Hazardous materials training

- the essential approach for the industry

Published:  01 September, 2006

It was fortunate that no-one died when a similar accident happened to an American Trans Air DC-10 on the ground in Chicago in 1986, but the fact is that this hazmat lesson clearly wasn’t learned.

Ten years later, oxygen generators fuelled the fire that led to the ValuJet Flight 592 crash into the Florida Everglades on May 1996, focusing US attention briefly on the transportation of hazardous materials by air.
The aftermath of the ValuJet crash galvanised the US-based FA into a more rigorous campaign of inspection, encouraging the body to employ more than five times the staff it had before ValuJet 592. Since then the FA has collected in excess of US$20 million in fines.
Many of the hazards involved with aircraft come from luggage or cargo that is not identified or handled as ‘dangerous’. For example, the complete destruction of a FedEx DC-10 in 1996 by a fire in one of its cargo containers was never entirely explained by the NTSB, but was probably caused by flammable liquids in a lab machine that was not identified as hazardous freight.
Comments Jim Powell of The Transportation Development Group, a US-based logistics and hazardous materials training and consulting company: “Since September 11th, 2001, hazmat enforcement has been at an unprecedented level in the US.
“Operation Hazstrike is a codename for a concentrated effort by the FAA to inspect carriers, freight forwarders and their shippers at selected airports around the country for breaches in hazardous materials legislation.
“The FAA special agents visit air carriers offices and inspect their ‘90 day file’ which is a record of all hazardous shipments sent by air within the last three months. They can also inspect any shipments on hand at that time,” he says.
“They then notify the freight forwarder, shipper and others involved in the shipment and give them 30 days to produce training records proving compliance with the training requirements of 49 CFR. If, during the inspection they have uncovered a probable violation, they will notify the responsible persons at that time through a ‘Notice of Probable Violation’.
“One common cause of a hazmat violation is a company which uses untrained personnel in shipping hazmat. Often, the company has only one or two trained employees and if they call in sick, they may end up using someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.”
The need for training
The fact is that every airport, vessel operator and industrial facility has to develop plans and standard operating procedures for safely handling hazmat products and any associated incidents which may arise.  All first responders must be trained to meet the challenges and risks involved.
In Cleveland, a county in the UK’s North-East, a protocol has been agreed for delivering warnings and advice quickly and accurately when there is an emergency at one of the area’s 40 chemical plants. Emergency planners and the industry itself have developed a public interest relationship with BBC Radio Cleveland that triggers the use of pre-agreed on-air messages.
Denis Hampson, Cleveland’s Emergency Planning Officer, told IFJ: “The message behind this guidance could not be clearer: don’t live with the illusion that emergency preparedness is simply the application of common sense to crisis scenarios. It demands some complex, detailed planning to establish effective and efficient systems and protocols which will work when they are needed. It is never too soon to begin.”
Large manufacturing and storage facilities present a particular focus for first responders who must be knowledgeable about  them and prepared to take actions necessary to protect people, property and the environment.
Today’s hazmat training involves:
* Familiarising team members with properties & types of hazardous materials;
* Teaching pre-incident planning, identification and incident control;
* Educating personnel on storing and transporting hazardous materials;
* Effective and safe handling of hazardous materials;
* Teaching defensive actions for personnel to take in HazMat emergencies;
* Familiarising responders with all aspect of PPE and chemical emergency equipment, including decontamination.
Hazmat incidents can only be effectively controlled when the responders involved have enough data to make informed decisions. They must be trained to make a size-up of all materials which may be hazardous. Only by positively identifying the contents of road/rail vehicles, containers and structures can team members proceed safely.
Tailoring task-specific training
“A number of resources can be used to identify the materials and its hazards accurately - and to specify suitable protective measures. Primarily, the first responder at a chemical emergency must determine the immediate concern and the primary objective - one immediate concern is the specific tasks that are safety-oriented,” reports Hazmat trainer John Jeffries.
Evacuating people from the area and isolating the incident are two goal-oriented tasks which will bring the incident to a close. Immediate concern tasks the responders should be trained to carry out include:
• Area isolation;
• Keeping people away, evacuating those in the risk areas or sheltering those who cannot be removed;
• Retaining and diking the spill/release for collection;
• Diverting runoff water and liquid contaminants;
• Ensuring there are no ignition sources within the immediate area;
• Cooling all exposed steelwork, pipes and tank structures subjected to flame impingement;
• Developing an overall plan of control and implementing procedures.
“Training strategies should focus on three elements: defensive; offensive and non-intervention,” comments Jeffries. “A defensive strategy involves procedures to confined the hazard to a particular location; an offensive strategy involves carrying out actions designed to control the incident; and a non-intervention strategy involves allowing the incident to run its course on its own.”
The standard operating procedures that trainee responders will be expected to perform include:
• Recognising the presence of hazardous materials;
• Calling for appropriate help to mitigate the release/spill;
• Cordoning off the affected area and surveying the incident from a safe distance;
• Determining the appropriate actions to be taken.
Hazmat specialist Richard Ellis tells IFJ: “Strategies like these cannot evolve properly unless the first responders have done their planning before arrival on scene. Hazmat incidents typically leave you little time to react - with the additional potential lurking in the background of an explosion or a containment failure or a risky exposure to the chemicals involved. The best approach is always to prepare for the worst. That way you can never be disappointed.”

  • Operation Florian

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