Depending on whether you ship domestically within the US or ship internationally (importing and/or exporting) the regulations for shipping hazardous materials and dangerous goods have a variety of similarities and differences.

packaging hazardous materials Domestically, The Hazardous Material Transportation Act (HMTA) was published in 1975.  Created to provide adequate protection against the risks to life and property inherent in the transportation of hazardous material in commerce, the act is broken down into 4 key areas of compliance and enforcement found in The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49.

  • Procedures and/or Policies: 49 CFR Parts 101, 106, and 107
  • Material Designations: 49 CFR Part 172
  • Packaging Requirements: 49 CFR Parts 173, 178, 179, and 180
  • Operational Rules: 49 CFR Parts 171, 173, 174, 175, 176, and 177

Without opening all of whatever is in Pandora’s hazmat regulatory box part 100-177 of CFR49, let’s look at the definition found in §171.8;

Hazardous material means a substance or material that the Secretary of Transportation has determined is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce, and has designated as hazardous under section 5103 of Federal hazardous materials transportation law (49 U.S.C. 5103). The term includes hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, marine pollutants, elevated temperature materials, materials designated as hazardous in the Hazardous Materials Table (see 49 CFR 172.101), and materials that meet the defining criteria for hazard classes and divisions in part 173 of this subchapter.

A couple of key terms worth noting are “property”, “hazardous substances” and, “when transported in commerce”. We’ll come back to those later.

Now let’s look at the international term of dangerous goods.

From the by transporting by air perspective, we have the ICAO Technical Instructions for the Safe Transportation of Dangerous Goods by Air and the UN model regulations;

Dangerous goods are articles or substances which are capable of posing a risk to health, safety, property or the environment.

For the international transportation by vessel, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) regulatory definition found in the IMDG Code (International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code) is as follows;

Dangerous goods mean the substances, materials and articles covered by the IMDG Code.

Now, for the average shipper both hazardous materials (hazmat) and dangerous goods (DGs) terms are fairly interchangeable, however, as we saw with the definition of a hazardous material, the legality of the regulatory wording  in the USA is very specific when it comes to “property” and “transported in commerce”.

We also see the exclusion of the term “environment” in the DOT definition. The reason being, there is a departmental overlap with the Dept. of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The term “hazardous substances” is an EPA term and these substances are only regulated for transport if they are shipped in packages which exceed the reportable quantities listed in the Appendix A to the table of hazardous materials found in §172.101.    Under 40 CFR 302.6, the EPA requires persons in charge of facilities (including transport vehicles, vessels, and aircraft) to report any release of a hazardous substance in a quantity equal to or greater than its reportable quantity, as soon as that person has knowledge of the release, to the DOT’s National Response Center.

The term property is another important term especially pertaining to the ownership and possible responsibility involving a hazmat incident. I’m sure corporate lawyers can do a much clearer explanation of this but it involve not only the goods being shipped as property, but could also involve where the goods are actually located at any point during transit. Imagine a consignment of dangerous goods arriving in the USA and a serious incident occurs before the importer actually receives the goods. Was there damage to someone`s property such as a building or the actual transport unit container or trailer? Who is responsible? The Shipper, the carrier or the owner of the goods? Remember the initial purpose of the hazmat transportation act was all about safety.

This is where the regulatory requirements of a shipper relating to the use of hazardous materials terminology such as the correct UN identification numbers, proper shipping names, classification, twenty-four hour emergency response telephone and information etc. are used. The shipping papers are also where ownership is controlled and serves as the contract of carriage in business and where an understanding of the correct INCOTERMS is vital.

The last term we need to clarify is the use of “when transported in commerce”.

What happens when you purchase some solvent or oil-based paint at the hardware store? Do you need labels, placards or shipping papers? No. This is where the manufacturer would need to ensure compliance with Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the applicable regulatory references in CFR Title 16 -Commercial Practices in place to protect the end user. We’ve all seen the scary warning labels for proper storage, usage and disposal of the chemicals we keep under the sink.

The key connection here is with the term, when transported in commerce, and how it applies to the hazmat employer. After all they offer the material for transport and are obviously in commerce, not the employee. The connection continues as they, the hazmat employer, are also responsible for the training of all the hazmat employee staff. The training requirements are very specific and must ensure hazmat employees receive adequate training in the following four areas;

1. A general awareness of the hazard communication system.

2. Safety and how to properly handle their hazardous materials including providing emergency response information. OSHA training can be used to fulfill this if applicable.

3. Security awareness and develop and maintain a possible security plan if necessary, and finally

4. Function-specific training as it applies to their particular products and modes of transport both domestically and possibly internationally. The alternative use of dangerous goods training can be substituted. For air transport per the ICAO/IATA regulatory requirements or for vessel according to the IMDG Code.

Compliance with our domestic federal law is mandatory. Even for foreign shippers. Although international law is recognized each country or state may have variations that the shipper must comply with. Guess which country has the most variations? Yup the USA.

In CFR49 §171.22, concerning authorized international standards and regulations like the ICAO, IMDG Code or even Transport Canada`s TDG domestic regulations, it clearly states, “This subpart authorizes, with certain conditions and limitations, the offering for transportation and the transportation in commerce of hazardous materials in accordance with…ICAO, IMDG Code, TDG”.  Note the wording, “with certain conditions and limitations”. In other words, when shipping internationally to, through or from the US, a shipper must still comply with the domestic hazmat regulations of CFR49.

So you see hazardous materials and dangerous goods are somewhat similar but also very different depending on what is shipped, from where and where they’re going. We offer on-site training classes in a variety of formats depending on specific shippers needs for CFR49, ICAO/IATA, TDG and IMDG.

Go to https://www.cargopak.com/on-site-dangerous-goods-training for more information.

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