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Heed new rules for hazardous materials shipping.

Always a tricky proposition, rules governing transport of hazardous materials are changing.

Three crewmen aboard a Boeing 707 died in a crash at Logan Airport in Boston, Mass., in 1974. Investigators found the dead men had been incapacitated by fumes from 10 quarts of improperly packaged nitric acid. Although correctly marked and labeled, the acid was stored on its side and leaked.

Publicity about the incident prompted the U.S. Congress to pass the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act of 1974, which increased regulation of hazardous materials shipping. Transportation rules have continued to change, and a recent move by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) affects many aspects of hazardous materials shipping.

Patty Joyce Nedland, owner of Haztek Inc., an Anchorage consulting and management-assistance firm, says, "Over the last 2 years, hazmat regulations have changed more than they did in the previous 15 years."

Penalties are tougher, too. Since Jan. 1, 1991, civil penalties for violating hazardous material, or hazmat, regulations jumped from $10,000 to $25,000 per violation. The maximum penalty for criminal violations escalated from $25,000 to $250,000, still with five years in jail. But the cost of liability suits arising from a hazmat incident easily can exceed legal fines.

The most recent regulations affect documentation, packaging, marking, labeling and emergency-response requirements for an increasing number of goods designated as hazardous. Alaska shippers and suppliers are scrambling to learn what their responsibilities are and how to meet them.

Roy Ehrhart of the Anchorage office of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Motor Carriers, says, "The aim of the regulations is to allow shippers and carriers in the United States to be competitive in the global market by making packing, labeling and placarding uniform."

While the goal is to make life simpler for shippers and carriers, the new regulations, in the short run, are likely to cause confusion. The changes are not so demanding for business people familiar with prior hazmat requirements, however. Linda Simonson, Anchorage branch manager for Great Western Chemical Co. of Portland, Ore., does not expect the more stringent regulations to affect her company's distribution operations. "We've been expected to do things a certain way for so long, this is just a little more paperwork," she says.

But many shippers, particularly small businesses, have not previously dealt with requirements for handling hazardous materials. Often business managers don't know what constitutes a hazardous material. With more substances regulated, the likelihood of transporting affected goods increases.

Such seemingly harmless substances as cosmetics, hair spray and furniture polish are classified as hazardous materials. Jack Peters, owner of Haz-Mat Transportation Services of Anchorage, a company providing training, consulting and repackaging for hazmat shipping, says some 650 items available in grocery stores are classified as hazardous materials.

Contributing to the confusion, many requirements are specific to the mode of transportation being used. Because of the dangers of in-air incidents and confined spaces aboard airplanes, air shipment of hazardous materials is more tightly regulated than surface transportation. Uniquely dependent on air transport, Alaska businesses face more problems with hazmat transportation than shippers Outside.

John White, special agent for hazardous materials with the Federal Aviation Administration in Anchorage, reports that in 1991, 40 violations of hazmat air transport were discovered in Alaska, 34 of them involving hidden hazardous materials. "Alaska has unique transportation problems," notes White. "We move things by air that nobody else does."

Says Butch Hallford, section manager for Northern Air Cargo of Anchorage, "A lot of times, for an order of something like batteries, the supplier in the Lower 48 never thinks about the fact that they will have to be flown into Bush locations. He just packages them to conform to trucking standards. When the batteries get here, they have to be repackaged to go by air."

Sam Krogstad, president of Bush Consolidators, an Anchorage freight-consolidating company serving remote Alaska communities, says, "Nobody likes to do hazmat. Some airlines charge $20 to $25 just to process it. We encourage shippers to switch to non-hazardous materials if possible, such as substituting latex for oil-based paint."

Hazardous-material shipping is very complex, he adds. "We could have a guy around here that did nothing but keep up with all the regulations. But most businesses can't afford that. I went to my first hazmat school in 1979. You wouldn't even recognize it today."

According to Ehrhart, hazardous materials loaded on a commercial vehicle involved in interstate or foreign commerce become subject to DOT regulation. Shippers are responsible for proper hazmat paperwork, and motor carriers are advised to refuse goods without proper papers. If the agent for the carrier has any doubts about a shipment, he or she is expected to ask the shipper for a Material Safety Data Sheet provided by the manufacturer. These industry-standard forms detail the results of laboratory tests to determine the potential hazard. The carrier is obliged to review shipping documents for accuracy.

Setting Standards. Among recent developments, DOT created regulations that conform with United Nations shipping standards. On Jan. 1, 1991, new packaging standards for international shipments of hazardous materials by air and water went into effect. Oct. 1, 1991, marked the start of a five-year phase-in for rules governing interstate transport and international highway and rail shipments.

