Making Hazmat Handling, Packaging, Storage, and Shipping Less Hazardous

Hazmat or Hazardous materials – saying these words alone can cause a quickening of the pulse and a rise in blood pressure for warehouses all over the world. Let’s face it, yes there are certain and legal ways that these hazardous materials have to be handled as supposed to dry good products. But the reasons do justify the means to handle these materials. One of the main concerns of course is safety. This is to protect the person handling and using the hazardous materials. Unfortunately, there is a need for hazardous materials in our world; they play a vital role in industries such as construction, electronics, automotive, aerospace, and much more. Hazardous Materials also come in different forms such as epoxies, adhesives, chemicals, liquids, gases, etc. Fortunately, most hazardous materials have MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets). MSDS have critical information regarding the proper handling & storage, health hazards, first aid measures, firefighting measures, physical & chemical composition, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), Waste Disposal, and Transportation Information. This information is required by law to accompany all materials that are deemed hazardous. These materials were identified, classified by national and international parties setting criteria for these substances.

Know the Key Regulatory Agencies

Domestically, the standards and regulations for hazardous materials have been set by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Standards) working closely with other government agencies such as EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), DOT (Department Of Transportation), and FAA (Federal Aviation Agency). Combined with other government entities and international entities to assure hazardous materials are handled properly, correctly, and legally. OSHA has regulations in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1000 Subpart Z Toxic and Hazardous Substances that further detail each hazardous materials classification.

Storage of hazardous materials can have single or multiple standards and regulations. This is all depending on the hazardous materials classification and storage/ handling criteria define in the MSDS “Storage and Handling” section. Without going into a long dissertation of all the regulations for each class, there are some simple guidelines to take into consideration when storing hazardous materials.

Simple Guidelines When Storing Hazardous Materials

Segregate incompatible chemicals such as storing oxidizing acids and flammable solvents in separate locations. This is to prevent inadvertent mixing of incompatible chemicals which can produce harmful gases/vapors, heat, fire and explosions. Make sure you store hazardous materials away from heat and direct sunlight. Heat and sunlight may impact and degrade chemicals, deteriorate storage containers and labels. Ensure caps and lids are securely tightened on containers. This prevents leaks and evaporation of contents. Use approved flammable storage lockers or flammable storage containers to store flammable and combustible liquids exceeding 10 gallons. Flammable and combustible liquids kept in squeeze bottles and other secondary containers may be kept on counter and bench tops provided they do not exceed the 10 gallon limit and are kept in secondary containment. Store inorganic acids in corrosive or acid storage cabinets and make sure their interiors and hardware (door hinges and shelf brackets) are corrosion resistant. Corrosive storage cabinets can be located under fume hoods or exist as stand-alone units. Flammable storage cabinets are not corrosion resistant and shall not be used for inorganic acid storage. Install Plexiglas lips or use equivalent means to prevent materials from falling off open storage shelves.

Refrigerators used for storing flammable and combustible liquids shall be designed for that purpose. Do not use ordinary domestic units. Do not store food in refrigerators designated to store hazardous materials. Label refrigerators used for storing chemicals, samples or media as follows: “Caution—Do Not Store Food or Beverages in This Refrigerator.” Labels may be fabricated by users provided they are legible and securely affixed to the refrigerator. Refrigerators used for food and beverages outside of the hazardous materials storage area require no posting.

Hazardous materials are often transferred to squeeze bottles and other plastic containers such as plastic spray bottles. These are made of plastics, such as high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene and polypropylene and may exhibit varying degrees of resistance to different chemicals. Moreover, they may deteriorate over time, especially when exposed to sunlight or UV sources.

Make sure you store liquid hazardous materials (including squeeze and wash bottles) in secondary containment. This is to minimize the impact and spread of spills resulting from broken/leaking containers. Secondary containment capacity must be 110% of the largest container or 10% of the aggregate volume of all containers, whichever is larger. Secondary containment is available in different materials which provide varying resistance to different chemicals.

