August 31, 2020: Ask the Expert Question of the Week

Question:

What is a “HazMat Employee” and how do I figure out which of my staff needs the training that DOT requires for hazmat employees?

Answer:
In 49 CFR §171.8, DOT defines “HazMat Employee” as, among other things,

1) A person who is:

(i) Employed on a full-time, part time, or temporary basis by a hazmat employer and who in the course of such full time, part time or temporary employment directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety;

(ii) Self-employed (including an owner-operator of a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft) transporting hazardous materials in commerce who in the course of such self-employment directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety;

AND

(2) …an individual, employed on a full time, part time, or temporary basis by a hazmat employer, or who is self-employed, who during the course of employment:

(i) Loads, unloads, or handles hazardous materials;

(ii) Designs, manufactures, fabricates, inspects, marks, maintains, reconditions, repairs, or tests a package, container or packaging component that is represented, marked, certified, or sold as qualified for use in transporting hazardous material in commerce.

(iii) Prepares hazardous materials for transportation;

(iv) Is responsible for safety of transporting hazardous materials;

(v) Operates a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials.

To summarize, if your company handles hazardous materials it is highly likely that most of your staff will be considered hazmat employees. In practice, that term includes anyone that generates shipping papers, purchases or procures supplies for hazmat transportation (placards, gaskets, labels, boxes, drums, etc.), applies marks or labels to small packages, loads tank cars or tank trucks, fills packaging, assembles and secures packages and pallets, loads pallets onto trucks, receives hazardous freight, and more. It also includes the supervisors of those employees.

It is important to note that the truck drivers that haul hazardous freight are also hazmat employees, which many people do not realize. Not only is a hazmat endorsement required for most hazmat shipments, but they also have to have DOT training both as initial training, and on a recurring basis.

When considering how that impacts your company, give some thought to your operation, and consider which roles in your company have the ability to affect the safe transport of those materials at any stage. The list can be quite extensive.

The good news is that some of the training is the same for all roles…General Awareness training, for example, will be pretty much the same information regardless of the job the employee is performing. This will teach the employee about how to identify a hazardous material and what it means for that material to be classified as hazardous, among other things. Security Awareness training will also be the same across the board. This training teaches employees to be aware of the security risks involved with hazardous materials and what to watch for, such as unauthorized persons gaining access to your facility.

Function Specific training, however, is the bulk of the requirement and this must be specific to the function being performed. That means that someone whose only job is to generate hazmat shipping papers will have very different training than a rail car loader. The procurement staff that purchases your placards and gaskets will have very different training than the packaging staff preparing small packages for air shipment. Function Specific training focuses on teaching them to carry out their job functions in a safe and compliant manner.

Anyone that handles hazmat or that could come into contact with it will need Safety training to prevent them from becoming unnecessarily exposed to the materials or from having prolonged exposures which may cause them harm. This will include information such as the properties of the materials they are handling, the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) they will need to stay safe, proper handling procedures and precautions, as well as steps to take if they are exposed to the material and how to use the mitigation equipment like eyewash stations, for example.

Lastly, if your facility is required to have a security plan (see 49 CFR §§172.800-802), your employees must be trained on what to do in the event of a security breach according to the procedures outlined in your plan. If they have any role in that plan, they will need to be trained to carry out that role.

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