Safety Insight: The Importance of Safe Storage and Transport of Hazardous Materials

SI: The Importance of Safe Storage and Transport of Hazardous Materials

Managing Risk Extends Beyond Fence Lines

The entire supply chain is responsible for ensuring the safe and reliable production, transport, and storage of goods so that necessary materials can be efficiently provided to consumers who need them. However, catastrophic incidents continue to happen on our railways, shipping distribution centers and warehouses when hazardous material risks are not well managed or understood. It is important that all steps of the supply chain understand three basic principles to minimize risk:

1. Hazardous Material Classification

Several authorities have requirements to properly classify the hazards of liquids, solids and gases. The United Nations (UN), US Department of Transportation (DOT) and Air Transport Association (IATA) are examples of authorities with requirements for the safe transport of hazardous materials. The International Building Code (IBC) and International Fire Code (IFC) in conjunction with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) focus on requirements for the safe storage of materials in warehouses and other buildings. In general, these organizations help drive a standardized way of testing these materials, helps classify them into appropriate groups for sharing (commonly within a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)) and what container selection and configuration are required for safe transport and storage of the materials.

2. Container Selection

Careful considerations must be made when selecting containers for hazardous material storage and transport. Based on the material classification, the packaging may need to be able to withstand being dropped or struck with force in order to show it will not breach in the case of a leak or warehousing event. Special consideration should be given to combustible materials if they are stored in plastic containers so that their failure when heated in a fire does not add risk to firefighting efforts.

3. Configuration of containers for transport & storage

Once a container type is selected, transportation and storage regulations specify the configuration of storage arrays, which detail situations like how many containers can be stacked on top of each other, or how rack storage must be configured. Warehouses and distribution centers must pay close attention to these storage configurations to ensure proper management of the risks from fire, reactive chemistry events, and exposure to personnel & emergency responders. The quantity and types of materials being stored often impact the occupancy classification of buildings and are enforced by local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), using standards such as NFPA 30, Flammable & Combustible Liquids Code, and NFPA 400, Hazardous Chemicals Code.

Making a Difference to Protect the Supply Chain

Do you handle corrosive, flammable, combustible or oxidizing materials? How do you manage tanker inventories, IBC & drums of flammable liquids, bags of combustible dust, bulk aerosol cans, and compressed gas cylinders? Quiz each other on your knowledge of storing and handling these materials and be curious enough to ask for help if you don’t know the answer.

DEKRA offers a comprehensive suite of testing, consulting and training services to help navigate the complex transportation and warehousing landscape. CONTACT US to speak to a Process Safety expert.