Spring Cleaning: Importance of Hazmat Training and Compliance

Spring Cleaning

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Spring is the season of new beginnings. It is the time to declutter, trim, and get rid of what you might no longer need. For those in the hazmat shipping industry, it is the right time to replace old and outdated training and compliance materials and make sure everyone who is involved in hazmat shipping is aware of the latest regulations and practices for safe and proper shipping.

The Need for Spring Cleaning in Hazmat Shipping Industry


hazmat shipping cleaning

The regulatory landscape of the hazmat shipping industry never remains stagnant, as regulations are updated, amended, and changed on a frequent basis. Once a regulation is amended or updated, you are required to incorporate the update or amendment into your work practices to avoid compliance mistakes that could cost you dearly.

In some cases, the updates might not go into effect immediately. There might be a transitional period, during which you might still be allowed to follow the older version of the regulations without incurring any penalties. This is usually done to make it easier for hazmat employees to make the transition from the older set of regulations to the newer ones.

However, in some other cases, the updates and amendments might go into effect right away. In such a scenario, you must incorporate the updates into your work practices immediately. Any failure on your part to do so could result in a compliance mistake, which in turn could be followed by hefty civil penalties.

It should be noted that different regulatory agencies update their regulations at different intervals. For instance, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Organization (IMDG) update its regulations every two years.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), on the other hand, updates its regulations every year. Similarly, 49 CFR regulations are also updated on a yearly basis. With that said, it’s vital for hazmat employers to keep track of these updates and incorporate them into their work practices and training programs as and when needed.

Why Hazardous Materials Regulations are Updated Frequently

Transporting hazardous materials is a process that is fraught with risks at every stage – from packing to marking, labeling, placarding, loading, and shipping. Any mistake made by any hazmat employee at any stage of the process can result in a hazmat incident, which can have catastrophic consequences. It is why regulatory agencies are constantly looking for ways to improve the safety and efficiency of the hazmat transportation process and reduce the possibility of hazmat incidents to the extent possible.

Regulatory agencies take a wide range of factors and variables into account to determine the best work practices to be followed and the most effective safety protocols to be implemented while shipping hazardous materials. As these factors and variables change or evolve, so do the regulations. In other words, updating hazardous materials regulations is not merely a bureaucratic procedure, but a vital process to improve the safety of the hazmat shipping process.

Benefits of Updated Hazmat Training

Benefits for Employers

Social Responsibility

With billions of tons of hazardous materials shipped within the US each year, there is a risk of cargo thefts and explosive, flammable, radioactive, or other hazardous materials falling into wrong hands. Lack of updated hazmat training for employees increases those risks because malicious operators can exploit worker vulnerabilities.

Environmental Responsibility

Hazardous materials not only expose people to health and safety risks, but they may also present serious environmental risks during transit. When the employees receive periodic and updated hazmat training, it mitigates the incidence of hazmat accidents and spills, thereby reducing the potential damage to the environment.

Avoidance of Regulatory Fines

When hazmat employees receive timely, regular, and updated hazmat training, it reduces the regulatory violations and the ensuing costs in terms of monetary fines for the employers. Civil penalties and fines imposed by the DOT and other regulatory agencies can potentially amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars for serious hazmat violations.

Reputational Benefits

Employers that are committed to regularly providing the most updated hazmat training to their employees are able to build an image of a socially and environmentally responsible organization. Customers, financiers, investors, and other stakeholders prefer to work with organizations that demonstrate a strong commitment to the safety of all.

Higher Productivity with a Motivated Workforce

When an employer invests in the latest updated hazmat training for their employees, it sends a message to the entire workforce that the organization cares for its people. Employees feel motivated to achieve organizational goals, costs of employee injury, sickness, and absenteeism, reduces, and the company also manages to attract and retain top talent.

Benefits for Employees

  • Better understanding of how to handle hazardous materials for the employee’s own safety and the safety of others.
  • Updated knowledge about the applicable hazmat shipping regulations and safety protocols to ensure compliance.
  • Top-level of preparedness to appropriately respond to a hazmat incident in accordance with the latest updated regulations.
  • Greater professional confidence to deal safely and responsibly with hazardous materials during the course of employment.
  • Higher job satisfaction levels when the employees know they have the best hazmat training and knowledge to perform their job successfully.
  • More opportunities for career growth and development because of the industry expertise acquired through continually updated hazmat training.
  • Chances to achieve higher pay and benefits with updated hazmat training certifications.

