COVID-19 Supply Chains: The Challenges of Being a Hazardous Materials Transportation Compliance Manager

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As if their job was not already demanding enough, an important issue that hazmat compliance managers currently need to be aware of is how the challenges faced in the workplace might be amplified by the coronavirus pandemic. There are certain factors – which are direct consequences of the pandemic – that can make it more difficult for compliance managers to ensure regulatory compliance throughout the supply chain. Beyond the convenience of online hazmat training, it’s a necessity for hazmat employees.

Hazmat employees involved in the process of shipping hazardous materials, whether by air, ground, vessel or  combination off, must comply with federal and international regulations when working with dangerous goods. Even those who are only indirectly involved with dangerous goods, such as employees performing administrative functions and customer service or sales employees which are assisting hazmat shippers, are not just expected but required to have an understanding of and abide by the relevant guidelines.

However, given the vast range of relevant laws and required procedures, it can be difficult for employees to remember all of them off the tops of their heads. That is why hazardous materials transportation compliance managers are so crucial to the process. Hazmat compliance managers are the last line of defense in the shipping process, making sure that any mistakes made or issues missed are caught and corrected. As one can imagine, this can be rather challenging in itself. Here are some of the challenges of being a hazardous materials transportation compliance manager.

Added Responsibility Due to Covid-19

Compliance managers have always played a vital role in overseeing the safe transportation of hazardous materials. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, their role has become more crucial than ever before. 

Under normal circumstances, U.S. hazmat employees have to comply with numerous federal and international regulations concerning the transportation of dangerous goods.  In a global, multimodal transportation environment, these regulations include the regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation found in Title 49 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, those of ICAO and IATA for air transportation, and the IMDG Code for vessel transportation. Now, they must incorporate the safety measures recommended by the CDC and the federal government into their daily routines to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus. The requirements of these new protocols can potentially contribute to a workplace climate in which responsible workers become vulnerable to mistakes that they normally would not make. 

What this “new normal” means is that hazmat managers must be more attentive and more diligent than ever before to make sure no regulations are disregarded at any stage of the transportation process. 

Remembering Regulations

With or without Covid-19, remembering all the regulations for the shipping transportation processes in which they are involved can be easier said than done. This is why initial and recurrent online hazmat training is important. Employees may have to learn and distinguish different regulations from different regulatory organizations. It is the compliance manager’s duty to remind employees of the regulations if they notice any errors. This means that they also have to be fluent in the regulations. This can present the same difficulty, which is only compounded by their responsibility.

Compliance managers must identify any regulatory deficiencies before enforcement official do and keep in mind that non-compliance will result in fines such as the most frequently cited violations of the hazardous materials regulations, Title 49 CFR,  Appendix A to Subpart D of Part 107, Guidelines for Civil Penalties. This provides them with an idea of what aspects of the process require the most careful oversight. Compliance managers should, of course, have access to the hazmat regulations at all times in case they need to consult them. It is not impossible to remember most of the most important aspects of compliance for everything that applies within the scope of what they ship as hazmat, but it does take time.

Resistance to Change

Embracing change is sometimes difficult for management teams that have long relied upon tried-and-tested policies and procedures.  For instance, they might be hesitant to digitize their records, or to complement their physical compliance processes with virtual or online resources. In such cases, it is the duty of the compliance manager to explain the importance and viability of these processes to their fellow managers, and to assure them that such measures are essential to ensure regulatory compliance. 

Emergency Response

In spite of the best efforts of the compliance manager and all other hazmat employees, a mistake may occur and a violation may slip past inspection. There are times that such mistakes may result in an accident and a release of the hazardous material, compliance managers have to initiate the appropriate protocol for emergency response or manage such protocols from a distance.

This may involve contacting authorities who can shut down the incident but can also involve assisting in ensuring that employees are following procedures for containment, safety, and, if necessary, evacuation. The role of a compliance manager is crucial not just because they check for violations in order to prevent incidents from occurring, but also because they know how to keep others safe if an incident does occur.

The Importance of Compliance Managers

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) identifies thousands of hazardous materials violations across the nation in all modes of transportation yearly. Any of these violations, had they not been caught in time, could have resulted in an incident. Due to the nature of these materials, such an incident could potentially put human lives in great peril, as well as cause extensive damage to property and the environment. The fact that PHMSA identifies these many violations demonstrates the need for comprehensive oversight of the shipping process across all modes of transport in all parts of the country.

Working with dangerous goods is about as risky as it sounds, which is why world governments and international organizations have developed, and continue to develop regulations that keep hazmat employees and the public as safe as possible. This is precisely why compliance with such hazmat regulations is so vital, which in turn is precisely why the hazardous materials transportation compliance manager is so important.

Importance of Hazmat Training

If you are a compliance manager, you understand the importance of not only you, but also your employees, being on top of the rules and regulations pertaining to the storage, handling, and transportation of hazardous materials. Your job entails sifting through the myriad of regulatory requirements, and updates that occur, to ensure that your hazmat employees receive regular, thorough and applicable training and guidance to allow them to perform their jobs competently. 

You can stay updated on federal and international regulations related to shipping dangerous goods by undergoing online hazmat training programs at regular intervals.  By doing this, not only will you stay updated, but you will also maintain a current perspective on the most appropriate training programs for the hazmat employees you are responsible for.

Online Training Programs for Hazmat Shippers and Employees 10% Off

As the COVID-19 Coronavirus situation continues, we realize that our mission to keep people safe is more important than ever.  Even as businesses transition to operating remotely, we understand that supply chain services must continue. Our team is here to support the shippers, carriers, freight-forwarders, and operators who must carry on during these trying times. Our reliable online hazmat training solutions will continue to support our customers requiring hazmat certification training.

Our self-paced online hazmat training and instructor-led webinars provide safe, travel-free options to complete your dangerous goods training from the comfort of your home.

We’re here to help with regulatory technical support Monday-Friday from 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM EDT at no cost to you.

Need help selecting the right online hazmat training course for your training needs? Our modal and multimodal courses combine lessons containing the latest regulatory information with interactive exercises and quizzes to facilitate compliance with regulatory training requirements. Call us at (844) 532-7634 / (609) 860-0300 or contact us online, and we’ll be glad to help you!