A hazardous material is a substance that may present risks for humans, animals, property, and/or the environment. It’s caused by:
Every day, a wide variety of dangerous goods are transported throughout the world. The majority of them are intended for industrial use. These goods can be transported in liquid form (e.g. chlorine, propane, soda...) or solid form (e.g. explosives, ammonium nitrate...). These substances often have a higher concentration and aggressiveness than those used for domestic purposes.
The definition of hazmat does not only concern highly toxic, explosive or polluting products--it also concerns all products that you regularly need such as:
In the event of an incident, these items may present real risks to people or the environment. Among the main hazardous materials we can mention:
Hazmat is only referred to when it is transported on public roads. Those materials that are transported within a company's fenced enclosure are not subject to hazardous materials regulations. All transport of hazmat must be supported by a load declaration transport document.
Hazardous materials are objects, solutions, mixtures, preparations, and waste that create a risk to:
Each hazardous material is subject to one or more specific types of risk. They are listed in the form of hazard classes and have a UN number. The latter is defined by the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. These UN numbers are valid worldwide.
The transport of hazmat is subject to strict safety regulations. They are specific to each mode of transport which--among other things--set out the conditions for:
Radioactive substances are governed by extra specific provisions. These rules specify:
The hazardous items are also subject to appropriate packaging and labelling. These contain the hazard classes and pictograms detailed in the regulations. These regulations inform the public of the potential danger represented by the transported material. Some dangerous substances or commodities cannot be transported together. Hence the importance of the information indicated. Packages must be properly secured and handled with care to prevent any damage.
Each company whose activity involves the transport of dangerous goods by road, rail or inland waterway is obliged to appoint one or more safety advisers. These safety advisers hold a training certificate attesting to their professional qualification. Their role is to facilitate the performance of transport activities or the loading and unloading of hazmat. It's done in compliance with the applicable local and national regulations. Companies which have to appoint a safety adviser are required to communicate the identity of the safety adviser--especially if requested to do so by the relevant institution.
Hazmat is divided into several classes. These classes characterize the main risks likely to emanate from a hazardous material. There are also sub-classes that describe the secondary risks. These are:
The requirements and regulations to be applied when handling hazmat depend on the assignment of these items and substances to:
The latter is better known as the UN number. These designations are combined with other data such as the weight and the packing unit. Together, they make it possible to correctly define all behavior, requirements and demands that are important for transport.
It’s the primary shipper who decides whether the goods to be transported are hazardous. This shipper also decides which class should be assigned to the goods. He knows the merchandise to be transported and the substances it contains. He is in the best position to classify it accordingly.
If the manufacturer of the waste and the consignor are not the same person, the manufacturer is required to provide the consignor with the necessary information. The consignor is obliged to pass on the necessary information to all the other parties involved in the transport operation. Certain dangerous substances may only be transported if they have received an express transport authorization mentioning their name.
The DGR establishes a list of substances or objects that are assimilated to a dangerous substance--regardless of their properties. These are:
Some hazardous materials were already covered by regulations, policies or directives before the coming into force of the DGR. This means that in cases where the existing framework had proven adequate, these materials were excluded from the concept of hazmat. These are:
Hazardous materials are transported all over the world by various means of transport. Therefore, the number of regulations to be complied with is significant. There are comprehensive national and international laws, directives, regulations and agreements concerning hazmat.
These texts precisely describe the requirements on the:
They also define the organizational measures, obligations and responsibilities in the transport of hazardous materials.
For historical reasons, the requirements are described separately for all means of transport:
In the past, these different requirements have been increasingly harmonized. They are constantly being adapted to new requirements and data, as is the knowledge gained from the analysis of incidents involving hazmat.
A material is classified as hazardous when it’s likely to cause serious consequences for people, property and/or the environment. This is based on its physical and/or chemical properties--or by the nature of the reactions it may cause.
There are nine categories of risk:
Some items present only one risk, while others combine several risks. This is the case--for example--with hydrocyanic acid. It's toxic, flammable and corrosive all at once.
In total, so-called dangerous goods refer to approximately 3,000 UN numbers. Those are corresponding to identified substances or generic categories.
Dangerous materials don't only concern toxic or radioactive products, but also products of daily use. Accidents involving hazardous materials can have very serious consequences for humans and the environment. For this reason, these products are subject to rigorous classification.
Four types of effects may be associated with the hazmat risk:
Once the hazardous materials have arrived at their final destination, it’s necessary to comply with safety regulations in order to store them in a safe and controlled manner.