Common Causes of Non-Compliance in Hazmat Transportation

non-compliance hazmat training

The most common reasons attributed to non-compliance or violations of regulations in hazmat transportation include:

Ignorance of Hazmat Regulations

If any of the parties involved in hazmat transportation is unaware of the regulations that are to be complied with, it can result in a violation. For instance, many household products contain substances that are classified as hazardous materials. Some examples include perfumes, deodorants, paints, adhesives, pool sanitizers, drain cleaners, and lithium-ion batteries.

If a person is not aware of the fact these are actually hazardous materials, they might fail to comply with the necessary regulations. This is one of the reasons why it’s critical for all the parties who are involved in hazmat transportation to be aware of the regulations they need to comply with when they ship hazardous materials.

Following Outdated Regulations

Federal regulations regarding hazmat transportation are amended and updated by regulatory agencies on a frequent basis. If a hazmat employer fails to incorporate these changes into their work practices and safety protocols, they might end up following the older version of dangerous goods regulations, which might no longer be applicable or relevant.

Lack of Resources

Due to a lack of resources, many companies entrust hazmat employees with several responsibilities – rather than hiring more people. Due to the increased burden, hazmat employees might not be able to focus properly on what is their primary responsibility – ensuring regulatory compliance. It can increase the risk of non-compliance and regulatory violations to a significant extent when they transport hazardous materials.

Over-reliance on Manual Processes

Data shows that many hazmat employers still rely on manual processes to ensure regulatory compliance in hazardous materials transportation – despite the fact that many of these processes can be automated and digitized easily, such as the preparation of hazmat shipping papers.

Manual processes are not only slow and ineffective but also involve the risk of human error, which in turn can increase the risk of regulatory violations. In such a setup, a mistake or oversight by a single person can increase the risk of a hazmat incident, which can result in a fine and harm their reputation.

Lack of Clarity on Regulatory Compliance Responsibility

Many companies that are involved in hazardous materials transportation are structured in such a way that there is no clarity on who is actually responsible for ensuring regulatory compliance at different stages of the process.

In a setup of this kind, hazmat employees do not tend to have a clear understanding of their role, responsibilities, job functions, and what they are supposed to do to ensure compliance. The lack of a coherent strategy and a proper structure for ensuring regulatory compliance can lead to violations and compliance errors.

Lack of Funding

Many hazmat employers are reluctant to allocate the funding needed to ensure regulatory compliance at every stage of the transportation process. Without the resources needed to perform their job functions effectively, hazmat employees might not be able to ensure regulatory compliance, which in turn can increase the chances of a hazmat incidents.

Failing to Train Employees

Federal regulations mandate that any person who handles hazardous materials must undergo the required training. Unfortunately, many employers do not realize the importance of hazmat training and allow untrained employees to perform tasks that should only be performed by those who have undergone the necessary training.

Even employers who understand the importance of hazmat training fail to train their employees, just so they could save money. This is one of the main reasons why regulatory violations are so common in the hazardous materials shipping industry.

Common Violations of Hazmat Regulations by Companies

The most common forms of regulatory violations reported in the hazmat industry include:

  • Declaring (knowingly or unknowingly) hazardous materials as non-hazardous materials
  • Misidentifying hazardous materials and assigning the wrong hazard class
  • Failing to label, mark, and placard hazardous materials shipments in accordance with dangerous goods regulations
  • Failing to choose the appropriate packaging for different types of hazardous materials
  • Failing to meet the packaging requirements for different modes of transportation
  • Choosing the wrong mode of transportation for shipping hazardous materials
  • Failing to pressure test single and inner packaging before shipping liquid materials
  • Failing to use sufficient cushioning or absorbent material while packaging hazardous materials in accordance with closure instructions
  • Failing to properly complete shipping papers
  • Failing to follow established safety protocols
  • Failing to update compliance requirements and following older versions of regulations and so much more….

Consequences of Non-Compliance in Hazmat Shipping

Failing to comply with the necessary regulations at any stage of the hazmat transportation process can prove to be costly – financially and otherwise – for the parties involved. The most common consequences of non-compliance in hazardous materials shipping include:

The Risk of Hazmat Incidents

Hazardous materials are called so for a reason. They pose serious risks to the safety and health of hazmat employees as well as the general public. Any mistakes made while handling or transporting these materials can lead to a hazmat incident, which can be catastrophic in nature.

For instance, any mistakes made by hazmat employees while handling or transporting explosives (Class 1 hazardous materials) can lead to a serious accident with fatal consequences. In some other cases, the consequences of a hazmat incident might not be imminent but can be quite serious nonetheless.

