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Posts Tagged ‘dangerous goods containment’

The History of Hazmat and Dangerous Goods Packaging

May 3rd, 2018 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: DOT/UN, HazMat

If you work in the packaging and transportation industries, there’s a good chance that you come across dangerous goods regularly. If you do, then you also come across the term ‘hazmat’. Now, it’s not hard to understand that the two are connected, but what are those connections exactly? What does hazmat have to do with dangerous goods packaging, and just who establishes the rules behind it all?

First, a quick definition. In the United States, the official term for dangerous goods is hazardous materials, which leads to the portmanteau hazmat. Pretty logical, but also easy to take for granted if it’s just another term in the day-to-day sea of acronyms and abbreviations.

Dangerous goods, and in turn hazmat, is a broad umbrella term that encompasses materials that are radioactive, flammable, explosive, corrosive, oxidizing, asphyxiating, biohazardous, toxic, pathogenic, or allergenic. Also included are physical conditions such as compressed gases and liquids or hot materials, and all goods containing such materials or chemicals, or that may have other characteristics that render them hazardous in specific circumstances.

Oversimplified: anything that can hurt a human.

 

Hazmat Regulation in The United States

With such an intimidating list of dangers under its purview, you would think that protection from dangerous goods has been a high priority for our government as long as possible. But, the DOT, EPA and OSHA, three of the most crucial agencies for regulating the safe handling of hazardous materials in the U.S. weren’t even formed until the late 1960s and 1970s.

Then, it was only in 2004 that the Department of Transportation created the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which is the agency directly in charge of developing and enforcing regulations in relation to hazmat transportation. Previously, PHMSA’s hazmat and pipeline safety programs were housed within the Transportation Department’s Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA).

Hazmat Regulation Abroad

Regulators at the global level were a little faster to act. The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)’s publication of the first version of The UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods occurred in 1956. While it isn’t obligatory or legally binding on individual countries, this is the guiding document when it comes the establishing procedures regarding hazmat shipping. For example, all Skolnik barrels that bear a UN certification have been produced to the standards established by the most current version of these recommendations.   

The other crucial contribution to hazmat handling that the UN provides is the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, developed in 1992. This is the set of rules that standardized the labeling of hazmat across borders, and is why we use the color coded diamond-shaped pictograms to designate which hazards are in what package.

Further Hazmat Regulatory Bodies

Along with these major organizations, there are plenty of smaller, more specific groups that have their eyes set on specific topics, such as the International Air Transport Association, the International Maritime Organization and the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail. These are just some of the groups who, as each name suggests, focus on their individual priorities and establish rules and regulations that are adopted, inspire and influence how we handle hazmat here in the states and abroad.


Whether you interact with dangerous goods daily or once in a blue moon, it’s important to not only be able to handle the immediate task of safely storing and transporting these goods, but to know where they fit in larger scheme. If you don’t know why you’re labeling a barrel as hazardous, then it’s easy to make a mistake, and there is little room for error when dealing with hazmat storage and transportation. Luckily, there are plenty of resources for any question you may have regarding hazmat and dangerous goods packaging. All of these organizations have multiple resources you can explore, and if it’s barrel-related, chances are we here at Skolnik can help out too.

Using Lasers to Examine Overpack Drums

January 26th, 2018 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: Cool Stuff, HazMat

Overpack drums are used to contain a wide variety of hazards, from harsh chemicals to combustible materials. One of the more dramatic uses of these drums is to store spent nuclear fuel.

The fuel rods are confined in a welded stainless steel canister that is shielded and protected by a concrete and steel overpack drum, then placed into storage. While this may be the best solution we have right now for our nuclear waste, this process requires regular maintenance and examination to ensure safety. These storage casks need to be frequently inspected for degradation such as stress corrosion cracking. Unsurprisingly, inspecting hundreds of tightly packed irradiated barrels is not the safest task for a human to undertake.

That’s where the lasers come in.

By utilizing laser ultrasonics, a fancy method of shooting pulse lasers at an object, researchers have combined that process with fiber optics and a very specially-developed lens, integrating it into a robot system. That way, their compact set up can provide a clear, nondestructive inspection of the degradation happening to each barrel, specifically pitting. What that all means is that inspectors will have tools that can operate in the harsh, confined and hazardous spaces that are generated situations such as nuclear waste storage, piloting the robot from a safe distance.

This technology can be applied further than merely overpack drums. It’s suited for any environment that is cramped, high temperature, highly irradiated; anywhere that’s unsafe for humans. In particular, the system is great for inspecting defects in pipelines exposed to high temperatures and radiation inside nuclear power plants and inspection of inaccessible, cramped and hazardous areas for preventive maintenance.

