PHMSA Enforcement Discretion For Hazmat Packaging Tape

Hazmat Packaging Tape

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has recently issued a notice of enforcement discretion with regard to the shippers’ use of hazmat packaging tape. The notice, which has been published in the backdrop of the ongoing supply chain challenges, states that shippers that affix a different adhesive tape than what was originally recommended by the package manufacturer in their packaging instructions may do so as long as the packaging conforms to all the HMR (hazardous materials regulations) requirements.

What does “Enforcement Discretion” Mean?

The term “regulatory enforcement discretion” means that the PHMSA officials are unlikely to cite hazardous material shippers or individuals for violating the HMR for using a different type of packaging tape than what the packaging test report had specified for the closure of a UN Performance Oriented Package. The condition is that the non-specified tape should demonstrably be of an equivalent or superior safety standard.

Considering the supply chain hurdles, if a shipper is unable to obtain the packaging tape specified in the manufacturer’s instructions, they may use a non-specified tape. Any deviation made for closing and securing the package should be documented by the shipper, and the notation should be recorded in the file along with the manufacturer’s original packaging instructions. Instructions on how to close the package with the non-specified tape should be included.

According to the PHMSA, the non-specified tape in this case should:

  • Be made from the identical material as the tape specified in the original test report
  • Have the capability to demonstrate same or better capabilities in terms of thickness, yield strength, ductility, length, width, and adhesive properties
  • Be compatible with the hazardous materials packaging

The PHMSA is a part of the United States Department of Transportation. The PHMSA’s enforcement discretion notice will remain in effect until the 31st of August, 2022.

Why is the Packaging Tape Important?

To make sure that all UN-rated packages perform up to their tested rating, the hazardous materials package manufacturers provide precise instructions for the closure of each package. According to the Hazardous Materials Regulations for shippers, these closure instructions must be diligently followed. The instructions may include the use of a specific type of packaging tape that has been tested by the manufacturer for reliable performance.

The package may have cleared the performance test only when the specific type of adhesive tape was used. It is possible that if an alternate tape is applied in its place, the package might fail the performance test. For this reason, shippers may be required to use the exact same tape that has been tested and rated for performance during hazardous materials transportation.

It’s also noteworthy that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is the official government organization in charge of investigating cases of accidental release of hazardous materials, such as liquefied natural gas, inflammable liquids, and any other types of dangerous goods shipped by air, sea, or land.

A Change of Tape May Constitute a Change in Design for Hazmat Packaging

The packaging tape used to close a hazardous materials package is considered elemental to the package design. Thus, if the shipper uses an alternate tape that does not conform to the manufacturer’s package closure instructions, it may be regarded as a “new package design.”

For example, if the manufacturer’s instructions specify the use of “ABC tape” having a width of two inches, then using a strip of ABC tape with a width of one inch will violate the HMR. Even if the shipper uses two strips of one-inch width, it will still be considered a violation of the rules.

Pertaining to this, what happens when the shipper in this example uses a strip of ABC tape with a width of four inches? The PHMSA issued an interpretation in 2018 to clarify that in this particular case, the use of a wider-than-specified tape may not necessarily constitute an HMR violation.

Learn about Packaging Requirements with Hazmat University’s Hazmat Shipping Training

Hazmat packaging is a vital component in the shipping of hazardous materials. Considering the highly detailed and comprehensive requirements of PHMSA and the critical need to adhere to them to the letter, hazmat employees must undergo appropriate training.

Hazmat University offers initial and recurrent training through its convenient online hazmat training courses for the shipping of hazardous materials. Our courses include comprehensive lessons with the latest updated information on the regulations related to dangerous goods shipping. Our training programs also include interactive quizzes and exercises, and the content of the programs is developed by certified instructions with extensive experience in the hazmat shipping industry.

Hazmat University programs cover a wide array of subjects in addition to the packaging of hazardous materials. We encourage you to review our course selection on our website and place your order online. You may also call us at (844) 427-0167 or fill out this online contact form to speak to one of our knowledgeable representatives.

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