For instance, any mistakes made by hazmat employees while handling or transporting toxic substances (Class 6 hazardous materials) can result in a hazmat incident in which the people involved (as well as the general public) could inhale or come into contact with the toxic substances in question. As a result, they could develop serious health problems like chronic respiratory disorders, nervous system disorders, and cancer.

This is the primary reason why regulatory compliance is so important in hazmat transportation, as it is the first and perhaps the most effective line of defense against hazmat incidents.

The Risk of Civil Penalties

Federal regulations regarding the transportation of hazardous materials are enforced strictly without any exceptions and those who are found guilty of non-compliance can face stiff civil penalties. The penalty for a violation can be as high as $89,678. If you are found to have violated more than one regulation or violated the same regulation more than once, you could be fined individually for each violation.

If the violation in question led to a hazmat incident that resulted in substantial property damage, serious illness, injuries, or deaths, you could be fined up to $209,249. It should be noted that failure to provide adequate training to hazmat employees also counts as a violation of federal law. For each untrained employee, you could be fined up to $540 per day.

The Risk of Criminal Penalties

In addition to civil penalties, you could also face criminal penalties for violating hazardous materials transportation regulations. Depending on the severity of the violation and its consequences, you could face millions in fines and up to five years in prison.

In 2018, a Montana-based trucking company was found to have violated multiple hazardous materials regulations due to the fact that they transported drip gas (which is a hazardous material) without following any safety protocols or precautionary measures, which resulted in an explosion at a processing facility. As a result, the owner of the company was fined $1.29 million and was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

The Risk of Tort Claims

One of the biggest risks associated with non-compliance in hazmat transportation is that the consequences can not only affect hazmat employees but other people as well.

For instance, if a truck carrying hazardous materials causes an accident, the injured persons can sue the parties responsible for the accident and seek compensatory damages. If the accident was caused as a result of poorly secured cargo, the party responsible for loading and securing the cargo can be held liable for damages. If it was caused as a result of mechanical failure, the party responsible for maintaining the truck can be held liable.

What it means is that hazmat employers – in addition to paying criminal penalties for non-compliance – may have to put on their life resume the fact that hundreds of thousands of dollars could be taken from their accounts as compensatory damages to those who were affected as a result of their non-compliance.

Potential Hazmat Threats to First Responders

One of the reasons for marking, labeling, and placarding hazardous materials packages is that in the event of a hazmat incident, first responders can assess the nature and level of risks posed by the materials in question and respond accordingly.

If a hazmat package is not marked, labeled, or placarded properly or if it is misclassified, first responders might not know what to do in the event of an accident. For instance, chlorine, which is commonly used in a wide range of industrial and consumer products, is characterized as a toxic/poison inhalation hazard.

More importantly, while chlorine is not flammable by itself, it can react with flammable substances and cause a fire or explosion. For instance, if chlorine comes into contact with ammonia or turpentine, it can result in an explosion.

The only way first responders can know about these risks is by reading the placards on the transport vehicles and marking and labels on packages with the proper shipping names. If the placards, marks, or labels are missing or if they contain wrong information, first responders might unknowingly expose themselves to unpredicted risks.

Loss of Reputation and Business

Compliance issues can cause delays in the shipping process, which can lead to customer dissatisfaction. Moreover, if a hazmat employer is penalized repeatedly for non-compliance, they might be seen as untrustworthy by vendors as well as other third parties who are involved in the business.

More importantly, if a violation leads to a hazmat incident that puts the public at risk, the firestorm of negative press that might follow can cause irreparable damage to the employer’s reputation and standing in the industry and harm their long-term business interests to a serious extent.

How Regulatory Compliance Can Benefit Hazmat Employers

One of the common mistakes that many hazmat employers make is that they view regulatory compliance as a necessary evil they have to put up with. The truth is that regulatory compliance can actually be a competitive advantage and drive business growth.

First and foremost, employers need to understand that the cost of ensuring regulatory compliance across the supply chain is actually much lesser than the cost of non-compliance. Non-compliance can result in shipping delays, carrier refusals, civil penalties, civil liabilities, and increased insurance costs, all of which can cost a fortune in the long term.

Second, the money spent on training hazmat employees is not an expense, but an investment. Having a highly knowledgeable, well-trained workforce can not only ensure regulatory compliance throughout the supply chain but also improve overall efficiency and increase productivity to a great extent.

Third, developing the right infrastructure, having proper safety protocols in place, and having trained hazmat employees to carry out the processes to ensure compliance can virtually eliminate the risk of regulatory violations, reduce costs, and boost your bottom line.

