since the 1950s in equatorial Africa and Asia, but only recently has it appeared to migrate to new territories, including South and Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico. It is primarily a mosquito-borne illness, transmitted by the Aedes genus of mosquitos. Possibly climate change has increased the populations of these mosquitos in the areas where Zika is spreading. Aedes mosquitos are found in some parts of the U.S., and although they are not currently believed to be in Canada, they may spread as the climate warms. Person-to-person transmission by body fluids is possible, but this would be relatively rare compared to the mosquito vector.
Zika is classed in the Flaviviridae family of viruses, along with dengue fever, West Nile virus and the notoriously dangerous yellow fever. However, compared to these, Zika is usually a mild affliction. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only one in five persons infected with the virus shows any symptoms at all. For those who do fall ill, the symptoms Continue Reading…
The DG/HazMat world occasionally encounters confusion when there’s a need to refer to the “N.O.S.” aspect of a shipping name. The abbreviation is used in the proper shipping name of mixtures that have a potential variety of hazardous ingredients and/or don’t have a more specific, applicable name in the UN list.
The principal is that if the shipping name preceding the N.O.S. doesn’t contain sufficient details on the hazardous ingredient, then a technical name must be included in brackets following the N.O.S. as part of the proper shipping name. In some cases (i.e. US shipments) more than one technical name may need to be shown if there is more than one ingredient contributing to the hazard.
For example, in a mixture containing both ethanol and isopropanol (ethyl & isopropyl alcohols) along with other ingredients; in sufficient concentration to be classed as a flammable liquid; the proper shipping description would be “UN1993, Flammable Liquid, N.O.S. (ethanol)” internationally, and “UN1993, Flammable Liquid, N.O.S. (ethanol, isopropanol)” in the US.
Similarly UN numbers with a subsidiary class would also have to list the ingredient, if different, resulting in the subsidiary hazard.
The US convention is allowed by the phrasing of “at least the most hazardous” or similar wording in other modal/national regulations.
The term “technical name” is defined in the various regulations, but the common theme is that it Continue Reading…
One thing that amazes me after 25 years in business is the fact that (even long time) customers do not understand the spectrum of products, services, and training we offer. After hearing yet another customer say, “we did not know you did that” I was inspired to tell you this story.
Once upon a time, not so long ago there was a train wreck, not unlike Lac Megantic disaster of late. A man who owned a printing company was inspired to start another company and together with his partners started to print products that related to shipping dangerous goods.
With the onset of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (1985), released by Transport Canada, the company was kept busy producing placards, hazard class labels, signage, and other transportation supplies.
Within a few short years Health Canada introduced WHMIS (1988), where supplier and workplace labels were in high demand. In addition WHMIS introduced Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), and with that, the introduction of a new arm of the company. Training was also introduced not only for transportation, but workplace safety as well.
In 1991, The IATA Dangerous Goods regulations, and 49 CFR (remember HM-181?) introduced something new called UN Performance Packaging, or commonly called “POP Packaging” at the time. ICC Compliance Center was one of the first companies to introduce packaging and educate companies on its use.
As a frequent traveler, for both business and pleasure, I am often passing though airport security checkpoints before whisking off to my final destination. Because of the industry I am in, I always seem to notice things that most travelers don’t. Most passengers tend to know the rules regarding carry on liquids. They usually know that they need to take off shoes and remove laptops from bags before x-ray screening. While waiting in line, I start thinking about how many of them really understand how many hazardous materials we may be taking on vacation with us and that there are additional rules for carrying them on aircraft.
During my most recent trip, I noticed a sign while in the queue for the security checkpoint at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. It seemed odd to me that they would choose to display this sign in a passenger area. While the information provided on the sign is accurate and useful, it is not appropriate for the audience it is reaching. Those passengers who actually stop to read the sign will likely think it does not apply to them because they are not traveling with packages as pictured. In my opinion, a more effective sign for this location would warn that lithium batteries that are used with personal electronics can start fires if they are dropped or improperly charged. Showing photos of Continue Reading…
Every year around this time a feeling of nostalgia gets me. As soon as the first sign about “back to school” shows up in a store or on TV, I am transported to my previous life. For over 10 years I taught high school science. Each year there were plans to make, supplies to buy, and students to meet. Thinking on it now from the perspective of a safety professional, it is amazing the chemical hazards present in an everyday school situation.
Being a science teacher it was easy to engage students in their own learning. Usually, all it took was setting up some demonstrations of some basic chemical reactions and everyone was read to go. A few of the more common ones were called Colored Fire, Sugar Snake, and Elephant’s Toothpaste. In each one of these, hazardous chemicals are used to make the reaction. For the Colored Fire, alcohol solutions of various metals are used. The Sugar Snake involves the use of concentrated sulfuric acid. In Elephant’s toothpaste a hydrogen peroxide solution is used. As a teacher you always had to model good safety habits including the proper personal protective equipment and keep students far enough away for the actual demonstration to be safe.
Elsewhere in the school building there were other hazardous chemicals. Consider the toner in the copy room. Also, the Custodial department Continue Reading…
I was scrolling through my news feed this morning when a post from the local Fire Department info page caught my eye. I read the statements “Suspicious Package. Niagara County Hazmat Team and US Airforce Hazmat Team from Niagara Falls Air Base requested to scene.” and I immediately started to look for more information. The location of the scene is not only within a few hundred feet of Niagara Falls and the Canadian border, but it is approximately 8 miles from my office and only 1.5 miles from my daughter’s elementary school. In this industry, I hear about hazmat incidents every day, but this one hit close to home.
Thanks to social media, I was able to get real time updates on the situation from the Facebook pages of The Niagara Gazette, Niagara County Fire Wire and Niagara Falls Fire Department Calls and Info. These sources were reporting information broadcast over public scanners. Local news stations hadn’t yet started to report the story. An envelope with a suspicious material was discovered in the human resources department. Employees were evacuated as a precaution. The Air Reserve team was on site first, with the county team in route to assist them. The hazmat team was directed to take samples, check the package for any additional suspicious content and to photograph the package. Initial data lead the Hazmat Command to Continue Reading…