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Drum It Up! Steel Drum Industry News, Trends, and Issues

Posts Tagged ‘un rating’

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.

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!

What Are UN Packing Groups?

November 27th, 2017 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: Salvage Drum

All of our products here at Skolnik have been rigorously tested to meet every relevant safety standard required for each of their uses. One such regulation standard that containers such as our overpack salvage drums have is a UN marking, providing valuable information about the contents of the drums. While they can be a bit mystifying, we have resources to help answer questions about those markings, and once explained, most of these make sense. Right in the middle of the code there is, however, a letter designation that perhaps needs more elaboration: the X, Y, or Z of the UN Packing Group.

Each letter describes which of groups I, II and III the container is appropriate for. These groups identify the hazard level of the package, with each groups then representing three levels of danger: I is the highest, II is a medium hazard, and III is the lowest rating.Thus, the letter on the salvage drum establishes what level of protection the container provides and what products can be stored in them.

While this letter may be enough information for day to day operations, this leaves one last question still unaddressed: how does the UN determine what is low, medium, and high danger?

The answer to this is found in the very dry and technical Manual of Tests and Criteria, in which UN details their elaborate testing process for various types of materials. Throughout the graphs and charts, one can find that all explosives are assigned to group II. Or if handling flammable liquids, according to the manual, anything that has a flash point greater than 23 degrees Celsius but less than 60.5 degrees is in group III. There are specifications for substances liable to spontaneous combustion, and for ones that, when in contact with water, emit flammable gases. Multiple types of hazards are examined, quantified, and categorized according to how quickly they explode, burn, or corrode.

So, as it turns out, there is elaborate, methodical and thorough science behind these threat-level groups. These categorizations then go on to inform how the materials ought to be stored. While that’s a bit of a reassuring no-brainer, details such as these can easily be overlooked and taken for granted in the hustle and bustle of shipping logistics. Whether you’re trying to decide which Skolnik brand overpack salvage drum is most appropriate for your needs, or have used the same Skolnik brand overpack salvage drum for years, having a fuller appreciation of the container and its components can provide you with the confidence that you’re making the right choices in your business.

Keeping up with Compliance: UN Certified Packaging

March 24th, 2017 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: DOT/UN

You are probably already a safe, savvy and compliant business, but sometimes even businesses who follow UN and DOT regulations don’t fully understand them. The shipping and storage industry is heavily regulated — especially when it comes to handling hazardous materials or consumer goods such as pharmaceuticals or food and beverage. All of these rules and regulations have been put in place to protect transportation workers, the environment and the population. But, when you purchase UN certified packaging, what exactly does that mean?

The Manufacturer

Let us break it down for you. When buying a UN certified drum, the entire design of the drum, and all of its components is defined by the test samples. Each element — heads, ring, gasket, bolt, nut, plugs — must meet UN specified requirements. If even one of these components, or the design of the drum itself, doesn’t measure up, the drum is not UN compliant. At Skolnik, we

The initial onus for meeting UN standards is on the manufacturer, but once a UN certified package leaves our hands, it is up the filler to maintain compliance.

The Filler

Users cannot alter or exchange any of these components without it impacting the ability for the drum to perform as tested and certified.

If you were to purchase a UN certified drum with a nut and bolt style closure, but later swap that closure for a Leverlock, this would void the UN certification. At this stage in the container’s lifecycle, it is the fillers responsibility to adhere to UN regulations. If replacement parts are needed, fillers must make sure that they get original components form the original manufacturer that continue to meet the test criteria of that specific drum.

Make sure you always follow Skolnik’s Closure Instructions to verify a proper closure before passing the buck to your shipper.

The Shipper

Once a drum is filled, compliance with the UN certification is the responsibility of the shipper. It is up to the shipper to read the UN code and ensure the container is safely stored or shipped according to its contents.

Remember, no matter where you are in the journey of a container, non-compliance comes with a hefty fine. Fines for non-compliant shipments, of dangerous goods especially, are getting larger and more frequent. For the sake of your employees, facility and community, please keep an eye on evolving regulations and restrictions to ensure your UN certified packaging maintains compliance at every stage.