The shipment of hazardous materials is a serious concern for the health and safety of living beings and the environment. These hazardous materials can be in the form of a solid, liquid, or gas. They can be dangerous and radioactive in nature. They may also be flammable, explosive, toxic, corrosive, or have some other characteristic that will make them dangerous under certain circumstances. Therefore, these materials require special safety precautions during their transportation. Precautions are also necessary during their usage, storage, and disposal. Nearly every country has special rules and regulations to manage hazardous materials that differ depending on the use and status of the material.
When it comes to shipping hazardous materials, the materials are divided into two groups. One is accepted hazardous material and the other is prohibited hazardous materials. Accepted hazardous materials can be shipped if they are properly packed and labeled. Also the documentation for accepted hazardous materials must be completed before shipping. In order to ship prohibited hazardous materials special permission from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is needed. Only if the packing and labeling is done according to DOT’s requirements and special permission is granted can such materials be transported. The transportation of hazardous materials is strictly regulated by DOT and is enforced accordingly.
In the United States hazardous materials are commonly referred to as hazmat or HAZMAT. According to guidelines set by the Department of Transportation, companies that ship hazardous materials must train, test, and certify their hazmat employees once every three years. HAZMAT employees must be trained in general awareness, security awareness, safety, in-depth security training, and all of the specific functions related to the transportation of hazardous materials. A hazmat employee is any person who directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety. Such employees must be trained according to the law. Their training is normally twofold: They must undergo initial training and then undergo recurrent training on a regular basis. Initial training is for a new hazmat employee, or a hazmat employee who changes job functions. An employee may perform his job functions prior to the completion of training provided that the employee performs those functions under the direct supervision of a properly trained and knowledgeable hazmat employee and provided that the training is completed within 90 days after employment or a change in job function. The requirement for recurrent training states that a hazmat employee must receive the training required to keep current on his certification at least once every three years.
The main steps involved in the proper shipment of hazardous materials are:
1: Correctly identifying hazardous material.
2: Checking special provisions for shipping hazardous materials.
3: Proper packaging of hazardous materials.
4: Proper labeling
5: Correct marking on the shipment.
6: Proper placards on the vehicle carrying the shipment.
7: Completion of all required documents.
The officially designated hazardous materials categories are numbered 1 to 9. Each number indicates a different type of hazardous materials and each poses its own dangers. Some of the categories are explosives, flammable gas, non-flammable gas, poisonous gas, oxidizer, flammable liquid, flammable solid, radioactive yellow, radioactive white, and organic peroxide. These categories aid carriers in the correct labeling of packages that contain these materials. One should make sure that these labels are not handmade because, by law, the labels must be purchased from a government printing distributor that has printed them according to the DOT specifications. For proper transportation of hazardous materials and to avoid accidents, the rules and regulations of the relevant authorities should be strictly followed.