The Federal hazardous materials transportation law, 49 U.S.C. 5101 directs the Secretary of Transportation to establish regulations for the safe and secure transportation of hazardous materials in commerce. These regulations are codified in Title 49 CFR Parts 100 – 185, known as the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). The applicability of the HMR includes the following:
- Training of Personnel
- Classification of Hazardous Materials
- Packaging Requirements
- Pre-Transportation Functions
- Transportation Functions
- Record Keeping
- Detailed Hazardous Materials Incident Reporting
The Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) operates under the U. S. Department of Transportation. This agency is responsible for regulating and ensuring the safe and secure movement of hazardous materials/dangerous goods to industry and consumers alike by all of transportation, which includes highway, rail, air, water, and pipeline. The agency goals can be briefly outlined as:
- Safety-for the general public
- Environmental Stewardship
- Global Connectivity – to harmonize and standardize regulations
- Preparedness & Response – to reduce overall harm
To insure minimal threats to life, property, and the environment due to hazardous materials or dangerous goods related incidents, PHMSA develops regulations and standards for the classification, handling, and packaging of over one million daily shipments of such materials within the United States. In addition, the agency ensures safety in the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and spill response of natural gas and liquid transportation pipelines. PHMSA’s overarching goals are to minimize vulnerability through risk management to ensure both safety and security of our nation’s transportation systems. Hazmat Safety Regulations exist under Title 49 CFR Parts 100-185 PHMSA works in collaboration, cooperation and coordination by partnering with other U.S. government agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The lines of authority, responsibility and enforcement are clearly delineated to promote efficiency and non-duplication.
PHMSA is committed to ensuring safety even before a hazardous materials package or pipeline crosses the U.S. border from another country. As part of the ongoing process of harmonizing the U.S. Hazardous Materials Regulations with international standards and regulations, PHMSA participates in a number of international forums to communicate and guarantee the consideration of U. S. interests in the development of international standards. The objective is to establish
and maintain a global system of hazardous materials and dangerous transportation regulations that will enhance the free and safe movement of such materials. Harmonization with international standards enhances safety, compliance, and free trade while minimizing regulatory burden on the public.
The Office of Hazardous Materials and Safety (OHMS) develops and recommends regulatory changes governing the multimodal transportation of hazardous materials. Among many things, OHMS responds to requests for interpretation of regulations, inconsistency rulings and non-preemption determinations. It participates in policy determinations and implements guidance for approved policies. Additionally, it is the duty of this Office to develop regulatory policy options and initiatives based on social, economic, technological, environmental, and safety activities in the transportation of hazardous materials.
The OHMS develops hazardous materials safety training policies and courses including instructional materials such as the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG).
OHMS represents the United States (before international standards-setting bodies) on technical issues of hazmat transportation. This is done with the approval of or in support of, the U.S. Department of State in their efforts to enhance public safety and resolve potential conflicts.
PHMSA’s primary mission under the Federal Code of Regulation Title 49 parts 100 to 185 governing the transportation of hazardous materials / dangerous goods is to enforce the regulations. The Hazmat Enforcement Office monitors compliance with safety and training standards of the extensive Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations known as Title 49 CFR. PHMSA is authorized to inspect and investigate, among other methods, companies and individuals who offer hazardous materials and dangerous goods for transportation by highway, rail, air and water or who manufacture, maintain, repair, recondition or test packages authorized for transporting these materials. The Enforcement Staff is responsible to assure compliance through:
- Independent and joint modal inspections and partnership of:
- Shipper & carrier transportation facilities.
- Packaging manufacturing, repair & reconditioning facilities.
- Cargo vessel ports, rail freight yards, motor carrier and air cargo terminals.
- Chemical and explosive manufacturing plants.
- Programmatic inspections of hazardous materials transportation systems, procedures and processes.
- Civil and criminal enforcement investigations.
- Accident & incident investigation and failure analysis.
- Outreach & education elements with other agencies and industries.
- Emergency response.
PHMSA has available a full range of enforcement tools to ensure that the hazardous material industry takes corrective action for violations, responds appropriately to incidents and takes preventive measures to eliminate all non-compliant operations. PHMSA’s Office of the Chief Counsel can sanction and issue Notices of Probable Violation and Corrective Action and Compliance Orders to violators.
Enforcement activity is at an all time high for shipment of dangerous goods by all four modes domestically and internationally. PHMSA’s Office of Hazardous Materials Enforcement can assess penalties of not less than $250 nor more than $50,000 per day for Civil Violations.
If the violation results in personal injury or property damages, it can go as high as $100,000. Criminal Violations will be referred for Criminal Prosecution by the Office of the Chief Counsel. U.S. companies should be prepared for a significant increase in inspections resulting in more penalties for violating regulations.
To get the job done, DOT, with the many other supporting Federal, State and local government agencies keep vigilant in overseeing the daily transportation activities and training and outreach are at the very top of their agenda.
To help the regulated community comply with the requirements of the Hazardous Materials / Dangerous Goods Regulations, PHMSA provides publications and products for compliance assistance in the field of hazardous materials transportation. The DOT divided the U.S. into five regions: Eastern, Central Southern, Southwest and Western, Washington, D.C. (headquarters) The DOT can be reached by telephone at (202) 366-4900 to answer any question regarding Hazmat Transportation regulations.
PHMSA requires documented training for every hazmat employee in a company who classifies, prepares loads and unloads, ships, or transports hazardous materials and dangerous goods. They must be trained in:
- General Awareness and Security
- Job specific
In calendar year 2007 PHMSA issued civil penalties and collected well over one million dollars. Most of these penalties start with lack of employee training. Here is a short sampling of said civil penalties.
1. A company in Waco Texas was penalized $5,000 for failing to provide general awareness and function-specific training to its employees in addition to failing to use the proper packaging.
2. Another company in Alvin, Texas was fine $5,950 for failing to offer its employees proper training and offered hazardous materials with incorrect shipping papers.
3. A company in Punta Gorda, Florida was fined $8,150 for failure to develop and adhere to a Security Plan and again failure to train hazmat employees.
4. A company in Besmer, Alabama was fined $16,500 for offering materials accompanied by shipping papers that did not indicate proper shipping name, hazard class, UN identification number in addition failed to provide job-specific training.
5. Failure to register with PHMSA, and providing job specific training to employees
cost a company in Wheeling Illinois $4,300
It becomes clear as one reviews the 2007 penalty calendar issued by PHMSA that most fines have a recurring theme...
failure to train leads to incorrect classification, improper packaging and completion of shipping papers. Training is the law of the land. DOT requires that hazmat employees be trained at a minimum of every three (3) years or as regulations change. 49 CFR 171.8 defines a hazmat employee as a person who is employed by a hazmat employer and who in the course of employment directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety. This term includes an owner-operator of a motor vehicle which transports hazardous materials in commerce. This term includes an individual, including a self-employed individual, employed by a hazmat employer who, during the course of employment:
- Loads, unloads, or handles hazardous materials
- Manufactures, tests, reconditions, repairs, modifies, marks or otherwise represents containers, drums, or packaging as qualified for use in the transportation of hazardous materials;
- Prepares hazardous materials for transportation;
- Is responsible for safety of transporting hazardous materials; or
- Operates a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials
A hazmat employer is a person who uses one or more of its employees in connection with transporting hazardous materials in commerce.
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