When hazardous materials, or hazmat, make the news, it is usually because of a large spill or other dangerous condition that requires emergency response and clean up. But the fact is hazardous materials travel through the state every day with little or no fanfare--and that's because of companies that make sure that these goods are transported safely and securely.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) classifies hazardous materials into nine different hazard classes. These include explosives; gasses; flammable and combustible liquids; flammable solids (such as substances liable to spontaneous combustion and which, on contact with water, emit flammable gases); oxidizing substances and organic peroxides; toxic substances and infectious substances; radioactive materials; corrosive substances; and miscellaneous dangerous goods/hazardous materials and articles.
Transporters of these materials must meet specific agency requirements, whether moving them by highway, rail, vessel, or air. Training is also required to work with hazmat, with courses offered in two specific areas; hazardous materials transportation and hazardous waste and emergency response.
"Hazardous materials transportation includes learning the proper packaging, handling, and marking/labeling/placarding of the materials and equipment, as well as the proper way to fill out paperwork and security procedures," explains Tyler Bones, training director for the Lynden Training Center and director of HSSE for Alaska West Express. "OSHA and EPA have very specific regulatory requirements concerning the levels of training required for hazardous waste and emergency response, which vary from the very basic to the hazardous materials technicians who don protective clothing and stop the release at the source."
Transporting Hazardous Materials
According to Bones, DOT requires that all transporters of hazardous materials meet regulatory requirements. For example, highway transportation requires a transporter to receive a hazardous materials registration prior to hauling any hazardous materials.
"The permit process asks for very specific information about the types of hazardous materials that will be transported, the equipment that will be used, and insurance coverages, and all employees involved in the transportation of the hazardous materials must have received the proper training," Bones says, adding that DOT requires additional permits for highly hazardous materials.
Because much of Alaska isn't on the road system, many hazmat materials need to be flown to their final destinations...