3 Common Causes of Fireworks Transportation Incidents
About one in three hazmat transportation incidents involving fireworks in the US happens in June or July. These incidents also occur in clusters around other major holidays, too—Memorial Day in May, Labor Day in September, and New Year’s Eve.
Reportable fireworks transportation incidents happen rarely, at a rate of 5 to 10 incidents per year lately. That said, each of these incident has the potential to seriously injure or kill someone near the package or the vehicle, to majorly disrupt transportation for hours (or more), and to require dispatch of local resourcers and trained emergency responders.
Common Reasons for Fireworks Transportation Incidents
An unscientific review of hazmat incident reports submitted to US DOT in recent years shows three major areas where common (and correctable) hazmat shipping compliance errors led to package failure, spills, fires, etc:
Inadequate or damaged packaging
Failure to use authorized, appropriate packaging is a very common reasons noted on incident reports. In some cases, shippers packed fireworks in damaged or worn boxes that tore or opened during transport. Other incidents have involved fireworks offered in paper grocery bags, plastic trash bags, and even a duffel bag.
Crushed or opened packaging
When loaded on a motor vehicle, fireworks must be blocked and braced to limit their movement during transportation. Packages that are not secured in the vehicle or stacked improperly, may topple open and release product, need re-wrapping or re-packaging, or be crushed by heavier packages placed on top.
Mishandling during loading/unloading
Dropped packages during loading also happen. In some cases, packages may be “mishandled” when employees lack adequate hazmat training to recognize hazard labels and act accordingly.
US DOT PHMSA's Safety Guidance for Shipping Consumer Fireworks stresses the importance of training for employees:
"Fireworks shipments must...be handled by professionals that have been trained in components specified in the HMR (i.e., general awareness/familiarization, function-specific, safety, and security training) (see 49 CFR Part 172, Subpart H); for example, those who operate and load/unload the vehicle."
Safety Guidance for Shipping Consumer Fireworks
What's Required to Ship Fireworks?
Like all Class 1 explosive cargo, fireworks are subject to shipping rules that go beyond what’s required for most hazardous materials. Shippers must obtain a US DOT EX approval, for example, and indicate the EX number on shipping papers along with the material’s basic description and other required info.
Depending on the product classification and the quantity shipped/transported, the shipper and carrier may be required to register with US DOT. Some fireworks shipments require hazmat placards, detailed security planning (and security plan training for employees), and a driver who holds a CDL with a valid hazmat endorsement.
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