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Why Regulatory Experts Would Make Good Referees

Posted on 8/19/2022 by Roger Marks

Professionals with responsibility for safely shipping and managing hazardous materials can interpret complex rules and regulations better than anyone. Fans of professional football are not far behind.

To bring these two disciplines together before football season starts, give the question below some thought and take a guess before you continue reading.

Which of these definitions has more words?

US DOT’s basic definition of a “hazardous material” (49 CFR Part 171.8)


The NFL rulebook definition of a completed pass (Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3)

Why Regulatory Experts Would Make Good Referees

Definition of a Hazardous Material

While US DOT’s definition for “hazardous material” references hazard classification criteria and additional definitions found throughout the Code of Federal Regulations. the basic text in 49 CFR 171.8 is fewer than 100 words long.

It reads (in part):
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 DOT's hazard classes and divisions. 

Knowing whether a material is covered by the regulations is the first step to compliance. That makes these words some of the most important in the entire HMR.

Definition of a Completed Pass

The NFL’s definition of "a catch," meanwhile, is about 350 words long when you include the lengthy (and crucial) clarifying notes.

Determining if a pass was completed requires consideration of many factors—control of the ball, placement of feet or other body parts, and whether the player performed “any act common to the game” (i.e., a football move).

View the definition in the 2022 NFL Rulebook (Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3).

When you spend a Sunday afternoon discussing a referee’s interpretations of the rules—you are exercising the same mental muscles needed to navigate US DOT regulations.

Keeping Up with the Changes

Like Federal transportation regulations, the rules for professional football are always subject to change. NFL referees attend training regularly to keep their skills sharp and their knowledge up to date with the latest rulebook—just like hazardous materials professionals do!

For the 2022—23 season, changes to the NFL rules include a new overtime format for the playoffs and a permanent change to the rules for a “free kick.”

For hazardous materials professionals, some recent rule changes include revisions to harmonize the HMR with international regulations (effective August 25) and revised USPS regulations requiring separation of all hazardous materials sent by mail.

Upcoming Hazmat Shipper Workshops 

Develop a step-by-step process to ship hazardous materials/dangerous goods by ground and air, in full compliance with US DOT and international regulations. These upcoming workshops are built to help satisfy 49 CFR (DOT) and IATA DGR training mandates for shippers and "hazmat employees."  
Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification (DOT)
Hazmat Air Shipper Certification (IATA) 

  Ground Shipper (DOT)       Air Shipper (IATA)
Los Angeles Sept. 14–15 Sept. 16
Chicago   Oct. 5–6 Oct. 7
St. Louis Oct. 19–20 Oct. 21
Atlanta Oct. 26–27 Oct. 28
Charlotte Nov. 9–10  
Philadelphia      Dec. 7–8 Dec. 9
Hartford Dec. 14–15 Dec. 16

US DOT requires training once every 3 years for all hazmat employees (49 CFR 172.704).
For air shippers, the IATA DGR requires training once every 2 years (IATA DGR 1.5)

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