Ask The Expert: Do I Need to Be Trained?

Are direct supervisors of hazmat employees also hazmat employees for purposes of training? Continue reading to find out.

Based on the information you have provided, it would appear very likely that a person who directly supervises dock employees who are hazmat employees are themselves hazmat employees who require hazmat training based on: 1) the definition of “hazmat employee” under the federal hazardous materials regulations (HMRs) and, 2) Letters of Interpretation from the U.S. DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) (the agency that administers and enforces the HMRs).

Hazmat employee definition. Because the federal definition of “hazmat employee” is very broad, it is very possible for a person who directly supervises hazmat employees to themselves be a hazmat employee who must receive hazmat training in accordance with the requirements of 49 CFR 172.700 to 172.704.

A hazmat employee is defined under 49 CFR 171.8 as a person who is:

  • 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
  • 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
  • A railroad signalman, or
  • A railroad maintenance-of-way employee.

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:

  • Loads, unloads, or handles hazardous materials
  • 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.
  • Prepares hazardous materials for transportation
  • Is responsible for safety of transporting hazardous materials
  • Operates a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials.

Typical tasks performed by hazmat employees. This broad definition of “hazmat employee” would include employees who perform the following tasks:

  • Determines the class of a hazardous material
  • Chooses packaging for hazardous materials
  • Fills or puts hazardous materials in packagings
  • Close or secure closures on filled or partially filled hazardous materials packagings,
  • Marks or labels hazardous materials packagings
  • Selects, provides, or attaches placards
  • Fills out shipping papers and/or manifests for hazardous materials
  • Certifies that hazardous materials are in proper condition for transportation
  • Provides or maintains emergency response information
  • Loads, blocks, braces or unloads hazardous materials
  • Transfers a hazardous material from one package to another
  • Operates a vehicle, railcar, ship, or aircraft used to transport hazardous materials

Based on the definition alone, the direct supervisors of hazmat employee may be performing tasks that meet the “hazmat employee” definition.

PHMSA letter of interpretation. Even if a supervisor does not meet the definition of “hazmat employee”, letters of interpretation from the PHMSA concerning the definition of “hazmat employee” would indicate that the direct supervisors of hazmat employees require training. In a March 23, 2015 response to an inquiry from a hazmat employer, PHMSA said the following:

“Persons who, in the normal course of their employment, perform or manage the work of those performing, one or more of the activities listed above would be considered hazmat employees and require general awareness, function-specific, safety, security awareness, and quality assurance program required by 49 CFR 172 .704 and 49 CFR 179.7 within 90 days of employment and every three years thereafter (emphasis added).”

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