Transporting Hazardous Materials

Written by Small Business Magazine on December 1, 2018. Posted in First responder training, Requirements for handling hazardous waste, Working with hazardous wastes

Transportation is a huge industry today around the world, as nearly any company or factory will need carriers to deliver freight to distributors, refineries, retailers, and more, and there are auxiliary industries out there such as freight brokers to negotiate these deals. Materials can be shipped by truck, train, airplane, or naval ship, but sometimes, materials being carried are dangerous, and should be handled with care. The international transport of hazardous materials, for example, involves more than just a cargo ship or a plane’s cargo bay having enough space; working with hazardous wastes can be a danger to the crews, the vehicles, and the surrounding environment if something goes wrong, and so domestically and abroad, the international transport of hazardous materials has a number of regulations from OSHA and other legal entities to ensure that hazardous waste and other hazmat materials are responsibly handled during loading, unloading, and the actual transit period. In confined spaces, handling hazardous waste is important to do well. What can be done?

Transport and Hazards

The international transport of hazardous materials is a part of the overall transportation industry, along with domestic American transport of both safe and hazardous materials. For international transport of hazardous materials and domestic transport alike, specialized vehicles, containers, and qualified crews must be involved so that there is no accident or spill. How much hazmat material gets moved around? About 94% of all hazmat shipments are done with trucks, and overall, it has been calculated that around 11 billion tons of freight is delivered by truck, hazmat or not, across over 250 billion miles in the United States per year, so there is bound to be a lot of hazmat materials being carried, too, around 3 billion tons on average. What are some of these hazardous materials? Flammable liquids, such as oil and natural gas, are common hazardous materials being trucked around, and are often the most common hazmat material transported by volume. In fact, 86.4% of all hazardous materials by value being transported are gas and oil. Other hazardous materials may include liquid nitrogen, nuclear materials, and pesticides or poisons for industrial use. These materials and more could wreak havoc, or even explode or catch on fire, if they are handled incorrectly, and this also poses a safety hazard to the crews using them. Working with hazardous wastes and other materials requires special training and certificates for any worker on a truck, plane, or ship.

Safe Workers

Working with hazmat materials and international transport of hazardous materials involves special training and gear for anyone working with these substances, whether loading them, unloading them, or operating the vehicle that carries them. OSHA hazmat training, for example, mandates 40 hours of training for any hazmat worker, and hazardous waste management training online can be done as well. Other training courses, either offered online or in person, are available to instruct workers how to handle such materials safely and correctly, and the particular types of materials being transported may call for specific courses for safety. This allows a worker to legally handle these materials, and greatly lowers the risk of inhalation of deadly fumes, exposure to dangerous liquids, or being caught in an accidental fire or explosion during work.

Proper safety gear will also play into international transport of hazardous materials or domestic shipping. Training courses will teach this. Often, safety goggles may be worn so that escaping fumes will not irritate or damage a worker’s eyeballs, and even a gas mask may be worn to prevent inhaling fumes or irritating particles. The skin may be protected with thick (maybe fire-resistant) gloves, boots may be worn, and if need be, the entire body can be protected with a full suit. This may be the case with nuclear materials, for example. If equipment becomes worn out or damaged, then it should be replaced right away, and proper management should be alerted of this. Some materials may not sound dangerous enough to warrant this, but safety courses will cover everything needed. Dry ice, which is frozen carbon dioxide, may often qualify as a hazardous material. Touching it can cause frostbite due to its very low temperature, and it sublimates easily, and CO2 is a breathing hazard.

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