Everything you need know about transporting chemicals

Everything you need to know about transporting chemicals

8:52 AM, 17th July 2018
Transporting chemicals is a risky business. © BASF
Transporting chemicals is a risky business. © BASF

It should go without saying, but transporting chemicals is a risky business. Even if all you’re trying to move is a set of household cleaners, the government has strict regulations as to where and how it can be transported. Below is a list of seven requirements that you should keep in mind the next time you attempt to transport chemicals.

By Abby Drexler

1. You Most Likely Can’t Use UPS, FedEx, or the USPS

All three of those companies are listed as “general-service” shipping companies, which means they specialize in shipping everything under the sun. Because of that, their employees are not usually given the same level of training that chemical transportation companies are, which are required when transporting different elements. Unless it’s the most basic of ingredients, shipping chemicals will most likely require special clearance.

2. You’ll Probably Need a Permit

Transporting chemicals across state lines will come with a long list of paperwork involved, though the amount and type can change from state to state. In some cases, you’ll need special clearance to even have it in your possession, much less transport it, which can make things difficult. If moving chemicals long distances, check with each state it passes through to verify the requirements.

3. What You’re Dealing With is Possibly Hazardous

The government defines a hazardous chemical as anything that is harmful to living things, which usually involves anything corrosive, combustible, toxic, or otherwise unstable. Generally, this includes just about anything that you would find in a laboratory, which makes transporting it especially cumbersome. Though not impossible, you’ll have to receive special documentation every time it’s moved over a long distance.

4. You’ll Need a Special Driver

People who are trained to handle chemicals are different than the average driver. They not only are trained to drive more carefully, but they also are instructed on how to load and unload chemicals once they arrive at their destination. Furthermore, most drivers are taught how to plan routes that will minimize any chance of an accident or some kind of intrusion that can rock the truck and cause spillage. In the event that an accident does occur, chemical transport drivers are trained to handle the scene to minimize the impact, working with law enforcement officials and emergency personnel to create a safe environment for cleanup. Normal transport drivers don’t receive this level of instruction, so it’s important to look for a company that is trained in transporting chemicals.

5. When Transporting Chemicals, the Federal Government Takes Charge

As mentioned above, transporting chemicals over state lines comes with its own unique set of paperwork and headaches. Ultimately, however, it’s the federal government that takes precedent over the state when it comes to chemical transportation - or more specifically, the HMTA (Hazardous Materials Transportation Act) which is a product of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They’re the ones in charge of documentation, training, packaging, and everything else involved in the transportation process.

6. Remember to Label Everything Very Clearly

This may sound elementary, but you would be surprised how many accidents have occurred because either a container was mislabeled, or the label had somehow worn off and become illegible. If it does become unreadable, alert someone in authority right away to determine the contents and label it correctly so as not to cause any more problems. After it’s labeled, refer to the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for further instructions on the shipment.

7. Above All Else, Train Your Crew in Emergency Safety Procedures

Chemical spills are not a laughing matter. If the wrong chemical comes into contact with human skin, it can cause serious chemical burns that have the ability to permanently disable its victim within seconds. Furthermore, if one chemical interacts with another, or receives direct sunlight for some reason, a fire or even an explosion can occur. This danger is most prevalent when loading or unloading chemicals when negligence increases the risk of accidents, or during a spill on the roads. Understanding emergency procedures involves knowing how to clean up a spill using the proper means.

An incorrect procedure could result in chemical burns or further damage to the property, so make sure everyone that is involved with the process is up to date on the correct procedures for emergency situations.

Author: Abby Drexler is Contributing Writer & Media Specialist at Transport Resources Inc

© Chemical Today magazine

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