The U.S. Department of Transportation Hazmat regulations require employers to communicate information about the hazardous materials they ship. Here’s an overview of the DOT hazmat communication rules and how to comply with them.
Don’t confuse Hazmat with Hazcom. Although they overlap, they’re not the same thing.
Hazcom, short for Hazard Communication, is an OSHA standard that requires employers to ensure workers know about the dangers posed by the hazardous chemicals used, handled and stored in their workplace via the use of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), workplace labels of chemical containers and chemical safety training and information.
Hazmat, short for Hazardous Materials, is a DOT standard that provides for safety of hazardous chemicals once they’re shipped via truck, train, boat or air. As with Hazcom, communication of chemical hazards to those who receive and handle the chemicals is an essential component of Hazmat protection. But instead of MSDSs and labels, the instruments of communication under Hazmat are shipping papers, package markings, labels and placards.
The 4 Forms of Hazmat Hazard Communication
The Rule: Each person who transports or offers for transport a hazardous material must ensure that the package includes the appropriate communication materials, including:
Shipping papers are the MSDS of shipped chemicals. Whether in the form of a bill of lading, freight bill, hazardous waste manifest or other document, shipping notify workers who handle the chemical of the dangers of the dangers it poses. At a minimum, the shipping paper must list:
The shipping paper must be signed and certified by a person trained in the Hazmat regulations and who is knowledgeable about the shipment.
The product must have legible markings in English so it can be identified during storage, handling and transportation, and if a leak occurs. Non-bulk packages must be marked with:
Most liquids in combination packages must be marked with “package orientation markings,” i.e., double up arrows, on two opposite vertical sides. Explosive Hazardous Material
Packages of hazardous materials must also be properly labeled, e.g., with the hazard diamond label. Among other things, labels must display the proper shipping name, identification number and hazard class of the hazardous material. Like a Hazcom workplace label, Hazmat labels must be durable, securely affixed to the package, in English, easy to read and not obscured by other information on the package so that people handling the package and emergency responders can readily see it. Separate labeling requirements apply to what are called consolidated or mixed packages.
Hazmat warning placards are large, diamond-shaped hazard class signs displayed on the outside of trucks or other motor vehicles transporting hazardous materials. Placards marked “Dangerous” may be used when there is more than one class of hazmat being transported. Placards must be: