By Michael Balda

Does your organization ship materials regulated by the Department of Transportation? Did you know that all hazardous wastes are regulated as hazardous materials? If so, it is critical that you ensure each shipment meets the specifications for drum closures. This would apply whether you are shipping virgin or waste materials, in new or reconditioned drums. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in significant fines.

As recently as 2017, Marc Nichols, Acting Director of Field Services, Eastern Region, of DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) explained to a gathering of hazardous materials professionals the importance of attention to details in the US-DOT Closure Instruction requirement (49 CFR 173.22 and 173.24).

One example of how details can trip up manufacturers and shippers is that during facility inspections DOT inspectors examine the scheduled calibration of torque tools used to close the drums. Another critical aspect is that closure Instructions aren’t generic; they’re specific to each drum manufacturer, and in some cases, to a particular model of drum. Therefore, packaging from different manufacturers, even if similar, must be closed in accordance with the Closure/Closing Instructions from each specific manufacturer.

Three types of regulatory liability might come into play: (1) whether you have kept the instructions, (2) whether you have trained your people to follow them and in fact they are following them, and (3) whether you have equipped your people with the tools to carry out those instructions. Helpful guidance on civil penalty exposure, at least from the packaging side of DOT, is provided in Appendix A to 49 CFR Part 107. Here are listed the "frequently cited violations," including failure to follow closure instructions and the standard penalty amounts. On a relative scale, the closure violation alone is not enormously expensive, but when combined with training violations, record-keeping violations, etc., the total penalty amount may increase. Of course, any one of these violations can be used in a future case to increase penalties by approximately 25%.

Ideally, someone in your company receiving the instructions will know what they are and will forward them to the supervisors of closing operations. To the extent closure is done manually, your hazmat employees' function-specific training ought to include following these instructions. Your audit system should confirm that the instructions are on hand and are being used.

As a Turnkey Compliance Solutions client, your Environmental, Health and Safety Specialist will work with you to ensure that you have this covered as part of your compliance program.

If you have any questions, please contact your specialist, or contact me directly at mike@turnkeycompliancesolutions.com.