Understanding Key Hazmat Definitions

hazmat definitions

As we recently explained, hazmat employees need to know the technical terms used in hazmat regulations. This may sound simple enough but the sections containing these hazmat terms and definitions can be quite lengthy. Just look at 49 CFR §171.8, “Definitions and Abbreviations.” This section contains definitions for hundreds of hazmat terms. Some terms have more than one definition. Some terms are commonly used but have very precise meanings in the field of hazardous materials transport.

In light of this, we decided to compile some of the most important terms in one article, for your reference. This is all part of our efforts to make hazmat compliance more achievable for more people. Here is some information regarding key hazmat definitions.

Commonly Used Hazmat Terms

Some terms are used more often than others in the world of hazmat transport. Here is a selection of terms you will need to know while performing the functions of classification, identification, packing, marking, labeling, and documentation.

  • Hazardous material: “a substance or material … capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce.” and those who transport…..
  • Transport/Transportation: “the movement of property and loading, unloading, or storage incidental to that movement.” Your role is but one part of that process, therefore, you might be the person…
  • N.O.S.: “not otherwise specified.”
  • Packing group: “a grouping according to the degree of danger presented by hazardous materials.” There are three packing groups:  packing Group I is the most dangerous, II is medium danger, and III is low danger.
  • Combination packaging: “a combination of packaging, for transport purposes, consisting of one or more inner packagings secured in a non-bulk outer packaging.” Not to be confused with …
  • Composite packaging: “a packaging consisting of an outer packaging and an inner receptacle, so constructed that the inner receptacle and the outer packaging form [and remain] an integral packaging.” Knowing the different types of packaging is essential for properly securing hazardous materials. On that note …
  • Limited quantity: “the maximum amount of a hazardous material for which there is a specific labeling or packaging exception.”
  • Marking: “a descriptive name, identification number, instructions, cautions, weight, specification, or UN marks, or combinations thereof.” The definition also noted that they are “required by this subchapter on outer packagings of hazardous materials.”
  • Package: “a packaging plus its contents.” While we are on the subject …
  • Packaging: “a receptacle and any other components or materials necessary for the receptacle to perform its containment function in conformance with the minimum packing requirements of this subchapter.” Distinctions like this are worth noting. And one that is truly important and part of the communication requirements…
  • Shipping paper: means a shipping order, bill of lading, manifest, or other shipping document serving a similar purpose and prepared in accordance with subpart C of part 172 of 49 CFR.

Hazmat-Specific Definitions for Common Words

Hazmat terminology does not consist entirely of jargon. It also includes plenty of words that people outside of the industry use every day. When used within this industry, however, they have specific definitions that should not be confused with more popular ones. Here are a few examples:

  • Barge: “a non-self-propelled vessel.” Note that it is not simply a synonym for a boat.
  • Closure: “a device which closes an opening in a receptacle.” This, as opposed to the act of closing or the feeling of resolution.
  • Cylinder: “a pressure vessel designed for pressures higher than 40 psi and having a circular cross-section.” In hazmat, there is more to a cylinder than its shape.
  • Mode: “any of the following transportation methods: rail, highway, air, or water.” Effectively, “mode” is short for “mode of transportation.”
  • Navigable waters: “waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” It does not simply refer to any waters that can be successfully traversed. After all, these are government regulations.
  • Operator: “a person who controls the use of an aircraft, vessel, or vehicle.” The term “operator” can have many meanings, but in hazmat terms and definitions, this is the only meaning.
  • Person: this definition is surprisingly broad and too lengthy to quote here in its entirety. Put simply, it means any entity involved in hazmat transport. Examples of entities include “an individual, corporation, company, association, firm, partnership, society, joint-stock company; or a government, Indian Tribe, or authority of a government or Tribe.”

Undergo Online Hazmat Training Today

This selection represents just a fraction of all the hazmat terms and definitions that hazmat employees must know for their work. To learn even more, feel free to try out Hazmat University’s online hazmat training programs today. They are designed to teach new and experienced employees the requirements they need to know for hazmat compliance. You can even get a 20 percent discount on any of our courses at checkout if you use the promo code “COMPLIANCE” before September 30, 2019.