Nedland explains that because the new rules are being phased in over the next five years, shippers will be working between two DOT regulatory documents. The recent regulations contain four major changes: numerical classifications, packaging standards, inclusion of additional materials, and metric-system conversion. In particular, the requirements address packaging and emergency response.

"Before the new regulations, Department of Transportation-spec packaging was material-specific -- it had to be made of a certain type of cardboard stapled at such-and-such intervals," Nedland explains. "Now, the performance-oriented packaging standards say that you can use any package as long as it passes performance tests."

Shippers must have tests conducted to determine packaging's ability to resist leaking, dropping, stacking, hydrostatic pressure and vibration. "The new packaging requirements are very item-specific," says Haz-Mat Transportation's Peters. "The drop tests and so forth must be performed with the shipper's good in the bottles or other containers he uses. This variation testing is what makes these regulations so difficult and why there is such a long phase-in period."

Ray May, inside sales manager for Unitech of Alaska, which sells industrial packaging, says customers are asking for the newer containers, but U.N.-standard packaging is not readily available. He adds that the new packaging can cost as much as $18 more a gallon for a liquid product container.

Other regulations that will bring the United States into international conformity require shippers to provide specific emergency-response information to accompany the material being shipped. These documents include a copy of the relevant pages of the DOT's Emergency Response Guidebook or a Material Safety Data Sheet containing this information.

The shipper also must provide a contact telephone number for use in case of an emergency that will be answered by a person -- not a machine -- during transport and during storage by a carrier prior to transport. For many firms, this means the added expense of keeping an employee available 24 hours a day while hazmat shipments are in progress.

In addition, all hazardous materials now must be identified by a numerical class, rather than a name, to ensure that non-English speakers understand the kind of cargo on board. Some materials now fall into different hazard classes than previously.

Depending on the mode of transportation, other specific regulations, such as those requiring labels that say a cargo cannot be carried on a passenger plane, also may apply.

Some materials not previously regulated have been reclassified as hazardous. Nedland points out that diesel fuel, which was not regulated at less than 110 gallons per container, now is regulated at any amount. She adds that "flammable" used to mean anything with a flash point below 100 degrees. Under the section of the rules being phased in Oct. 1, 1993, the term describes any substance with a flash point below 140 degrees.

The flammable category will include home heating oils, jet fuel and de-icing fluid. But in shipping by rail and highway, the old flash point regulations apply. "This double standard is what complicates things," Nedland explains.

Ehrhart notes that materials are subject to ongoing changes, reflecting decisions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These revisions are published in the Federal Register, which is published daily while Congress is in session.

Krogstad points out that the U.S. Postal Service uses different standards -- for flash points, for example -- to determine if a substance is a hazardous material than other federal agencies. FAA's White explains that the post office applies its own hazmat standards for bypass-mail delivery because goods such as perfume can damage postal cargoes.

Another significant change affecting packaging requires shippers to convert weights and volumes to the metric system; English system measurements are being phased out.

Further, Margi Reich, principal of Reich Transportation Services in Anchorage, points out that not only are individual hazardous materials regulated, but cargoes can't always be combined. Among the restrictions, flammables and oxidizers cannot be shipped together.

Department of Transportation regulations also address the combination of hazardous materials with foods and other consumables. Reich says SeaLand Service and other carriers offer programs to help shippers comply with the rules.

Wiggle Room. Northern Air Cargo's Hallford says, "With the old regulations, if you take the time, you can find a way to make the packaging you have conform. With the new ones, it will be strictly pass/fail. There's a whole lot less wiggle room."

Like others in the industry, Bush Consolidator's Krogstad fears a lack of knowledge breeds frustration, which prompts shippers to try to circumvent hazmat rules. He says often a shipper comes to him without a clue about what to do. "By law, we can't do it for him. It can be overwhelming for a guy off the street to try and fill out the form," Krogstad adds.

FAA's White says shippers can alleviate hazmat transport headaches in several ways, depending on cost and frequency of their companies' hazmat shipping. For infrequent shippers, the cheapest solution for air-cargo hazmat problems is to call the FAA and ask for advice. He warns, however, that his office is not legally responsible for counsel given.

"We're like the Internal Revenue Service," White says. "We will do research and give our best answer. From then on, the shipper is on his own. We won't go to jail with you."

