DOT Hazardous Materials Training – who requires training? Detailed analysis

This has been a widely misunderstood requirement for many organizations that we have audited.  The DOT requirements for shipping hazardous materials can be found at 49 CFR 171-177.

49 CFR 172.700 defines the requirements for “Hazmat Employees”.  The definition of a Hazmat Employee can be found at 49 CFR 171.8 and includes:

(1) (i) Employed on a full-time, part time, or temporary basis by a hazmat employer and who in the course of such full time, part time or temporary employment directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety;

(ii) Self-employed (including an owner-operator of a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft) transporting hazardous materials in commerce who in the course of such self-employment directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety;

(iii) A railroad signalman; or

(iv) A railroad maintenance-of-way employee.

(2) This term includes an individual, employed on a full time, part time, or temporary basis by a hazmat employer, or who is self-employed, who during the course of employment:

(i) Loads, unloads, or handles hazardous materials;

(ii) Designs, manufactures, fabricates, inspects, marks, maintains, reconditions, repairs, or tests a package, container or packaging component that is represented, marked, certified, or sold as qualified for use in transporting hazardous material in commerce.

(iii) Prepares hazardous materials for transportation;

(iv) Is responsible for safety of transporting hazardous materials;

(v) Operates a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials

This section outlines who is considered a Hazmat Employee that requires training.  Please remember that a “hazardous material” is only regulated in the context associated with it being transported. So the “loading, unloading, and handling” are activities directly associated with the transportation of a regulated “hazardous material’.

Many organizations will provide training to their shipping supervisors, forklift operators, and any one signing a shipping paper (or hazardous waste manifest).  Organizations whose only hazardous material is hazardous waste and they have a contractor who loads the materials may choose to only train the employee who signs and certifies the manifests.  It is the employer who must define whom they consider a “Hazmat Employee”.

The scope of the required training is defined at 49 CFR 172.700 and includes:

(b) Scope. Training as used in this subpart means a systematic program that ensures a hazmat employee has familiarity with the general provisions of this subchapter, is able to recognize and identify hazardous materials, has knowledge of specific requirements of this subchapter applicable to functions performed by the employee, and has knowledge of emergency response information, self-protection measures and accident prevention methods and procedures (see § 172.704).

(c) Modal-specific training requirements. Additional training requirements for the individual modes of transportation are prescribed in parts 174, 175, 176, and 177 of this subchapter.

Here the training requirements are very general, and it references the requirements at 49 CFR 172.704 and these include:

  • General awareness/familiarization training
    • Familiarity with the requirements of this subchapter
    • Enable the employee to recognize and identify hazardous materials
  • Function-specific training
    • DOT requirements specifically applicable to the functions the employee performs
      • Material classification
      • Container selection
      • Container marking and labeling
      • Preparation and certification of shipping papers
  • Safety training.
    • Emergency Response
      • Spill and Medical Response
      • Must be site specific
    • Safety / Self Protection
      • Basic PPE and Hazard Communications
    • Methods to avoid accidents / Proper Material Handing
      • Fork Lift Training
  • Security awareness training.
  • In-depth security training
    • Only facilities that are required to have DOT security Plans
    • Must be site specific

Again, the regulation does not specify a specific length of training or specific contents of the training program, and it is the employer’s responsibility to certify and document the above training.  

As you can see, it is really not possible for an external generic training program would not address the site-specific components of all these training requirements.  Most external DOT Hazardous Materials Training should clearly cover the requirements of General awareness/familiarization, Function-specific, and Security awareness raining.  Typically, the requirements of Safety Training and In-depth security training (if required) will be met through your onsite safety program and review of your site-specific DOT security plan (if required) with hazmat employees. 

49 CFR 172.704 (d) requires the Employer to maintain records of compliance to all of the above requirements that includes:

  • The hazmat employee’s name;
  • The most recent training completion date of the hazmat employee’s training;
  • A description, copy, or the location of the training materials used to meet the requirements in paragraph (a) of this section;
  • The name and address of the person providing the training; and
  • Certification that the hazmat employee has been trained and tested, as required by this subpart.

Again, most certificates from external training programs will meet this requirement with the exception of the site-specific training that is required.

Now the $1,000,000 question is am I a Hazardous Materials Employer? The term hazardous materials employer is defined at 49 CFR 171.8.

Hazmat employer means:

(1) A person who employs or uses at least one hazmat employee on a full-time, part time, or temporary basis; and who:

(i) Transports hazardous materials in commerce;

(ii) Causes hazardous materials to be transported in commerce; or

(iii) Designs, manufactures, fabricates, inspects, marks, maintains, reconditions, repairs or tests a package, container, or packaging component that is represented, marked, certified, or sold by that person as qualified for use in transporting hazardous materials in commerce;

(Partial Definition. See 49 CFR 171.8)

So, is a company who only ships hazardous waste and no other DOT hazardous materials required to provide DOT hazardous materials training? The correct answer is YES.

Now who is required to be trained? Anyone who meets the definition of a “Hazmat Employee”. Anyone who has responsibility for classification of the material, selection of the container, marking & labeling the container prior to shipments, and preparing and signing the waste manifest. Also, employees that may be loading the materials on the transportation vehicle.  To limit the employees, you need to train you can limit those with responsibilities for the above activities.  At a minimum the person who signs (ie. Certifies) the waste manifest needs to be trained.

Hope this helps better understand the DOT requirements for training employees.  We provide both public webinar and site-specific instructor led training programs.  Please contact us at EHS Management Strategies.

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