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February 2010 Newsletter

Upcoming Dangerous Goods Training Dates at JFK and on the web (All Feature Lithium Batteries)

  • Dangerous Goods by Ocean – Recurrent Training – February 9, 2010 (Tuesday)
  • Dangerous Goods by Air – Initial Training – February 23-24-25, 2010 (Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday)
  • Dangerous Goods by Air – Recurrent Training – March 2, 2010 (Tuesday)
  • Dangerous Goods by Ocean – Initial Training – March 23-24-25, 2010 (Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday)
  • On Line Domestic Hazmat Training Program for the Cosmetics Industry - available 24/7 – A-V Program.

The online training features domestic U.S. consumer commodities and Special Provision 9275. The other programs cover all types of dangerous goods with emphasis on lithium batteries.

Our complete 2010 training schedule is posted on this website.

Check your current training records - if you are close to the expiration date make your reservations now for any of our classes throughout the year. We always remind attendees a few days prior to the class.

From special reports that we receive daily….

Unsafe cell phone use
January 22, Los Angeles Times – (California) NTSB blames engineer for 2008 Metrolink crash, urges railroads to install cameras to monitor train crews. Federal safety officials called for railroads to install cameras and voice recorders in every locomotive cab in the nation as they publicly warned Thursday that cell phone texting by engineers and conductors was a growing and lethal danger. The call came as members of the National Transportation Safety Board publicly concluded their investigation into the deadly collision of a commuter train and a freight train in Chatsworth in 2008 — a crash they blamed on a Metrolink engineer who passed a stop signal as he sent a message from his phone. The engineer’s prolific text messaging was “egregious,” the NTSB chairwoman said, citing records of his phone use. “This was an accident waiting to happen.” In general, text messaging by train crews “is becoming more widespread,” the chairwoman told reporters after the board’s public session in Washington ended its 16-month Chatsworth inquiry. “I think we have to nip this in the bud right now.” The collision, which left 25 dead and 135 injured, could have been prevented by an automatic braking system that NTSB regulators had long recommended, board members noted after the daylong meeting. The Chatsworth crash prompted Congress to pass a bill requiring railroads to install such systems within six years. Source: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-metrolink22-2010jan22,0,5862623.story

January 25, Journal of Commerce – (National) NTSB wants recorders in locomotives. The National Transportation Safety Board wants the federal government to “require audio and image recorders in the cabs of all locomotives,” after determining that a commuter train operator distracted by text messaging was at fault in a deadly 2008 crash. The safety agency only makes recommendations and cannot impose them, but its findings often prompt other agencies or Congress to order changes in industry behavior or equipment. It said while the commuter rail line already banned its locomotive engineers from using cell phones or other wireless devices while operating a train, “the privacy afforded by the locomotive cab, once the train leaves a station, makes it difficult for violations of operating rules to be discovered through ordinary management supervision or efficiency testing.” Railroads have objected that this is an unfunded mandate from Congress that will cost freight and passenger rail systems billions of dollars to install. PTC is required for passenger railroads, freight carriers that share tracks with passenger trains and freight lines hauling the types of hazardous chemicals that can create poison clouds if released. Source: http://www.joc.com/node/416211
We should be applying the same cautions to cell phone use when walking on the street, driving a vehicle, riding a bicycle, or involved in any activity that needs your full attention.

Footprints –
In our house we have a plaque with a touching poem dealing with “Footprints in the Sand” as a religious theme. Footprints in the sand have had stunning effects in TV commercials dealing with tropical island vacations. Footprints have played prominent roles in movie plots. And footprints at crime scenes have played a role in solving violent crimes. But, footprints on a box containing dangerous goods? They tell a story too. It means the trucker or warehouse worker did not provide the diligent care required in handling dangerous goods.

Lithium Batteries

If you don’t ship lithium batteries you’re probably sick of reading about them but they are a major concern within the safety and regulatory enforcement communities.

Last month we gave you a link to the U.S. D.O.T. proposed new rule for lithium batteries – DOT/PHMSA HM-224F. We originally linked you to an 85 page draft from DOT/PHMSA but if you clicked on that link a few days after the newsletter showed up on our website the Federal Register version appeared. At 23 pages it may have been a little easier to comprehend and certainly more economical to print.

