The ABC’s of Safe Chemical Transportation

Chemicals, when transported, can endanger anyone at any stage in the journey, including people who live, work, or travel along the transport route. Today our Safety Training Tips editor covers the essentials for keeping that process safe.

A. Training requirements. The Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates the transportation of hazardous materials under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA). These regulations impose broad requirements for every aspect of hazardous materials transportation, including employee training, packaging, and shipping. Training is required for employees who:

  • Load, unload, handle, prepare for transport, or pack hazardous materials.
  • Select, classify, test, recondition, or mark containers as qualified for hazardous material transport.
  • Prepare hazardous material shipping documents or provide information about them.
  • Operate a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials.

There are five levels of required training:

1. General awareness and familiarization training for all covered employees

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2. Function-specific training (for example, loading, unloading, packing)

3. Safety training about hazards, protections, and precautions for those who handle or transport hazardous materials

4. Special training for people who drive vehicles that carry hazardous materials

Employees must receive:

  • Initial training when they are assigned job duties that involve packing and transporting hazardous materials
  • Refresher training every 3 years or any time there is a change in job function or a change in the regulations

5. Security training

B. Packaging requirements. Under the regulations, most hazardous materials are divided into three packaging groups:

  • PG I—the most hazardous materials
  • PGII—moderate hazards
  • PG III—minor hazards

DOT regulations basically require that:

  • Packaging used for hazardous materials shipments must have been manufactured, assembled, and tested according to DOT regulations.
  • Packaging meets specific performance requirements (for example, leakproof).
  • All hazardous materials are packed according to the written instructions from the packaging manufacturer.
  • Packages contain hazardous materials have not been overfilled.
  • The materials have been properly secured and cushioned.
  • Packages containing hazardous materials have been properly closed and sealed so that materials cannot leak or escape.

Furthermore, hazardous materials packed and shipped together must be compatible. That means:

  • Before packing different hazardous substances together for shipment, you must consult the Segregation Table for Hazardous Materials in the regulations to make sure the materials are compatible and won’t react with one another during transport.
  • Materials that could react with one another during shipment cannot be packaged and shipped together.

C. Transportation requirements. Shipments of hazardous materials must have several forms of identification:

  • Class number and hazard name must appear on the shipping label and shipping documents (for example, Class 1 Explosives, Class 2 Gases, Class 3 Flammable Liquids, Class 5 Oxidizing Substances, Class 6 Poisons, Class 7 Radioactive Materials, Class 8 Corrosive Materials, and Class 9 Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials).
  • Package or container markings must include the name of the substance and the chemical identification number of the hazardous material. Markings must be durable, in English, and not obscured by other markings or labels.
  • Container labels and placards on transport trucks, rail cars, etc., must identify the hazard by name and with a picture (for example, a flame for flammable materials), as well as give the hazard class number.

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Transported hazardous materials must be accompanied by shipping documents, such as a manifest or bill of lading. These shipping papers must include:

  • Name of the hazardous material
  • Chemical identification number
  • Hazard class and number
  • Packing group
  • Total quantity
  • Emergency phone number
  • Immediate health hazards
  • Preliminary first-aid measures
  • Methods for handling fires, spills, or leaks

Why It Matters…

  • When transported, chemicals can endanger anyone at any stage in the journey, including people who live, work, or travel along the transport route.
  • Safe transport requires everyone involved in packaging and shipping chemicals to be aware of the hazards and take the right precautions to prevent accidents.
  • Failure to comply with DOT’s hazardous materials packaging and transportation regulations can result in civil and/or criminal penalties.


1 thought on “The ABC’s of Safe Chemical Transportation”

  1. MSDSs provide essential safety and health information about the chemicals in your workplace. But they can only do their job and help protect against chemical hazards if employees actually use them.

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