What's the Big Deal?

Due to the heightened security concerns and recent hazmat transportation incidents, the shipping paper has come under more scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and state inspectors now more than ever before. Today shippers, as well as carriers are being asked to demonstrate that they have complied with all the regulations for preparing their hazardous materials for shipment. Moreover, of the 304 civil enforcement actions closed from May 2005 to April 2006, 215 were shippers in violation of one or more of the hazmat regulations. The price that they are paying is going up. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005 raised maximum civil penalty amounts to $50,000/day/incident ($100,000/day/incident for serious violations). It's not just the company logistics manager that has to worry.

The Power of the Paper

The hazmat regulations do not restrict who can sign the shipping paper. It is not uncommon for the SH&E professional to have responsibilities for managing hazmat transportation. Whether it is a shipment of hazardous waste, the movement of raw materials into the field or another site, or the movement of unwanted surplus chemicals to another person, SH&E managers are signing shipping papers. Even though hazmat compliance may be an ancillary function, the consequences are significant for both the SH&E managers and their organizations.

The DOT requires that each shipment accompanied by a shipping paper must contain a certification on behalf of the shipper. The words are few (34–46 depending on which one you choose), but significant:

I hereby declare that the contents of this consignment are fully and accurately described above by the proper shipping name, and are classified, packaged, marked and labeled/placarded and are in all respects in proper condition for transport according to applicable international and national governmental regulations. [49 CFR 172.204(a)(2), emphasis added)]

With each shipping paper and each signature, the SH&E manager asserts that everything to do with that hazmat shipment has been done 100% correctly, according to DOT's rules, period. Even more disconcerting it is unlikely that the SH&E manager has personally done all the functions himself thereby relying on others to do the job-and do it correctly. The need to know that everything has been done correctly is essential. In fact, the DOT considers the person affixing the ertification signature to be a "hazmat employee" and therefore subject to the training requirements in the hazmat rules [49 CFR 172, Subpart H].1

The level of function-specific training that a person signing the shipping paper must complete is significant. He must know all the aspects of classifying, packaging, and communicating hazardous materials. After all, if you don't know what's required, how do you now someone else has performed their functions correctly? The following will provide SH&E managers with an overview of the hazmat shipping process from classification through loading.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.