Hazardous Materials Training: A Broader Issue Than You May Think

Kenny Ray, CSP, CHM Cline Wood Agency 

Thousands of hazardous materials shipments pass safely through the immense Houston Ship Channel region each year. Depending on the type and amount of the particular material being shipped, those shipments are regulated by many federal agencies including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the United States Coast Guard (USCG), and the Department of Transportation (DOT). Several state agencies also exercise regulatory control over the transportation of hazardous materials including the Texas Department of Public Safety (TXDPS), the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). In addition, many county and municipal governments create local codes and ordinances which affect hazardous materials shipments. Clearly, there is no shortage of federal, state and local agencies tasked with enforcement of the complex, and often misunderstood, hazardous materials regulations.

A federal agency most actively involved in regulating hazardous materials shipments is the Department of Transportation. DOT specifically regulates “a substance or material that the Secretary of Transportation has determined is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce” (49 CFR 171.8). There are five modes by which hazardous materials shipments are “transported in commerce”—highway, rail, vessel, air, and pipeline. Each of these modes is highly regulated by DOT. Obviously, the most common modes relevant to the port region would involve shipments by vessel, rail and highway. However, since so many of the hazardous materials shipments passing through the port are intermodal, the possibility exists that more than one of the regulated modes may be relevant at any given time.

Through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the Department of Transportation promulgates the federal hazardous materials regulations in 49 CFR Parts 100-185. A critical component of said regulations involves mandatory training requirements for all employees involved in any facet of hazardous materials transportation (49 CFR 172.702). The idiom ‘The devil is in the details’ is extremely applicable to DOT hazardous materials training requirements—particularly in the definition of a hazardous materials employee, to wit:

Hazmat employee means:
1. A person who is:
(i) Employed on a full-time, part time, or temporary basis by a hazmat employer and who in the course of such full time, part time or temporary employment directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety;
(ii) Self-employed (including an owner-operator of a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft) transporting hazardous materials in commerce who in the course of such self-employment directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety;
(iii) A railroad signalman; or
(iv) A railroad maintenance-of-way employee.

2. This term includes an individual, employed on a full time, part time, or temporary basis by a hazmat employer, or who is self-employed, who during the course of employment:
(i) Loads, unloads, or handles hazardous materials;
(ii) Designs, manufactures, fabricates inspects, marks, maintains, reconditions, repairs, or tests a package, container or packaging component that is represented, marked, certified, or sold as qualified for use in transporting hazardous material in commerce.
(iii) Prepares hazardous materials for transportation;
(iv) Is responsible for safety of transporting hazardous materials;
(v) Operates a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials.

As can readily be seen, the definition of a hazardous material employee encompasses much more than just truck drivers, train crews, dock workers and the crew of a vessel. Many supervisors, support staff and administrative assistants are also subject to the hazardous materials training requirements. The deciding factor will always be an individual’s role in affecting hazardous materials transportation safety. If unsure of the applicability to your employees, consult a safety professional who has expertise in the federal hazardous materials regulations.

In addition to defining who must be trained, DOT also defines the required scope of the training to include five specific areas as follows:

  1. General awareness and familiarization training – broad training designed to prepare an employee to recognize and identify hazardous materials and to understand various hazard communication standards;
  2. Function-specific training – hazardous materials training specific to the various hazardous material functions the employee performs;
  3. Safety training – concerning emergency response information, measures to protect employees from exposure, and methods and procedures for avoiding hazardous materials accidents;
  4. Security awareness training – awareness training to identify and protect against security risks associated with the transportation of hazardous materials;
  5. In-depth security training – detailed security training for those employees impacted by a formal Transportation Security Plan.

The Department of Transportation places significant importance on the structure and results of hazardous materials training. PHMSA specifically defines training as “a systematic program (consistent approach, testing, and documentation) that ensures a hazmat employee has knowledge of hazmat and the hazardous materials regulations, and can perform assigned hazmat functions properly.” Severe civil penalties may be levied against hazardous materials employers who fail to adequately or properly train their employees.

In addition to receiving the aforementioned training, hazardous materials employees must be tested over the training subjects. Said training must be provided to new hazardous materials employees within 90 days of their initial employment and recurrent training must be provided to all hazardous materials employees at least once every three years. The employer who employs hazardous materials employees is responsible for ensuring all of the hazardous materials training requirements are met and required training records are maintained. Even when a third party is utilized to provide said training, the responsibility for complying with all applicable hazardous materials training requirements rests solely with the employer. Thus, it is critical for those businesses involved in any aspect of hazardous materials transportation to have access to a safety professional who fully understands all aspects of the federal hazardous materials regulations.

  • Date January 29, 2019
  • Tags 2019 Jan