Sending an employee to hazmat training is another alternative. White says three- or four-day classes are available from the companies Haz-Mat Transportation Services and Haztek in Anchorage. The FAA observes the classes to ensure that the information given is correct and up to date. Unlike government agencies, private hazmat trainers are legally responsible for the advice they give clients.

For larger operations, computer software with names such as Regscan, Ship Hazmat or Just Hazmat can identify hazardous materials, help with shipping documents and directly reference regulations. Some programs print the actual shipping documents and offer graphics. White calls these programs, which cost about $800 per year, very cost-effective because they are fast and eliminate human error.

Wayne Renz, an enforcement officer with the Alaska State Troopers Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Department, says shippers can call or visit his office to use the Regscan software. "We have different programs on our two computers. We also can fax copies of regulations to businesses if they need it word for word," Renz adds.

Ehrhart of DOT's Motor Carriers believes shippers often are afraid to call the government agencies involved and ask for help. By not asking questions, some companies may be violating the law, or conversely, spending more time and money on hazmat shipping than is necessary. He advises that the best thing a puzzled manager can do is call the government offices and private businesses that deal with hazmat-transport problems.

"People get nervous," Ehrhart says. "They call up and try to state their operation in very general terms, but a general response will not get the job done. If everybody does his or her job, the system should work fine. They shouldn't be afraid to call the agencies and ask specific questions."

White notes, "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to ship hazardous materials. What it takes is knowledge of the regulations and consistent attention to detail."

Hazmat Shipping Requirements

Shippers are responsible for properly identifying, documenting, marking, labeling and packaging shipments of hazardous material. Further, each hazardous material shipment must be declared when picked up by or delivered to a carrier. Carriers are responsible for placarding on containers and vehicles.

Correct transport documentation identifies the hazardous material by its proper shipping name, rather than by a commercial name or general description. For specific quantities of certain cargoes, additional description is required. Also mandated are emergency-response information, hazard class, a United Nations/North America identification number and the total amount of material by weight or volume.

Goods in their shipping packages must be marked with the complete name and address of the shipper and/or consignee, the cargo's proper shipping name and any required additional descriptions, the United Nations/North America identification number and other applicable specifications.

Preprinted labels with appropriate numerical designation must be applied to each package, overpack or freight container near the proper shipping name. Mixed or consolidated packages must be labeled for each hazard class. Packages that do not contain materials represented by the hazard label should not bear that label.

Hazardous materials must be transported in either DOT-specified or UN performance-oriented packaging, whichever is appropriate. All goods must be shipped in U.N.-approved packaging by Oct. 1, 1996.

Carriers are required to place appropriate placards on any vehicles or containers carrying hazardous materials. Placards are required on all four sides of vehicles.

Heads Up For Changes

Here's a summary of the time line for requirements mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

January 1, 1991

* International air and water shipments require use of United Nations packaging, ending transitional packaging provisions.

* U.S. Department of Transportation permits use of U.N. packagings.

October 1, 1991

* All provisions of new regulations not covered by transitional provisions became effective.

* Classification and hazard communication requirements (hazardous materials table, shipping papers, marking, labeling and placarding) now effective for new explosives, infectious substances and materials poisonous by inhalation.

October 1, 1993

* Performance-oriented packaging required for materials poisonous by inhalation.

* New classification and hazard communication requirements become effective for hazmats not previously covered.

October 1, 1994

* New manufacture and specification marking requirements for packaging become effective.

* Older DOT-specification packaging may no longer be manufactured.

October 1, 1996

* Transitional provisions for continued use of DOT-specification packaging expire.

* DOT non-bulk packagings may no longer be used; U.N. packaging must be used.

Transition Periods

From Oct. 1, 1991, to Sept. 30, 1993, hazardous materials shippers may use either the current requirements or the provisions relating to classification, hazard communication and packaging. The exception is that United Nations hazardous communication requirements for new explosives, infectious substances and materials poisonous by inhalation became effective Oct. 1, 1991. Whichever system is used, the shipper must be as consistent as possible and not mix the old and new systems.

From Oct. 1, 1991, to Sept. 30, 1994, manufacturers may continue producing the currently authorized Department of Transportation-specification packaging, with the exception of packaging requirements for gases and liquids poisonous by inhalation that become effective Oct. 1, 1993.

From Oct. 1, 1991, to Sept. 30, 1996, shippers may continue to use and maintain packaging presently authorized, except for gases and liquids that are poisonous by inhalation that become effective Oct. 1, 1993.
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Title Annotation:Enter the Hazmat Age: Your Guide to Handling Hazardous Materials; includes related articles; Hazmat Guide: Part One
Author:Gerhart, Clifford
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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