Hazardous Materials

How to Comply with DOT Hazmat Communication Requirements

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: August 27th, 2013
Topics: GHS Transition | HazCom | Hazwoper & Emergency Response |

Shipping Papers/Markings/Labels/Placards, 101The 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.

Hazmat v. Hazcom: What’s the Difference?   

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:

1. Shipping Papers

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 chemical’s proper shipping name;
  • Hazard class (there are 9 hazard classes) or division number;
  • Identification number;
  • Packing group (if any);
  • Total quantity;
  • Additional hazard warnings and handling information, such as “POISON”; and
  • Emergency response phone number.

The shipping paper must be signed and certified by a person trained in the Hazmat regulations and who is knowledgeable about the shipment.

2. Markings

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:

  • The proper shipping name and identification number;
  • Technical names that must be included in the shipping papers must be listed, in parentheses, near the proper shipping name;
  • The shipper or consignee’s name and address (unless the package is transported by highway only and not be transferred from one motor carrier to another; or 2) part of a truckload moving from one shipper to one consignee);
  • “DOT-E” followed by the exemption number if the package is covered by an exemption; and
  • The letters “RQ” if the package contains a reportable quantity of hazardous substance listed in Appendix to the Hazardous Materials Table.

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

3. Labels

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.

4. Placards

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:

  • Securely fastened in the diamond (not square) position;
  • Visible from the front, back and both sides of the vehicle;
  • Not obscured by mud, water, advertising, tarps or other obstructions;
  • Durable; and
  • Removed once the truck is unloaded or the danger the placard warns of is otherwise eliminated.