Shelves and racks should have enough clearance to accommodate the largest container that allows it to be removed and returned without tipping. Tipping containers when returning them to shelves, cabinets and refrigerators may cause the contents to drip or leak when picking in warehouse. Other important factors to consider are building suitability to store hazmat, such as explosion resistant, fire resistant, and active safety procedures & standards within the warehouse.

Considerations for Shipping Hazardous Materials

Shipping hazardous materials by air, ground or ocean can be a daunting task. Domestic and International regulations will vary from the type of inner packaging to outer packaging for each Hazmat class. International shipments are also subjected to local authorities’ standards to country of export as well. Partnering up with a certified hazardous shipper / packager is important to assure delivery of goods when shipping international hazardous. After September 11, 2001, international shipments of hazardous materials incoming and outgoing were put through a vigorous safety procedure and testing and now are implemented as policies as best practices to ship and receive hazardous materials. International standards were created to uniform all shipments between trading countries shipping commercial shipments of hazardous materials.

ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) along with IATA (International Air Transportation Association) are the governing bodies who set standards and regulations for hazmat shipping by air domestically and internationally. In order to ship hazardous materials by Air international or domestic, ICAO and IATA require that shippers are certified. This is done through IATA or ICAO certification facilities. Hefty fines and penalties can be issued if the shipper is not certified or have incorrectly shipped hazmat item(s). Most shipments are usually returned to the shipper and will delay shipment until corrections are made. All international hazmat shipments will require SLDG (Shipper’s Letter Of Dangerous Goods) and CI (Commercial Invoice), for North America NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement). NAFTA is a trade agreement made between the United States,Canada and Mexico that removed trade barriers for goods and services across their borders. These shipments will also require proper markings and labels to identify the package(s). SLDG is a vital document to accompany hazardous shipments. SLDG identifies UN number, Class, Packing Group (PG), Quantity, and Proper Name. This information is used by the transporter of how to correctly handle the package(s) in transit. CI (Commercial Invoice) is only for international shipments. Domestic hazmat air shipments do not require CI.

Hazmat ground domestic shipments are subjected to CFR 49 regulations issued by DOT (Department Of Transportation). These regulations are not as stringent as ICAO or IATA regulations, but they are still enforced to assure safety. DOT does require the driver be a certified hazmat driver, this is also done through a certification process. Bulk quantities of hazardous materials are more readily available for ground transportation than Air transportation. Placard, labels, markings, and documents of the hazardous materials still apply for ground shipments. However, hazardous materials that are made for retailers for retail sale may be shipped as ORM-D (Other Regulated Materials – Domestic). ORM-D shipments usually mean the packaging of the product that has hazardous material is packaged into for shipment is of “limited quantity”. Therefore most retailers, for consumer usage will packaged or have a low concentration of the hazardous material in their product, thus making the shipment ORM-D. ORM-D is used only domestically. This marking will deem the hazardous material as a non-hazardous classification but will require the marking of “ORM-D” per package for each shipment. ORM-D will not require any SLDG, Hazmat markings or labels. ORM-D is usually shipped non-hazardous. Hazmat to ORM-D identification will need verification, reference DOT CFR-49.

Maritime (Ocean) Freight is the most cost effective transportation method to ship hazmat. However, most ocean freight shipments are done with large quantities of hazmat, so shipping one or two pieces would not be cost effective. Ocean freight hazmat shipments all require SLDG or MMDG (Multi Modal Dangerous Goods) form, Hazmat Markings, Labels, and CI.

Hazardous materials are use in everyday life to build, improve, innovate, heal, protect, and so much more. When dealing with hazardous materials heed warning labels, follow standards & regulations, and use common sense. That is how you can make hazmat less hazardous.

Guest post written by Vince Thanthanavong, Vice President of Merlin Logistics. Merlin Logistics is a warehousing and distribution company that has extensive experience with hazmat handling & storage, and hazmat shipping.