Four people—two police officers and two trucking company employees—were transported to a hospital as a precautionary measure after first responders reported to the scene of a suspected nitric acid release in New Jersey last week.
A container thought to contain the acid was found leaking and smoking in the parking lot of a trucking company on Wednesday evening. Though the release was contained to a small area, the South Plainfield Police Department advised residents nearby to stay indoors while the situation was monitored. The business was reportedly evacuated.
Local fire, EMS, police, and emergency response teams arrived at the scene, along with other state and local emergency responders. The cause of the release has not yet been determined.
The release illustrates the importance of proper packaging and transportation of hazardous materials, as well as effective training for individuals who respond to emergency hazardous substance releases.
Transportation of Nitric Acid
Nitric acid is a colorless and highly corrosive liquid. At various concentrations, it is used in the manufacture of fertilizers, plastics, and explosives; as a component in adhesives; for cleaning metal and metal etching; as a cleaning product; and more.
Symptoms of exposure can be as minor as eye irritation or as severe as pneumonitis or bronchitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In transportation, nitric acid (UN 2031) is regulated as a Class 8 hazardous material. It may also exhibit a subsidiary hazard of Division 5.1 (oxidizer), depending on the concentration. Nitric acid is on the list of hazardous substances found in Appendix A to the 172.101 Hazmat Table. Releases of more than 1,000 lbs. at one time must be reported immediately.
In 2018, stricter requirements for nitric acid packaged in glass containers took effect. PHMSA bolstered these regulations in response to a rulemaking petition from carriers concerned about incidents in transportation. The regulations now require intermediate packaging for glass inner packagings containing nitric acid in concentrations of less than 90% (49 CFR 173.158(e)).
Training for Hazmat Shippers and Emergency Responders
US DOT requires training for all “hazmat employees” who prepare hazardous materials for transportation. Lion offers hazmat training to help satisfy US DOT requirements in public workshops, live webinars, and self-paced online courses for employees at all levels of responsibility and experience—from packagers and shipping clerks to transportation and logistics managers.
Under OSHA’s HAZWOPER Standard, employees who respond to emergency releases of hazardous substances must be trained to safely perform their role during a response. An illustrated guide at Lion.com/HAZWOPER outlines the five levels of emergency responder, and the OSHA training requirements for employees at each level.
Emergency Response: Which HAZWOPER Training is Right for Me?