We often don’t consider what happens to our hazardous waste or who handles hazardous materials if they’re shipped or transported. However, over three billion tons of hazardous materials get shipped every year and there are thousands of people who do handle hazardous material or hazardous waste, from hazmat employees, hazmat truck drivers, government hazardous waste employees, refinery workers, and more. For those involved in shipping hazardous materials or working with hazardous wastes, they need to know how to properly handle the material they’re transporting and know how to keep themselves safe. Almost 95% of daily hazmat shipments are carried out using trucks, so truck drivers need to have the necessary training before transporting. So what training do Department of Transportation employees need? Is there required training for shipping hazmat materials or requirements for handling hazardous waste? We’ll cover these topics and more, below.
Hazardous Cargo and Hazardous Waste
These two things are not necessarily one and the same, though hazardous waste can be hazardous cargo. Hazardous cargo is considered such because it has flammable, poisonous, corrosive, or other harmful properties that put others at risk.The Department of Transportation has nine different classes for hazardous cargo. These are: explosives, gases (compressed, liquefied, or dissolved under pressure), flammable liquids, flammable solids or substances that could spontaneously combust, oxidizing agents and organic peroxides, toxic and infectious substances, radioactive materials, corrosives, and then miscellaneous dangerous items that aren’t classified.
Hazardous wastes often share the same properties (flammability, reactivity, toxicity, etc.), but are byproducts from specific and non-specific sources and discarded chemical products. This waste can’t simply just be “thrown out,” because it presents a threat to the environment or public health at large. For example, hospitals often emit a lot of hazardous waste, thanks to their proximity to disease, infection, blood, feces, and more, and waste from hospitals must be carefully handled.
What Training Do DOT Employees Need?
Since DOT employees might find themselves working with hazardous wastes or cargo, hazmat training is important — and in some cases, mandatory. Most hazmat workers need to take up to 40 hours of training (per OSHA regulations) and some states require hazmat workers to hold specific licenses. Some hazardous cargo might seem pretty benign — flammable liquids (like gasoline) are some of the most transported hazardous materials within the United States. They make up over 85% by value and weight, and over 65% by ton per miles.
Depending on what role the hazmat employee fulfills, he or she may not need the highest level or detail of training, but the DOT does require that employees meet certain categories. The lowest level is general awareness training, which explains the whole transportation system, so they have an idea of where they fit into the system. All employees will also have to undergo function-specific training, so if working with hazardous wastes or cargo, they’ll know exactly how to handle the situation.
If an employee has to personally handle or be exposed to the hazardous cargo or waste during transportation, they need to know how to do so safely and know what the emergency procedures are, as well as be aware of the risks involved. They may also need to be able to identify potential threats and have a security plan in place, should a potential threat arise. Drivers may also be asked to carry out a specific type of training.
Where Can Employees Get This Training?
Online courses and public workshops are certainly made available to employees and often, a hazmat employer who knows that his or her employees will be working with hazardous wastes or cargo will make sure that they know when classes/training are available. Alternately, they may ask a training program or certification program to come to headquarters or a main location to do onsite training.
This type of training is meant to keep employees, the general public, and the environment safer during the handling and transportation of hazardous wastes or cargos.