In the course of a dangerous good shipment, a shipper’s declaration is created and needs to be stored as it contains information used to protect the safety of individuals, businesses and the environment. This shipping paper must be maintained for a given period of time depending on the method of shipment.
There are also similar record retention requirements for dangerous good training certification, which can vary depending on the regulatory agency. For many organisations record-keeping can be a complicated task because it involves ensuring that the necessary documentation is preserved and that records that are no longer valuable are disposed of when appropriate. This can be even more complex for companies who engage in multimodal transport.
The US Department of Transportation (DOT), International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) each has its own hazmat regulations the contain unique record retention requirements. These all establish the need for effective records management, provide for the authority to dispose of these records, and establish a structure for records management based on the specific activity (i.e. shipping declarations, training certification, etc). While the regulations are not entirely consistent, they generally encompass all information materials, regardless of format, created or received in the course of a dangerous good shipment.
International shipper’s declaration
IATA’s Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) specify in subsection 1.3.4 that at least one copy of the shipper’s declaration form and any other documents relevant to consignment for each shipment should be retained for at least three months, or longer as required by the national authorities involved in transporting the dangerous goods shipments by air transport. If documents are kept electronically, they should be able to be printed.
The International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code specifies in subsection 5.4.6 that the consignor and the carrier must ensure that a copy of the dangerous goods transport document and additional information and documentation should be retained for a minimum period of three months. When documents are kept electronically, the consignor and the carrier should be able to print them.
US shipping papers
In the US, the requirements for shipping paper retention are outlined in §172.200 of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR). Shipping papers must be retained for two years after the material is accepted by the initial carrier. The hazmat shipping paper can be retained as a paper copy or an electronic image of the shipping paper. The date of acceptance by the carrier must be included on the shipping paper copy or electronic image. Each hazmat employee who is responsible for providing shipper’s declaration forms or shipping papers must retain a copy as required in §172.200(a) or an electronic image of each declaration form. These declaration forms must be accessible on request by an appropriate authority at a reasonable time and location.
DOT authorises shippers and carriers to use international regulations for domestic shipments when all or part of the transport will be by aircraft or vessel. This is extremely beneficial as air and vessel operators may require that shippers follow international standards for domestic shipments and will often refuse shipments that are not prepared according to the appropriate regulatory code.
It is important to note, that while it is acceptable to use the IATA DGR or IMDG Code for air or vessel shipments, there are additional DOT requirements that must be met as specified in 49 CFR §171.23-171.25. For example, if a shipment is performed by air, all declarations of dangerous goods paperwork must be retained for a period of two years (§172.201(e)) from the date listed on the air waybill on the declaration form. Additional requirements include, but are not limited to, emergency response information, training standards and registration requirements.
Inspectors look at both the consistency and reliability of shipping paper retention. Is there any inaccuracy in the data captured or missing information or pages? Are there inconsistencies between the actual shipment and the content of the shipping paper? If documents are stored electronically are they available to the inspector on demand?
To ensure that companies are in compliance with the requirements all personnel signing both shipping papers and manifests must be been trained in all appropriate hazmat modules, and training records and materials need to be available and on file. Also, all shipping papers and manifests must be maintained in accordance with 49 CFR requirements as well as any other applicable regulations that may apply during the course of the shipment. Personnel signing such documentation, especially when prepared by a third party (such as a contractor), should always review the documentation and ensure it matches any associated invoices, bills of lading and packages (marking, labels, and shipping descriptions).
DOT allows hazardous materials to be shipped under the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations for any shipments traveling by air, provided the shipment complies with the additional DOT requirements (49 CFR §§171.22, 171.23, and 171.24) and the shipper complies with all administrative rules in 49 CFR.
DOT allows hazardous materials to be shipped under the IMDG Code for any shipments by vessel provided the shipment complies with the requirements (49 CFR §§171.22, 171.23, 171.25) and the shipper complies with all administrative rules in 49 CFR.
US training requirements and document retention
Among its many programmes, DOT is responsible for ensuring the safe, secure and environmentally friendly transportation of hazardous material in commerce. Regulations implementing this mandate are promulgated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and codified in 49 CFR Subtitle B Chapter I. Per 49 CFR Part 172 Subpart H—Training, all “hazardous materials employees” must receive training on general safety and security issues, as well as “function-specific” training on those regulations that pertain to their assigned job tasks. Some employees may require additional training on chemical safety or facility security.
A “hazardous materials employee” is any person who, in the course of their employment as defined in 49 CFR §171.8, directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety, including but not limited to those who:
- design, manufacture, test, inspect, maintain, recondition or repair hazmat packaging;
- operate a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials;
- load, unload or handle hazardous materials;
- prepare hazardous materials for transportation;
- are responsible for the safety of transporting hazardous material; or
- oversee employees who perform any of these tasks.
DOT requires training for all hazmat employees in the US. Employees must also be trained on all aspects of transporting hazardous materials related to their job function In addition to meeting the DOT training standard, if an employer is shipping by other modes of transport such as air or vessel, their hazmat employees must also be trained on the IATA and/or IMDG rules 'to the extent such training addresses functions authorized by 49 CFR Part 171 Subpart C'. For instance, if part or all of a shipment is moved by air or vessel, employees must be in compliance and trained on applicable sections of 49 CFR as well as the IATA DGR and/or IMDG Code.
International training requirements
IATA training is required for all persons who transport dangerous goods according to Chapter 1.5 of the IATA DGR. The IATA training rules officially are recommendatory for all but aircraft operator employees. However, most air carriers require compliance with the IATA DGR as a condition of accepting a shipment.
18.104.22.168. - The recurrency period for training is still 24 months, but there is now a provision for a three-month ‘window’ allowing for recurrent training conducted within the final three months of the 24-month period to be considered completed on the expiry date of the 24-month period.
1.5.3. - This section is now designated as Training Curricula – “No Carry Operators”. Operators that have a policy of not carrying dangerous goods must still provide dangerous goods training to all applicable employees. Table 1.5B further designates the type(s) of training that different employee positions must receive.
22.214.171.124. - Training records must be retained for 36 months, and must be made available upon request of the appropriate national authority.
IMO training is required for all persons who transport dangerous goods according to Chapter 1.3 of the IMDG Code. The IMDG training rules are recommendatory for shore-based personnel. However, vessel carriers often require compliance with them as a condition of them accepting a shipment.
Anyone preparing hazardous materials for transportation according to the IATA or IMDG rules should note that there are still many DOT requirements in 49 CFR that shipments must meet, as well as administrative and operational requirements that shippers must comply with, such as training and cargo security rules. At a minimum, there must be training in these additional requirements.
Section 126.96.36.199 - IMDG training is now mandatory for shore-side staff involved with dangerous goods. Shore-side staff include shippers, forwarders, shipping line booking staff, agents, container consolidators and packers. Persons who have not yet received training may only operate under the direct supervision of a trained person. This requirement may be audited by the competent authority to ensure that staff receive training commensurate with their role and responsibilities.
Common mistakes that have the potential to lead to violations and fines include the lack of a written training plan, inadequate information and training, inconsistent communication and lack of follow up. In order to maintain compliance with the regulations it is important for organisations to continue to identify, train, test and certify all hazmat employees and confirm that records of this training are available.
Taking the following steps can help to ensure that employees receive training for regulatory/process changes that pertain to the shipment of hazardous materials:
- Implement a training plan
- Reinforce safety culture
- Identify a training coordinator/establish regulatory watch group
- Combine several methods of delivery
- Monitor training performance.