Why Top-Down Approach is the Best Way to Ensure Compliance in Hazardous Materials Shipping

One of the most important things that hazmat employers need to understand is that compliance always starts at the very top. It’s the duty of the management to educate their employees about the importance of compliance and promote best work practices that can ensure compliance.

Given below are some of the steps that hazmat employers can take to ensure compliance in their organization.

  • Making safety and compliance the topmost priority and spreading the message to all the employees
  • Setting goals to achieve regulatory compliance at every level and at every stage of the transportation process
  • Consulting with experts to devise the right strategies to promote compliance-focused work practices among the employees
  • Allocating the funds and resources needed to build the infrastructure needed to ensure compliance at all levels
  • Keeping abreast of changing dangerous goods regulations and updating work practices as and when needed
  • Automating, digitalizing, and streamlining the compliance process and avoiding human intervention to the extent possible
  • Having a clearly defined hierarchy where every hazmat employee knows what they are required to do and what they are not supposed to do
  • Making sure all the employees who handle hazardous materials and those who are associated with the shipping process in any way have the resources and tools they need to perform their job functions safely and effectively
  • Ensuring that all employees undergo the required training before handling hazardous materials

The Seven Steps to Regulatory Compliance in Hazmat Transportation

Generally, there are seven steps involved in ensuring regulatory compliance in hazardous materials shipping, such as flammable liquids, medical waste, ammonium nitrate fertilizers, cryogenic liquids, combustible liquids, infectious substances, hazardous wastes, and other such items in the hazardous materials table. These include:

Step One

Determine whether the items you are supposed to ship are classified as dangerous goods and if so, which hazard class they belong to. You can use the material safety data sheet (SDS) provided by the manufacturer to find out whether the items that are to be shipped are classified as hazardous.

Step Two

Go through the federal and international dangerous goods regulations to find out the right mode of shipping for the materials in question, the right packing group, the maximum allowed quantity that can be shipped per package, and the appropriate packaging requirements for the materials.

Step Three

Go through the regulations to determine the appropriate hazard communication requirements for shipping hazmat packages. This includes choosing the right labels, markings, and placards as well as shipping papers.

Step Four

Mark, label, and placard the packages in accordance with shipping regulations.

Step Five

Complete the shipping paper in compliance with the applicable regulations as well as any other hazardous materials safety administration requirements.

Step Six

Ship the packages hiring reputable shipping companies and track the hazardous materials through the supply chain system.

Step Seven

Retain records of the shipping paper and other documents safely in compliance with shipping paper retention regulations.

Training Requirements for Hazmat Professionals

Training hazmat employees on a regular basis is the best way to ensure regulatory compliance within the organization as well as across the supply chain for shipping dangerous goods or hazardous materials.

Who Needs to Undergo Hazmat Training?

Any person who is designated as a hazmat employee needs to undergo training. The duties of a hazmat employee might include:

  • Loading, unloading, and handling hazardous materials
  • Identifying and classifying hazardous materials
  • Choosing the right packing group and packaging the shipments
  • Testing, repairing, or modifying hazmat packages
  • Marking, labeling, and placarding hazmat packages
  • Completing shipping papers, shipper’s declaration, and other related paperwork
  • Preparing the hazmat packages for transportation
  • Ensuring the safety of hazmat packages while they are transported
  • Operating the vehicle that transports the hazmat packages

It should be noted that a person does not necessarily have to be employed on a full-time basis in order to be considered a hazmat employee. Even part-time employees and those who are employed on a temporary basis can be considered hazmat employees – if they are involved in hazmat handling, storage, and transportation in any capacity.

Similarly, self-employed people and independent contractors can also be considered hazmat employees, if they are involved in hazmat storage, handling, and transportation in any capacity. For instance, an owner-operator of a truck who transports hazardous materials can be considered a hazmat employee, even if they are not directly employed by a hazmat shipping company.

How Often Should Hazmat Professionals Be Trained?

All personnel who are involved in hazmat transportation are required to complete the initial training program within a period of 90 days from the date of their employment. Until they complete the required training, they must perform their job functions only under the direct supervision of a trained hazmat employee. Once they complete the required training, they must be tested to make sure they are knowledgeable and skilled enough to perform their job functions.

After the initial training, hazmat employees must be provided with recurrent training every two years (if they are involved in transporting hazardous materials by air) or every three years (if they are involved in transporting hazardous materials by ground or by ocean).

