Do You Need a Special Permit to Package Hazardous Materials?

Package Hazardous Materials

More than 500,000 hazardous material shipments take place across the United States every day according to some accounts. Thousands of different flammable, corrosive and otherwise harmful chemicals make their way from one site to the next via road, rail, and other means. Until the 1970s, these shipments were largely unregulated, an oversight resulting in numerous injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Accidents involving these materials also brought about widespread destruction of property and damage to the environment.

Mitigating the Problem

Though guidelines were in place for dealing with potentially dangerous substances, they lacked cohesion and enforcement. Then, in 1975, the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act was signed into law by President Gerald Ford to bring structure and order to the industry. Together with a number of other regulations, this act covers procedures and policies regarding dangerous substances, material and labeling standards, requirements for packaging hazardous materials and operational statutes. Later on, in 1990, updates were made to those regulations via the Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act of 1990.

Enforcing the Matter

From all this, the Federal Hazardous Materials Safety Permit Program was created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. As of January 1, 2005, its regulations apply to motor carriers transporting specific types and amounts of hazardous materials. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration further supports these standards by creating and enforcing regulations as they apply to dangerous substances.

Discussing Special Permits

Based on information from the FMCSA, those who handle, ship, transport and distribute materials deemed hazardous are required to have special permits as well as additional documentation. In order to use a special permit, an authorization letter must be acquired along with the paperwork detailing the permit itself. Shipping papers must accompany any materials requiring an HMSP as they change hands between shippers and carriers, carriers and recipients and others involved in their handling or distribution.

Those who develop hazardous materials and have them packaged are accountable for determining which packaging group their products are classified under and explaining which types of dangers their materials may present to others in the supply chain. These determinations are made based on a long list of factors set forth by the United Nations and various other organizations. Handlers are also responsible for acquiring the proper permits for such products.

Companies dealing with dangerous substances are also liable for finding suitable packaging for their products. Packaging requirements are determined by the types of products being packaged and shipped. Any packages used in their storage and transport must be able to withstand the vapor pressure, emissions, corrosive nature and other dangers presented by the materials in question. Shippers are also tasked with ensuring the packaging they choose is authorized for use with their products and in compliance with all standards currently in place.

Packages must meet requirements for being leak-proof, capable of withstanding certain amounts of pressure and weight, resistant to vibration and impact and various other aspects in order to be authorized for hazardous materials. Packaging manufacturers must ensure their products are compliant with the regulations applying to the types of materials being packaged. They’re also accountable for marking their packaging solutions appropriately. Further details on the latest regulations are available from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Bottom Line

Though special permits aren’t needed for companies creating packages for hazardous materials, they are required for those developing, packaging, shipping and transporting potentially dangerous substances. Packaging designers and manufacturers must ensure their products are in compliance with all regulations applying to the types of materials for which their products are designed. Shippers are responsible for confirming the authorization of their packaging solutions for storing, shipping and distribution.