US DOT's Security Planning Requirements

Posted on 6/16/2015 by James Griffin

At industrial facilities, the characteristics that make the products we use useful and effective can also make them hazardous. When these materials are misused or released into the environment, the results can be devastating.

To mitigate the consequences of releases, different US regulatory agencies have formed sets of regulations to protect workers, the environment, and the public. Earlier this month, Lion News explored OSHA's Process Safety Management (PSM) requirements and US EPA's Risk Management Planning (RMP) rules).

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has created its own set of regulations to protect the valuable hazardous materials we use and ship every day.

DOT's Security Plan Requirements

Since 2003, US DOT has required shippers and carriers of certain highly hazardous materials to develop and implement security plans. [49 CFR 172, Subpart I]

The bulk of the hazmat regulations are intended to improve public safety by preventing and mitigating accidents and facilitating emergency response. DOT's security plan rules are designed to protect high-consequence shipments of hazmat from malicious misuse, sabotage, and diversion.

Only some facilities are required to maintain a DOT security plan. Read more about the security plan requirements here. "Security plan" should not be confused with "security awareness." The latter is a type of training required for ALL hazmat employees. [49 CFR 172.704(a)(4)] Security awareness training teaches hazmat employees to recognize and respond to possible security threats. "In-depth security training" is an additional training requirement for hazmat employees at facilities that require a DOT security plan. [49 CFR 172.704(a)(5)]

USDOT hazmat ground shipping emergency incident

What Are the Components of a DOT Security Plan?

According to 49 CFR 172.802, a shipper's or carrier's security plan must be written down and kept in a safe place. The plan must be reviewed annually and updated/revised as necessary to reflect changing circumstances. Copies of the most recent version of the plan must be available to those employees responsible for its implementation and to DOT or DHS inspectors.

While not part of the official regulations, access to the security plan should be granted on a "need-to-know" basis. Employees and other persons without a demonstrated need to know the terms of the security plan should not have access to it.

Threat Level and Security Plan Terms

The terms of the plan may include variations based on the level of threat at a particular time, but they must include at a minimum:
  • An assessment of transportation and site-specific security risks;
  • Appropriate measures to address the assessed risks, including:
    • Personnel security, including background checks, commensurate with applicable privacy and employment law;
    • Access security, including measures to limit unauthorized access to hazmat before and during transport;
    • En-route security, including measures to secure hazmat during transportation and its storage incidental to transportation;
  • Identification by job title of the senior management official responsible for overall development and implementation of the security plan;
  • Security duties for each hazmat employee or department that is responsible for implementing the security plan or a portion of the plan;
  • The process of notifying employees when specific elements of the security plan must be implemented; and
  • A plan for training hazmat employees to implement the security plan.
Click here for further guidance from DOT on hazmat transportation security.

Over the past 15 years, many Federal agencies, international organizations, and industry groups have created standards, protocols, and guidelines that cover national security and public safety. If your operations are subject to the requirements of multiple security regulations, security measures adopted to satisfy one standard may be used to comply with DOT's security plan requirements as well. [49 CFR 172.804]

DHS: Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards [CFATS]

One of the major new standards that may apply to shippers of hazmat is the Department of Homeland Security's Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS; 6 CFR 27). CFATS is a DHS infrastructure protection program that covers chemical facilities that possess large quantities of dangerous or potentially dangerous chemicals.

Today, over 3,000 facilities are covered by CFATS, including manufacturers of chemicals, paints and coatings, explosives, electronics, plastics, and pharmaceuticals, as well as mines, healthcare facilities, agricultural establishments, and food processors. CFATS currently does not cover public water systems or water treatment facilities, ports and harbors (regulated under the Maritime Transportation Safety Act), or military or nuclear facilities.

Learn more about DHS CFATS page.

Protecting the security of hazardous materials is a critical responsibility. By knowing what's required of your facility under US DOT, DHS, and other similar standards, you can take steps to make sure your site is in compliance and protected. In addition to the clear dangers of insufficient protection for your facility and materials, fines for noncompliance with US DOT hazmat regulations can be as high as $75,000 per day, per violation.

Expert Training on the Latest Hazmat Regulations

Be confident your hazmat shipments are safe and in compliance with the latest DOT rules with interactive hazmat workshops, online courses, and webinars at For hazmat shipping managers and personnel, staying up to date with rule changes is critical; missing a single mandate can lead to rejected shipments, incidents in transit, and the risk of your materials entering the wrong hands. Per 49 CFR 172.704, hazmat employee training is required within 90 days for new employees and at least once every three years thereafter.

Tags: DOT, hazmat shipping, Recordkeeping and Reporting

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