Itech Articles

HAZMAT and Dangerous Goods Emergency Response

Posted by Rob Symons

May 7, 2014


The term “HAZMAT” often conjures up images of biohazard or radioactive waste, but it actually includes a wide range of products regulated as designated substances. “HAZMAT” (hazardous materials) is actually an American term that has been generically used in Canada for a number of years, but it is used officially only in the United States. The Canadian reference to these regulated substances by the applicable Canadian regulatory bodies such as Transport Canada is Dangerous Goods. Recognized as a hazard to public safety, the original Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act was adopted into use in 1992.

The amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, received royal assent on May 14, 2009 and came into force June 16, 2009. The amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, remains focused on the prevention of incidents when dangerous goods are imported, handled, offered for transport and transported but also expands the response capability of the Canadian Government in the event of a security incident involving dangerous goods.

Common items classified as “Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods” would include Asbestos, Dry Ice, Environmentally Hazardous Substances and Elevated Temperature Materials (e.g., hot asphalt).

Under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, measures were established to provide clear requirements for the manufacturers, transporters and receivers of hazardous products. ERAPs (emergency response assistance plans) became a mandatory requirement as part of the Act; they are intended to lay the foundation for an emergency response plan. An ERAP has clearly established response criteria and can only be approved by Transport Canada. The ERAP establishes the criteria required to meet the needs of an emergency response and the manner in which a responder under the plan must react. The responder on an ERAP must be pre-qualified by Transport Canada as having the training, skills, expertise and equipment specific to the commodity in question. In some instances, Transport Canada may participate in the training of the responder with the manufacturer or possibly observe the responders during training.

The highest level of Chemical Response Training and Recognition in Canada is TEAP® III. TEAP III is a recognized industry standard when selecting emergency response service providers by industry associations including the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC), the Canadian Association of Chemical Distributors (CACD), and the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) which includes both CN, CP and over 40 short-line railroads in Ontario alone. The significance of this for the insurer is to know that there is a third-party organization made up of the major industry stakeholders in these substances that works to promote public safety by independently auditing responders to ensure compliance with requirements for training, knowledge and experience.

Shipping requirements for the transportation of dangerous goods are clearly defined in connection with each commodity, but rules and guidelines for their subsequent handling can become less clear and, in some cases, downright murky once a product is delivered. Products are often diluted and occasionally mixed with other chemicals at the point of use, or may become mixed during an event which may alter the reactionary aspects of a chemical altogether. For example, sulphuric acid at 100% is not corrosive but sulphuric acid at say 40% (battery acid) is very corrosive. Why? The reason is that acids require the presence of water to be corrosive. So, for example, if a quantity of sulphuric acid was compromised during a fire, the acid might become extremely aggressive, and the MSDS sheet intended for shipping purposes might not be applicable any longer to the substance, now mixed with firefighters’ water and spread to a larger area.

It is important to know which state a product is in - for example, bulked for transport, diluted at site or altered for end use by mixing with another product - and how materials may be altered by an event (the addition of water, heat, cold, etc.) when considering the safe handling characteristics outlined on an MSDS sheet. Resources for information on handling various materials include CANUTEC (Canadian Transport Emergency Centre) and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).

Some common controlled products used regularly in industry include names like perchloroethylene (dry cleaners), sulphuric acid (used by electroplating companies for metals processing and in battery acid), hydrochloric acid (sold at pool supply stores and also sold at building supply stores as "muriatic acid" for concrete etching) and anhydrous ammonia (sold at fertilizer and farm suppliers - and also common in your neighbourhood meth lab). More sulfuric acid is produced each year than any other manufactured chemical; more than 40-million tonnes of it is produced each year in the United States alone. It plays a part in the production of nearly all manufactured goods. The principal use of sulfuric acid is during the manufacture of other chemicals, e.g., in making hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, sulfate salts, synthetic detergents, dyes and pigments, explosives, and drugs. Another common use of sulphuric acid is in the production of fertilizers, e.g., superphosphate of lime and ammonium sulfate. It is used in petroleum refining to wash impurities out of gasoline and other refinery products and the processing of metals, e.g., in pickling (cleaning) iron and steel before plating them with tin or zinc; it also serves as the electrolyte in the lead-acid storage batteries commonly used in motor vehicles.

How does this relate to managing risk for the insurer? A real concern for dealing with dangerous goods is created post-delivery, during catastrophe events such as fire and flood or the myriad of other potential loss events. During any remedial and response work, the contractor must be thoroughly aware of the products that may be present and to which they are exposed. The risk lies in providing an inappropriate response to an event where chemicals are likely to have been involved. This does not necessarily imply that they were the cause of the loss; they might merely have been present in the loss area or stored on the premises. Responders must be fully aware of the potential chemical exposures involved with the loss and the reporting and regulatory requirements for the remediation, handling and reporting of the products. Reducing and removing post-loss liability exposures must be the primary remediation goal for the insurer where any controlled substances are involved. Firefighting water, used during fire suppression activities, often becomes the conveyance for spreading contaminates and can easily impact larger areas away from the loss site and carry contaminants into waterways and storm water receptors. The control of firefighting water and regulatory compliance where dangerous goods are present are of special consideration to prevent post-loss environmental fines.

Class III Spills: Household Fires

A Class III spill (under the Environmental Protection Act) is a discharge of combustion products from fires of household materials. Class III spills apply to pollutants from fires where materials involved in the fire are of a quantity and quality that would normally be found in 10 or fewer households. Class III spills are exempt from all of Part X. This exemption is intended to remove the duties and responsibilities imposed by Part X in events such as house fires and other relatively small fires, while maintaining these duties for fires (and really large fires) at industrial or chemical facilities, including fires that may occur in accidents within the transportation sector.

Accordingly, the exemption of household fires from reporting does not cancel the requirement for the regulatory clean-up, transport and handling of wastewater that may contain, or is suspected to contain, designated substances. This also provides that other resulting spills that may occur as a result of the loss are still reportable regardless of the Class III exemption. Common scenarios could include releases from fuel oil tanks, releases of lubricants and coolants, and releases of a variety of chemicals used for anything ranging from pool maintenance to cleaning, all of which may be released or involved in a residential fire.

During large loss remedial work, an inventory of all restricted products should be compiled and a plan prepared to deal with these commodities whether that is storing, recycling or transport to a temporary location. Additionally, many products are not compatible with each other so they cannot necessarily be moved and/or stored in a common location or even transported together. All responders must be aware that the moment a product is shipped; it again falls under the regulations of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. All handlers must be properly trained and in many cases licensed to handle many of these products. If the material is to be shipped as “waste” the waste product cannot be taken back to an intermediary location or even the responders home location (unless licensed as a receiver); instead, it must be transported directly to a waste disposal facility that is licensed to accept that particular type of waste from a licensed transporter.

The first step to compile a list of chemicals found in any situation is to start with the waste generator itself. Larger industrial and commercial clients may already have “waste generator designations” with the established avenues to deal with the waste streams. How do you know what is in a building? Ask an employee of the business in question, check the MSDS sheets and review the list of products on-site, or consult with the designated health and safety representative of the business. If the products are dangerous enough, they may already be part of an ERAP, with established handling and technical assistance in place.

When encountering large and industrial type loss events, we must fully understand the products and the risks involved with the clean-up and handling of dangerous substances. A thorough knowledge of regulatory and compliance issues will also serve to minimize the risk of future liabilities from third party and off-site issues. Manufacturers, transporters, and verified response contractors can be your best support in understanding your obligations under the Act and ensuring community health and safety.

heating oil tanks self-inspection checklist


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