Apart from this, any time there is a change in a hazmat employee’s job functions and duties, they are required to complete the appropriate training program for any type of hazmat.

What are the Different Types of Training Programs Available for Hazmat Professionals?

Shipping by Air

This training program is meant for those who are involved in any capacity in the handling, storage, and shipping of dangerous goods by air. It’s based on the compliance and regulatory requirements of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Shipping by Ground

This training program is meant for those who are involved in any capacity in the handling, storage, and shipping of hazardous materials by ground. It’s based on the compliance and regulatory requirements of the US Code of Federal Regulations Title 49 – commonly abbreviated to 49 CFR.

Shipping by Sea

This training program is meant for those who are involved in any capacity in the handling, storage, and shipping of hazardous materials by sea. It’s derived from the compliance and regulatory requirements outlined in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.

Multimodal Training

This is an all-encompassing training program that covers the compliance and regulatory requirements of IATA, ICAO, 49 CFR, and IMDG. It’s meant for those who are involved in any capacity in the handling, storage, and shipping of hazardous materials by air, ground, and ocean can complete this training program.

Lithium Batteries Training

This training program is meant for those who are involved in any capacity in the handling, storage, and shipping of lithium-ion batteries by air, ground, or sea.

5 Types of Training Required for Hazmat Professionals

  • General awareness or familiarization training
  • Function specific training
  • Safety training
  • Security awareness training
  • In-depth or comprehensive security training if applicable

Why Choose Online Training vs. Classroom Training for Hazmat Professionals

Many people believe that a classroom setting – coupled with an instructor – is the ideal environment for learning things. While it’s certainly true to an extent, there are several reasons why online training can be just as effective as classroom training. These include:

  • You can learn things as slowly or as fast as you want and complete the hazmat shipping certification training at your own pace. No one can say they did not receive the training – all employees will have a digital signature and/or time stamp indicating they received the training germane to any accountability issues if there’s an issue in the future.
  • Web-based training materials are accessible to review and always updated when compared to printed documents. So, when you sign up for an online training program, you can be sure that the course material is based on the latest regulatory requirements.
  • Online hazmat training is considerably cheaper when compared to classroom training since you can save on transportation, instructor fees, and a wide range of other associated costs.
  • There is no waiting time with online training programs. You can sign up any time you want, pay the fee, and start with the training right away. Similarly, once you complete the training, you can print out the certificate of completion by yourself.
  • The interactive nature of online training programs can make it easier for you to learn the compliance and regulatory requirements associated with your job, whether you are involved in shipping hazmat domestically, internationally or both.
  • In some cases, a classroom setting might not be the right environment for those who are more concerned about infection exposure risks due to health conditions. So, online programs can be a safe, effective, and affordable way to complete your training requirements.

Hazmat University – A One-Stop Solution for All Your Hazmat Compliance Related Training Needs

Regulatory compliance is the very foundation of a successful hazmat shipping business. If you are someone who directly handles hazardous materials or if you are involved in hazardous materials shipping process in any capacity, you must undergo the necessary training as often as required by the law to stay updated with how hazardous materials are shipped to ensure safety and compliance.

At Hazmat University, we offer industry-leading online training programs for hazmat employees, shippers, contractors, and other parties that are involved in the storage, handling, and transportation of hazardous materials. We offer training programs that specifically focus on a particular mode of shipping (ground, air, or ocean) as well as multimodal programs that focus on all modes of hazmat shipping.

Our training programs are designed to educate you on the different types of hazardous materials, the risks they pose, the safety measures to be taken while handling the materials, the regulatory requirements for the materials, materials that are exempt from federal regulations, or benefit from exceptions, and many more.

We review, refresh, and update our course material on a regular basis to make sure our programs are based on the latest regulations and compliance requirements at any given point. We have included a wide range of interactive quizzes and exercises in our training programs to make sure they are not only informative but interactive as well.

Hazmat University’s one-of-a-kind Dynamic Learning Environment makes the learning process more experiential, engaging and enriching for the students. It features slideshows with voice recording, conversational online video training, and self-guided knowledge, among a host of other innovations to make learning hazmat practices a breeze.

No matter where you are, our online programs are available to you. We have a dedicated customer support team that is available to answer your questions on a timely basis. You can sign up, complete it at your own pace, and get certified – without having to step out of the comfort of your workplace or even home.

To find out more about Hazmat University’s online training programs, visit our website or call us today at 844-864-1762 (toll-free) or 609-493-4971. You can also contact us online by filling out this form


Be Confident. Be Competent. Be Compliant.