Who is a “Hazmat Employee”? What does your signature on a DOT hazmat shipping paper mean?
“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…”
To make this declaration you must be fully trained in hazmat classification; choosing a proper shipping name; selecting, assembling, and filling packagings; marking, labeling, or placarding packages; and filling out the shipping papers completely and accurately – otherwise, how would you be able to spot an error?
At 49 CFR 172.704(b) the DOT says, “Training … means a systematic program that ensures a hazmat employee has familiarity with the general provisions of [the hazmat regulations], is able to recognize and identify hazardous materials, has knowledge of specific requirements of [the hazmat regulations] applicable to functions performed by the employee, and has knowledge of emergency response information, self-protection measures and accident prevention methods and procedures.” Additional training requirements are mandated for each mode of transportation as well – highway, rail, air, and vessel.
Who, then, is a “hazmat employee” and subject to this training requirement?
The term is defined at 49 CFR 171.8. First, the employee can be employed full-time, part time, or on a temporary basis. It can also include a self-employed person. Does he or she directly affect hazmat transportation safety?
This might include anyone who:
- Classifies and names a hazmat
- Selects or makes purchasing decisions of packaging
- Assembles, fills, and/or closes a package
- Marks, labels, or placards packages
- Fills out or signs shipping papers
- Offers placards to the highway carrier, or applies them to rail cars
- Loads, unloads, or handles hazmat
- Transports hazardous materials
- Railroad signalman
- Railroad maintenance-of-way employee
The term also includes anyone who designs, manufactures, fabricates, inspects, marks, maintains, reconditions, repairs, or tests a package, container, or packaging component if the device is marked, certified, or sold as qualified for use in transporting hazardous material in commerce.
A common question we hear from employers is, “How far down the rabbit hole do I have to go when determining who has to be trained?” The key word in our discussion is “directly.” Is your employee involved in performing a job duty that directly affects transportation safety?
Certainly, the signor of a DOT hazmat shipping paper should be one of the most highly trained DOT professionals at your site. The signature on a shipping paper is the last line of defense before the package is offered into the cycle of transportation.
If you are unsure who else should be pulled into the system, we encourage you to err on the side of caution. Why? DOT inspectors always ask to see training records. If they believe someone qualifies as a hazmat employee and that person has not been trained, it can result in huge penalties. The minimum civil penalty for a training violation is $493. Initially, that may not seem catastrophic, however, this penalty is assessed per day. Let’s say an employee has been working unsupervised for 3 months torqueing down drums of hazmat but has not received DOT hazmat training. Ninety days times $493 is a minimum penalty of $44,370! And that’s just for one person!
The good news is that not every hazmat employee needs the same depth of training. All hazmat employees must have training in:
- General awareness;
- Function specific; and
- Security awareness.
The function specific element can be tailored to each employees’ duties. For example, an employee who needs training to pump hazmat into a cargo tank truck does not need training for determining hazard classifications. Likewise, an employee who closes manways doesn’t need to be trained in the rules for selecting a proper shipping name.
Some employees may also need training in:
- Safety, if they handle hazmat; and
- In-depth security elements of a written cargo security plan affecting their job.
What can STARS do for you?
Our Experts Can:
- Help you assess who might be a “hazmat employee” at your site requiring DOT hazmat training;
- Develop a tailored training plan for different categories of employees; and
- Create written documentation to ensure compliance with the recordkeeping requirements of 49 CFR 172.704(d).