We updated this blog post in 2019. Read the updated version.
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“I have an employee that is responsible for signing the manifest for our off site shipments of hazardous waste. I have heard that this employee is subject to DOT training. If this is true, what training must I provide to this employee?”
This is a common question that is asked by compliance managers at sites dealing with EPA or state-regulated hazardous waste. Under the Hazardous Material Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates shipments of hazardous waste that either meet the criteria of one or more of the standard hazard classes 1-9 or that are subject to manifesting under EPA’s requirements at 40 CFR 262 (49 CFR 171.8-Definition of Hazardous Waste)
As the HMR govern these hazardous waste shipments, then any personnel who prepare or transport them are subject to the hazmat employee training requirements at 49 CFR 172, Subpart H—Training. The training standard contains five elements—general awareness, security awareness, and function-specific training are required for all hazmat employees, while safety and security plan training are required only for certain hazmat employees and facilities [49 CFR 172.704(a)].
The Hazardous Waste Manifest is a hazmat shipping paper, and is subject to the provisions at 49 CFR 172, Subpart C-Shipping Papers. The person signing Box 15 of the manifest on behalf of the generator is subject to specific DOT requirements (49 CFR 172.204 and 172.205) and is therefore considered a hazmat employee. We know that they would require general awareness and security awareness training, so the question at hand is what function-specific training is required for a person signing a hazardous waste manifest?
To answer that question, let’s first take a look at the certification language,
“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 according to applicable international and national government regulations.” [49 CFR 172.204(a)(2) and 40 CFR 262, Appendix, EPA Form 8700-22 (Rev. 3-05) Item 15-The Uniform hazardous Waste Manifest]
Whoever signs the manifest is certifying that all aspects of the shipment are in full compliance with the HMR. This person is the most important person in the cycle of transportation, having the final say before the actual movment that there are no problems with the shipment. In order to certify that everything is right and in compliance with the regulations, the person must have an understanding of what “right” is. The only conclusion is that this person must have comprehensive function-specific training in classification, naming, packaging, marking, labeling, placarding, paperwork, and all other applicable transport regulations
The DOT confirmed this interpretation, that a hazmat employee signing a shipping document requires comprehensive training, in a letter of interpretation, stating:
“Since the employee certifies that the materials are properly classified, described, packaged, marked and labeled and in proper condition for shipment, the employee must receive function-specific training that ensures they are knowledgeable in those areas and can determine that a shipment is in compliance with the requirements of the HMR, in addition to general awareness/familiarization (training).”
[Letter to Mr. William K. Taggart, May 31, 2002, Reference No. 02-005]
There is no question that comprehensive function-specific training is required for all persons who sign a hazardous waste manifest. So, the generator (hazmat employer) must either ensure that any personnel signing manifests have this comprehensive training, or limit the persons authorized to sign manifests to those with comprehensive function-specific training.
 In the event that a state-level agency, but not the US EPA, require manifesting for a particular waste, and that waste does not meet the criteria for any class or division of hazardous material defined by the DOT in 49 CFR Part 173, then the HMR (including the hazmat employee training requirements) do not apply to manifested shipments of that waste. The training requirements, and the HMR as a whole continue to apply to all other manifested hazardous waste shipments.