We will be forwarding a comment to PHMSA a little later this month but one of the items that bothers us is the continuation of some exceptions mostly dealing with ocean and U.S. highway shipments.

We still feel strongly that all lithium batteries should be fully regulated. Due to IMO exceptions and U.S. Highway relaxations tons of lithium batteries are transported throughout the U.S. without the carriers’ handling personnel ever being aware of the dangers.

 During 2009 we handled over 600 e-mail inquiries concerning lithium batteries. In addition to those inquiries we received an average of about 3 faxed MSDS’s a day asking if the batteries were regulated. In 2008 and 2009 we have also aggressively trained 1820 shipper, forwarder and carrier personnel on the regulations for shipping lithium batteries.

Prior to this newsletter we have discussed lithium batteries in 27 newsletters. The DOT/PHMSA, FAA, ICAO, IATA, The National Safety Transportation Board, individual carriers, the travel industry and the lithium battery trade groups have all disseminated countless advisories and instructions yet confusion and non-compliance is still a lot higher than our regulators realize.

We see some progress in the proposed rule change. But not much!

In our opinion the simplest solution would be to fully regulate all lithium batteries in all modes with no exceptions. That means someone has to put a label on a box and sign a piece a paper. A paper trail would exist. And no one would be confused by very small batteries vs small batteries vs medium batteries vs large batteries.

But the airlines would have to cooperate too. Dangerous Goods fees are extraordinarily high. Most airlines designate two or three employees to check in hazmat shipments. These are usually high seniority employees making top pay. We have been there – and done that. And there is no way that the carrier can justify hazmat fees of $100-150 (or even higher) per shipment. And if the carrier subcontracts the handling, the carrier’s expenses drop by 50% or more. So what is the justification for such high dangerous goods fees?

In all of our training programs, telephone conversations, e-mails, and faxes the two words shippers and a lot of freight forwarders and truckers want to hear is “not regulated” or “not restricted.” If they hear those two little words they immediately tune out the instructor or advisor and feel that packing, the really first line of safety, is no longer an issue. We’ve had more than a few inquiries based upon those words, “not regulated”, suggesting that the batteries can be shipped safely in envelopes. No, you can’t substitute envelopes for boxes or drums or jerricans.

In fact, DOT/PHMSA in the final rule HM-231, which amends numerous packaging requirements, has defined “strong outer packaging” extensively to mean “sturdy, durable, and constructed so that it will retain its contents under normal conditions of transportation, including rough handling.” We would place strong emphasis on “rough handling” since many people who do not actually handle or transport cargo must think that their package is wrapped in a baby blanket and really handled gently with loving care. In freight handling, loving care means that the hazmat employee should not leave his footprint on the box. In January 2003 we wrote:

Lithium Battery Recall

January 12, Consumer Affairs – (International) AT&T, Motorola, Qwest, V-Tech telephone batteries recalled. Lenmar Enterprises is recalling about 1,400 rechargeable batteries used in wireless phones. The batteries can overheat, posing a fire and burn hazard to consumers. The firm has received six reports of batteries overheating, resulting in deformation of phones. No injuries have been reported. The recall involves the rechargeable batteries with the model number CB0217 2.4 volt 1500 mAh NiMH. Only batteries with date code 0809 are affected by this recall. The date code can be found on the back of the battery. The batteries were sold to electrical product distributors and retailers nationwide and at Lenmar.com from July 2009 through August 2009 for about $18. They were made in China. Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled batteries and contact Lenmar to receive a free replacement. Source: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/recalls04/2010/lenmar.html


A year ago we advised readers to thoroughly examine MSDS information. If your manufacturer, supplier or shipper is still using the older versions of the MSDS the form probably does not address Transportation Regulations. Most carriers rely on this form in order to practice “due diligence” to verify whether a chemical is hazardous or not, and emergency responders need the form in case of an accident or spill. Please make sure you are using a current version – regulations change from year to year and emergency response is constantly being refined based upon the properties of the chemical or article that you may be shipping. Look for the transportation section to verify whether it is hazardous or not. We will keep reminding you from time to time.

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