Incidents can happen anytime and anywhere, but with hazardous materials the effects are oftentimes greater. Leaks can cause serious environmental damage, and contents, if not properly separated, can turn into poisonous gases. Due to these unstable or dangerous contents, hazmat containers must be selected properly to ensure the safety of the surroundings. Whether in transit, or storage, the right drum* can make all the difference.
Because steel drums can be made of different materials, carbon steel, stainless steel, etc, and because of the varying gauges of steel available, it is imperative that the correct drum be selected. There are many questions to consider when determining the proper container for hazardous material. Should the drum be lined? If so, with epoxy-phenolic, 100% clear phenolic or pigmented phenolic? How will the materials be transported? Road, rail, and air all may have their own rules to follow. Knowing which size of drum to use is also important to avoid overpacking hazardous materials. Most importantly, selection of the appropriate United Nations (UN) certification level for the unique contents will insure that the shipments move within regulatory compliance, but depending on the product there may also be OSHA or EPA regulations to be aware of. With so many regulations and specifics to consider it can be difficult to choose the safest container for shipping dangerous goods. When looking for guidance the shipper should turn to the 49 CFR, DOT, or a consulting company. Asking questions first can save time, money, and lives when it comes to shipping hazardous materials.
When transporting hazardous materials, it is the responsibility of the shipper that contents are properly classified, packaged, and labeled. Carriers usually rely on the information provided by the shipper, and unless they have reasonable doubt in the instructions, assume each item is properly packaged and documented. Incidents such as leaking or contamination of contents due to improper packaging are seen as the direct effect of the shipper’s action, and can cause major legal and environmental issues. Hazmat shippers can also face immediate costs in the forms of damaged equipment and the time it takes to review and change safety and emergency protocol.
These issues can be avoided, however, with the appropriate knowledge and equipment. Hazmat shippers should have employees that are trained in proper storage and transport regulations, as well as security and safety awareness. Employees should have the knowledge that allows them to make proper and safe decisions in dealing with hazardous materials, and knowing what type of container to use is essential. According to the U.S DOT, hazmat employees are required to complete training every three years.
Safety is the number one concern when dealing with hazardous materials. Proper drum selection and regularly updated training are just two of the ways Hazmat shippers can avoid unnecessary incidents.
*As Skolnik is a manufacturer of steel drums we focused on this type of container, but certain hazardous materials may require a different type of container and proper research should be done before shipping any dangerous goods.