Hazardous transportation isn’t just about protecting yourself from dangerous cargo. While maintaining the correct packaging, instructions and documentation is important from the point of physical safety, it’s just as important to protect yourself from legal issues.
Without proper paperwork and responsible transportation, you could find yourself in a sea of litigation. For any shipper and carrier, however, there are easy steps to protecting yourself:
1. Determine Employee Qualifications:
All personnel involved in the transportation of hazardous materials must be correctly trained for their level of responsibility. Identify which employees will be involved and determine if any additional training is needed, then check that they receive this further instruction. Make sure that all records of training and qualifications are kept up to date and review this periodically to maintain the required expertise.
2. Determine Condition of Transport Vehicle
Ensure that the transport vehicle, whether for land, sea or air, complies with all regulations outlined by the Department of Transport or other overseeing organisation.
3. Can You Accept Shipment?
This is the most important question to ask when transporting hazardous cargo. As soon as you accept the shipment you instantly become liable should anything go wrong, so check that the shipping papers are in the proper format, are accurate and completed. The minimum amount of information they must contain are the proper shipping name, hazard class, ID number, quantity, emergency response telephone number and consignee name and address. Unless excepted, also ensure that you have the correct shipper’s certificate. Ensure that the proper placards and ID numbers are displayed and that all emergency response information is on the vehicle.
4. Is the Shipment to be Interlined?
Should a secondary carrier be accepting the hazardous cargo from you, then it is very important that you have all paperwork (this includes shipping papers, labeling and certification), packaging and marking to the highest standard possible. This is especially important for intermodal and international shipments, otherwise the cargo may not be able to proceed to its intended destination.
5. Carrier Loaded Freight
All of the paperwork, marking and safety instructions are rendered useless if the method of packaging or transportation isn’t up to standard. The first thing to check when loading cargo into freight is that the documentation matches the hazardous cargo and the materials are loaded in compliance with 49 CFR 177.848. Any cargo which is damaged or leaking should not be loaded into transport and any cargo which is poisonous should not be loaded anywhere near foodstuffs. Once loaded into transport, ensure that all freight is correctly braced and blocked to prevent damage and the proper placards and ID numbers are displayed. Finally, ask the driver/pilot/conductor/captain to complete all necessary documentation.
6. Incident Reports
If an incident is not reported, you could find yourself seriously liable in a court of law. The carrier who transports the hazardous material is responsible for these reports. Nearly all incidents involving accidental release of hazardous cargo must be reported to the Department of Transport.