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Halloween Hazmat Horror Stories

Posted on 10/22/2014 by Scott Dunsmore

Falling leaves, full-grown pumpkins, and scary movie marathons mean only one thing: Halloween is here! In the spirit of this haunting holiday, Lion News has gathered some true tales of terror from 2014 that will send chills down the spines of shipping and EHS managers everywhere.

As industry professionals know, the real-life consequences of noncompliance with US DOT regulations can be far more terrifying than any horror movie cliché. Stories about ghastly ghouls, goblins, and Ouija boards may achieve mainstream success, but fines for noncompliance are just as scary to those in-the-know. Read on, if you dare!

$325,000 Fine for Undeclared Acrolein

On April 1, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed a $325,000 civil penalty against a Long Island, NY chemical manufacturer for offering undeclared hazmat shipments on two cargo airline flights. Between April and May 2013, the company allegedly shipped four pints of acrolein. US DOT classifies acrolein as a toxic/poisonous material and a flammable liquid. The substance can become explosive when combined with air.

Cargo air carrier personnel discovered the May shipment when they observed the package emitting a strong, pungent odor. Due to the severity of the odor and vapors coming from the package, the carrier's employees had to don protective suits to inspect it.

While neither shipment required shipping papers or emergency response information per 49 CFR 172, Subparts C and G, the FAA determined that the May 2013 shipment was not marked, labeled, or packaged as required by the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). Lastly, the FAA determined that the shipper failed to properly train and test the employees who packaged the two shipments.

$195,000 Fine for Chemical Oxygen Generators

On September 12, the FAA proposed a $195,000 civil penalty against a commercial airline for allegedly transporting undeclared chemical oxygen generators aboard a passenger aircraft flight from London to Dallas/Fort Worth. These devices meet the DOT criteria for a Division 5.1 oxidizer and are forbidden on passenger aircraft. [49 CFR 172.101 Hazmat Table, Column 9A] These same materials caused the crash of ValueJet Flight 592 in 1996.

The Proper Shipping Name "Oxygen generator, chemical," UN3356, requires these materials to be packaged in accordance with 49 CFR 173.168. The oxygen generators in this case were not properly classified, packaged, described, or marked and labeled.

Alcohol, Dust Spray, and a $57,600 Fine

Also on September 12, the FAA proposed a $57,600 civil penalty against an Austin, Texas company for allegedly offering an undeclared shipment of hazmat in checked baggage. An employee of the Texas firm offered a one-quart container of denatured alcohol and a 15.5-ounce aerosol can of dust-removing spray in checked baggage on a commercial passenger flight from Chicago, Illinois to Austin, Texas.

Under the HMR, denatured alcohol is a Class 3 flammable liquid. The dust-removing spray is considered a Division 2.1 flammable aerosol. The shipment was discovered by the TSA during baggage screening operations. Unless specifically excepted, transport of hazardous materials by passengers onboard commercial airlines is still subject to the provisions of 49 CFR 171–180.

Packaging Violations Bring PHMSA Settlement

On May 29, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) settled with an intermediate bulk container (IBC) reconditioner for violations of the packaging standards. Violations included failing to perform visual inspections, routine maintenance, and leakproof tests per 49 CFR 180. The company did not properly affix the manufacturer's certification marks per 49 CFR 178.503(c) or provide written closure instructions per 49 CFR 178.2(c).

Lastly, the company failed to demonstrate that employees were provided function-specific training for their actions. Hazmat employers must keep records certifying that their hazmat employees received the required training at 49 CFR 172.704(a). For each hazmat employee, the records must describe the training provider and materials, list the date of training, and include a certification that employees were trained and tested. [49 CFR 172.704(d)]

Battery Shipper Battered With $16,925 Fine

On May 30, PHMSA settled with an auto parts chain for noncompliant lead-acid battery shipments and levied a fine of $16,925. The company allegedly shipped batteries in overpacks without complying with the marking requirements. An overpack is not the authorized packaging, but contains one or more properly prepared hazmat packages. [49 CFR 171.8] When hazmat markings and labels are not visible through the overpack, shippers must duplicate the markings and labels on the overpack and must add the "Overpack" certification mark to indicate that the inner packages conform to the requirements. [49 CFR 173.25]

In addition, the company shipped non-hazardous packages marked and labeled as hazmat. The DOT prohibits communications on packages that indicate DOT-regulated hazards when those hazards are not present. [49 CFR 172.303 and 172.401] In addition, the shipper failed to train hazmat employees, including general awareness, function-specific, security awareness, and safety training, as required at 49 CFR 172, Subpart H.

Setting Specific Penalties

The hazmat transportation law allows the US DOT to issue civil penalties as high as $75,000 per day, per violation for violations of the HMR. Violations of the hazmat employee training standard require minimum penalties of $50 per day, per violation. The maximum penalty can be raised to $175,000 per day, per violation if the violation causes serious effects such as death or substantial property damage.

PHMSA's rules for establishing specific penalties are found at 49 CFR 107. PHMSA takes many factors into account when calculating a penalty, including your status as a small business, any corrective actions you take, your compliance history, and your place in the supply chain.

Stay Safe on Halloween, and All Year

The horror stories above are scarier than witches, werewolves, or vampires in part because they are real-life stories. While protecting yourself from traditional Halloween scares may require supernatural powers or special equipment, protecting yourself from hazmat fines is much simpler.

Ensure that employees who classify, package, mark, label, load, unload, or document your hazmat shipments are trained in accordance with the DOT rules at 49 CFR 172.704. When rules change, every hazmat employee should receive update training on any new regulations or requirements that affect his or her job function. If you are assessed cash penalties for noncompliance, pay them on time or the DOT can shut down your operations. PHMSA recently revised its penalty rules so that it can prohibit a person from performing any hazmat operations, including shipment, until the penalty is paid. [49 CFR 107.338]

To help hazmat shippers comply with domestic and international shipping regulations and ease their fears this Halloween, Lion Technology presents the Hazardous Materials Transportation Certification Workshop in cities nationwide. To see the full schedule of upcoming hazmat training workshops, visit Lion.com or call 888-546-6511.

Tags: DOT, hazmat shipping

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