Can New Hazmat Employees Work Before They’re Trained?

Posted on 9/10/2018 by Roger Marks

hazmat_supervisor_employee_warehouse_boxes_257801788.jpgAs hazmat shippers know, the US DOT Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) put a major emphasis on training. The regulations at 49 CFR 172.704 lay out specific timelines and content requirements for both initial hazmat training and re-training to occur every three years.

In the real world, a shipping department can’t stop and wait for a new employee to finish in-depth training. Clients are waiting for deliveries and product must move out the door at an increasingly rapid pace. In addition to their responsibilities for hazardous materials safety, hazmat shippers deal with the same pressures that impact logistics professionals of all stripes—pressure to be more efficient, to cut costs, to improve ROI, and so on. 

Need to train a new hazmat employee? The Shipping Hazmat by Ground—Ops online course will prepare pickers, packers, material handlers, warehouse workers, and administrative staff to identify and meet their responsibilities under the 49 CFR Hazardous Materials Regulations. Training for air and vessel shipping employees is also available. 

So, can a new hazmat employee perform shipping jobs with hazardous materials before he or she completes required hazmat training?

The answer—and this may surprise some shippers—is yes.

A Closer Look: Hazmat Employee Training Requirements

Per 49 CFR 172.704 (c)(1)(i), new hazmat employees may perform hazmat job functions before they’ve been trained, provided that the new employee:
  • Is directly supervised by a properly trained and knowledgeable hazmat employee; and
  • Completes hazmat training within 90 days after being hired or changing jobs.
Keep in mind that if the new employee makes a mistake, lack of training is not an excuse. In fact, failure to train hazmat employees is the only hazardous materials violation that comes with a minimum civil penalty of more than $450 per day, per employee.

What Does “Directly supervised” Mean?

“Directly supervised” means that the supervisor has a direct line-of-sight to the new hire and can guide him or her at all times the employee is performing any regulated hazmat function—from classification of hazardous materials to packaging, marking, labeling, loading, unloading, andshutterstock_142831969.jpg handling shipments.

Anecdotally, we’ve heard of a shipper who provided step-by-step packaging directions to hazmat employees by phone before they’d completed their hazmat training. This is NOT “direct supervision” in PHMSA’s eyes.

Neither is “supervising” an employee from a closed office down the hall.

Further reading: 4 Avoidable Hazmat Training Violations

Hazmat Training for New Employees  

When a new hazmat employee does complete training, that hazmat training must cover the following topics:
  • General awareness training

“General awareness” training provides a basic understand of the hazardous materials and the hazards employees may be exposed to at work.
  • Function-specific training

Function-specific hazmat training covers the specific jobs the employee will perform, be it classifying materials; ordering packaging; packaging shipments; marking and labeling packages; handling, loading, unloading packages; or filling out or signing shipping papers.   
  • Security awareness training

Hazmat employees must be aware that because hazardous materials can pose a major threat to human life, transportation safety, infrastructure, and the environment, they are a potential target for criminals and terrorists. Training on how to recognize and respond to hazmat security threats is covered in “security awareness” training.
  • Safety Training

Employees who work around hazardous materials must be made aware of the hazards those materials pose, and they must learn how to protect themselves. Hazmat safety may already be covered by your site’s OSHA Hazard Communication (HazCom) or other safety training. If this is the case, there’s no need to repeat safety training simply to satisfy DOT’s requirement. DOT allows you to use proof of your OSHA safety training to satisfy the 49 CFR safety training requirement.
  • Security Plan Training

Some facilities that ship high volumes of hazardous materials—or small volumes of extremely hazardous materials—are required by DOT to keep a hazmat security plan.

If your site is required to maintain a security plan per 49 CFR, then all employees with responsibilities under that plan—including the “responsibility” of evacuating—should be trained on the plan and how it will be used in an emergency.

Hazmat Training for New and Experienced Hazmat Employees

Hazmat_shipping_papers.gifNew hazmat employees need a solid grasp of the hazmat regulations and what they must do to help maintain compliance. Every step of the hazmat shipping process is regulated in some way, and even small mistakes can lead to fines now approaching $80,000 per day, per violation.

The Shipping Hazmat by Ground—Ops Online Course provides hazmat general awareness, security awareness, and function-specific training for new or experienced hazmat employees. Personnel who complete this course learn the keys to hazmat compliance, and how to comply with the regulations that govern each type of hazmat job.

Tags: DOT, hazmat shipping, hazmat training, PHMSA, training

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