Lasers and nuclear waste? Sounds like a dystopian sci-fi plot, but it is very much a current scenario. At this point, research is still ongoing to perfect the system, and it’s unclear how close they are to becoming commercially available tools. As long as we continue to store waste in the current, overpack method, the importance of technology to reduce the risk of hazard will only become more critical as time goes on.

No Matter What, A Spill Response Plan is Crucial for Worker Safety

January 2nd, 2018 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: Safety

While the end of December is a great time to look backward and take stock, it’s just as important to look ahead to make sure that 2018 is a successful, productive, and most importantly, safe year. The barrels we produce here at Skolnik are thicker, heavier, and stronger than industry standards, and their durability can help prevent spills. No matter the precautions taken though, accidents are an inevitable part of any workplace, and absolutely it’s crucial to have a spill response plan in place. Training, proper equipment, and products such as drum spill containers are important for starting the year out on the right foot.

The first component to any response plan is preparation. Thoughtful warehouse organization can minimize the damage done by a spill. For example, segregate anything that could react and produce harmful vapors or combustion. By keeping acids on one side of the warehouse and oxidizers on the extreme other side, you reduce the chance that they’d ever come in contact with one another and make an accident that much more dangerous.

Proper spill stations are also a key part of a safe workspace. Make sure each include absorbent pads, instructions, and PPE such as masks, gloves, goggles and face shields. These stations then need to be distributed strategically across the warehouse, paying extra attention to high risk areas such as receiving and shipping areas.

Spill response plans aren’t effective unless your employees know how to use them, and training is the most important element of any preparation. Awareness of the chemicals used in a workplace and adequate training on how to handle them will reduce a lot of potential accidents. Then, when the inevitable spill happens, your employees need to know what to do in an emergency, who the emergency contacts are, and how to effectively utilize spill stations. Safety data sheets also ought to be easily accessible.

The next component of a response plan is containment. When a spill occurs, the workers need to notify their supervisors, then carefully work on creating a perimeter. Using such products as an tube of absorbent material, or “snake”, they can prevent the spill from spreading further. From there, they can determine if they can manage the spill themselves or if it requires a third party company that is certified in handling the clean up.

If the spill is most appropriately handled by your employees, then the clean up process can begin. Most clean ups involve putting down absorbents, which come in various types. There is a range of absorption capacities, as well as general purpose products and specific use ones. With corrosive spills, neutralizing agents need to be used. Weak acids are used to neutralize bases and vice versa, but no matter the chemical, it’s important to work slowly to insure that the chemical is fully neutralized. Depending on the type of spill, you can recover some of the product and store it in containers such as Skolnik brand salvage drums.

While a good spill response plan is focused on the safety of your workers, a well crafted plan is also mindful of the environmental impact of the spill. Always be aware of the drainage system in your workplace to ensure that no dangerous chemicals wind up escaping out to the public at large.

As 2017 winds down, we here at Skolnik want to thank you for your partnership; we’re very proud of the work we done this year to help you and your company be the very best, and safe, it can be. It’s been a good twelve months, and we’re looking forward to another amazing twelve ahead of us. See you next year!

Who Certifies the UN Certified Packaging?

December 19th, 2017 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: DOT/UN, HazMat

Here at Skolnik, every material, design, and production process is carefully engineered to meet the safety standards set forth by the various regulatory bodies that keep a watchful eye on our industry. One such organization is the UN’s Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, the group in charge of the UN Certified Packaging label seen on many of our barrels. While we have written articles translating label components and even unpacking  specific elements, we have not yet examined who dictates these stringent standards.

The UN’s Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods is a subsidiary the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Established in 1946, the ECOSOC is one of the six principal organs of the UN, along with such bodies as the General Assembly and Security Council. The ECOSOC has under it number of commissions which it coordinates, such as the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women. One of the region-focused agencies is the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE). The ECE actually works with many countries not only in Europe, but across North America and Asia as well. It is within this commission that you’ll find the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, aka the people in charge of the certified packaging label.

Quite a circuitous path through bureaucracy, but the committee is important for transportation regulations. In fact, the other major document they’re in charge of, the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), is an important building block for UN Certified Packaging. The GHS is the UN’s document that puts forth a set of consistent classifications and labelings for chemicals that is used internationally so that countries working with one another can communicate efficiently and accurately across geographic and lingual borders.

In turn, this common chemical language comes in handy when it comes to classifying and categorizing the packaging in which they can be stored. So, while there is plenty that the committee does, it all is in the service of ensuring the safe transportation of potentially dangerous products.

Despite the relative obscurity of the organisation behind UN Certified Packaging, they play a very important role in the everyday operation of many different industries. We here at Skolnik certainly are grateful for the time, energy, and expertise they’ve put into giving our customers the peace of mind with the label we put on our products. Thanks UN!