Train, Train, Train

Everyone involved in the transport of any kind of chemicals needs some training. Whether or not you actually move dangerous goods (DG) or hazardous materials (hazmat) you have to be able to identify them. If your company normally does not handle this type of materials you still need to recognize one if it does show up. Employees need at least to be able to identify marks, labels, and placards. When the trucker drives up to your dock and the container has placards all over it, your receiving clerk has to know that there is a problem because your products don't require placards. Doing some form of ‘general awareness’ training should cover your needs.

Under US regulations training is required for any hazmat employee; this is defined as “Any person who either or both of the following:

  1. Performs, or is responsible for performing any pre-transportation function required under this subchapter for transportation of the hazardous material in commerce.
  2. Tenders or makes the hazardous material available to a carrier for transportation in commerce.” The International Maritime Organization (IMO) states: “Shore-based personnel engaged in the transport of dangerous goods intended to be transported by sea should receive training in the contents of the dangerous goods provision commensurate with their responsibilities.”

Some personnel are easy to identify Ė the trucker moving the DG load or the employee loading the freight container, for instance. However, there are a lot more personnel involved in the “movement” of dangerous goods. From the person classifying the material all the way to the person putting it on the shelf at the consigneeís facility, all are involved in the dangerous goods transport chain and need some training. As they prepare documents, make bookings and clear customs, any freight forwarder or customs broker would also be included. Since they are acting for the shipper or importer, they have to be able to properly identify and declare dangerous goods. Therefore, they are part of the movement of the hazardous materials.

Any third-party service providers such as a warehouse or a trucking company need to be trained. May third-party warehouses think that, since they are acting for the beneficial owner, they do not need to train their employees. The same is true of many consolidators. Since they do not own the freight, they fail to see why they have to do training.

Shippers need to make sure that their partners have a training program in place for their employees. The use of a third-party vendor does not cancel your liability as the beneficial owner of the material. And while you are not required to make sure that the vendor has a training program in place, you do need language in your contract that requires the vendor to have complied with all federal, state and international requirements and specifically mention training for US entities. For companies domiciled in the US, it would be in your best interest to review any training program your vendor is using. Unfortunately, at least in the US, if you donít it may very well come back to haunt you.

Surprise Ė the truck dispatcher also need to be trained. While not much training beyond general awareness is required, the dispatcher still has to be able to recognize that the load being picked up is hazardous and that if itís in the US a properly trained and certified hazmat driver must be sent. Even drivers who do not handle dangerous goods need minimum training so that they can recognize a dangerous goods load and refuse to move it.

That brings us back to the beginning point. Even if you or your company do not move dangerous goods, you have to be to recognize them so that you donít accidently handle them. That means your employees need some training.

Consider creating a flow chart to identify all potential parties that need to be trained when you are moving dangerous goods. Walking through each step of your procedures will ensure that every person involved gets identified.

The What

This part is no easier to figure out. Both IMO and US Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) require “general awareness” training and give some suggestions as to what should be covered. The EU simply requires “proper training” — whatever that means. Then there are the requirements for “function specific” training. IMO does provide a matrix showing the relevant parts of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG) that should be covered for a particular function which is great, but the US HMR in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR) does not have the same type of matrix.

To provide the right training a trainer needs to know what function(s) the student(s) perform. To further complicate things, the trainer also needs to know whether the company is involved in domestic or international transport or both. For example, if the student is responsible for filling out the Declaration of Dangerous Goods then s/he needs to know what information is required on the document, whether it is a domestic or an international move and what types of modes are involved because they all have their own caveats.

The old adage “Use It or Lose It” is true for dangerous goods training. If an employee only performs their dangerous goods function once very few weeks or less, the training will be forgotten before the first time s/he performs that function after training. As a hazmat trainer, I saw this over and over again; within weeks of giving a training class I would get calls from some student wanting to know what s/he was supposed to do because s/he couldnít remember.

For example, when dealing with US domestic and international transport there are up to four different types of packaging being used — US domestic only ORM-D/Consumer Commodities, US excepted packaging, US commercial packaging and international commercial packaging — as well as the relief provided under the limited quantity provisions. And while the US and International commercial requirements are generally the same, there are still important differences. The question becomes how do you train a warehouse person to properly identify the right package for each individual shipment? Companies and trainers need to think of alternate ways to help their employees perform their jobs correctly.

A classic example of the cost to the employer of poor or lack of training was seen while I was working for a major US cargo carrier. We had a situation where our customerís own hazmat specialist did not know what a particular International Air Transport Association (IATA) code meant that was on the Dangerous Goods Declaration. Unfortunately, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspected the package and then requested the paperwork. The inspector knew what the code meant — “donít use the normal UN spec packages for air shipments”. Well, our customer had used the regular UN spec package. The FAA Notice of Violation was $15,000. It turned out that the company had started doing air shipments but their DG person had not had an IATA training course in more than two years and either couldnít remember or recognize the IATA packaging restriction code.

The When

The US regulations are the only place the timing of training is specified: a new hazmat employee or someone whose job function changes to include a hazmat function is required to receive training within 90 days. Recurrent training must be undertaken every three years. However, companies moving DG internationally have to keep up with regulations that are amended every two years so end up having to train their employees every two years just to keep up.

Training has been mandatory in the US since 1991 but the number of companies failing to comply with this requirement is staggering. However, the US regulations are clear if you are involved in any way with the preparation, offering or transport of dangerous goods you must be trained. Under the EU requirements for a Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor there is a requirement for “the proper training of the undertaking employees and the maintenance of records of such trainingÖ: Based on several years of random review of Dangerous Goods Declarations from Europe, the EU appears to have similar rate of failure to train as in the US.

Unfortunately, the training provisions in the IMDG Code are only recommendatory, although the bulk of the Code is mandatory. An analysis by the IMO Secretariat of inspections carried out by seven countries showed that 32 per cent of the 25,284 cargo transport units inspected had some sort of failure. Of that 32 per cent 87.6 per cent were deficiencies that could have been prevented had proper training been given. Considering the USís global security predicament and all the emphasis being put on the secure transport of dangerous goods, that a third of the cargo in transit is out of compliance is mindboggling.

To further exacerbate the problems, there are no standards for what should be covered in training programs. The closet this to a standard is the IMDG training matrix, which only covers the IMDG Code. The only certification for a dangerous goods person is the Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor under the EU regulations. However, the certification does not specifically address trainers. Three is a movement in the US to try and come up with program standards and a trainer certification program, but it has only just started.

Some suggestions

The most important step for any company involved in the transport of dangerous goods is to get a good trainer Ė they are out there. Donít be cheap, although you donít have to buy the Taj Mahal. Work with the trainer so that they can deliver the right “function specific” training to your employees. If you are not using an in-house trainer, take the time to find good one and build a relationship with them. You are going to be seeing them on a regular basis and you want them to properly train your employees in the most effective, efficient, and economical manner.

Finally, IMO should make its training provisions mandatory and the US should increase the fines for not meeting the training requirements. If a company is involved in moving dangerous goods they have an obligation to their staff and the public to make sure they have all the necessary training to safely handle dangerous goods properly.

If you think that moving dangerous goods is going to get easier, please think again. Between the GHS Convention, the Hazardous and Noxious Substance (HNS) Convention, the EUís REACH directive, national regulations and modal differences training has become of paramount importance. Poor training or no training could easily cost you your business.

Haldis M Fearn
Managing Director HMF2, LLC

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