Daniels Training Services

What is a HazMat Employee?

What is a HazMat Employee?

A HazMat Employee is a term used by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), one of several Administrations and Bureaus within the US Department of Transportation, to refer to any person involved in the transportation of hazardous materials in commerce.  A complete understanding of this term is necessary in order to comply with the PHMSA mandate to train all HazMat Employees.  The purpose of this article is to assist you in properly identifying your HazMat Employees so you can take the next step and ensure the required training is completed.

Before we begin to identify a HazMat Employee, I must differentiate this term from a similar sounding one used by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  OSHA has its Hazardous Waste Operations – or HAZWOPER – regulations at 29 CFR 1910.120.  HAZWOPER addresses clean-up and corrective actions at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites or hazardous waste operations at Treatment Storage and Disposal facilities.  Training required by HAZWOPER regulations is sometimes referred to as:  HazMat Awareness, Hazardous Material Training, etc.  This is separate and distinct from the hazardous material transportation regulations of the PHMSA/DOT.

It is also necessary to understand two other terms from the regulations before we can understand the definition of a HazMat Employee.  Defined at 49 CFR 171.8, these two are:

“A HazMat Employer is someone who employs at least one HazMat Employee and transports or offers for transport a hazardous material in commerce.”

“A Hazardous Material is anything the DOT has determined may pose an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce.”  It includes many common materials, such as:  solvents, paints, cleaners, degreasers, resins, corrosive acids and bases, and more.

A full definition of a HazMat Employee can also be found at 49 CFR 171.8.  It includes the self-employed and those employed by others as full-time, part time, or temporary workers; anyone who in the course of doing their job directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety.  It also includes persons who:

  • “Load, unload, or handle hazardous materials” – anyone involved in the transfer of a hazardous material from or to its means of transportation.  The transportation could be by air, vessel, rail, or highway.
  • “Designs, manufactures, fabricates, inspects, marks, maintains, reconditions, repairs, or tests a package, container or packaging component that is represented, marked, certified, or sold as qualified for use in transporting hazardous material in commerce.” – This includes the reconditioning of containers for reuse as hazardous material packaging.
  • “Prepares hazardous materials for transportation.” – A wide range of pre-transportation activities may be completed by HazMat Employees long before a hazardous material begins transportation.  This might include selecting hazardous materials packaging and inspecting, labeling, or marking the packaging.  It also includes persons who prepares, reviews and/or signs a shipping paper like the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest.
  • “Is responsible for safety of transporting hazardous materials.” – EHS Managers, Shipping and Receiving Supervisors, Dispatchers, Route Coordinators, persons who may never see a hazardous material, but are responsible for persons who do are HazMat Employees as well.
  • “Operates a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials.” – Operators of a vehicle over a public roadway transporting hazardous materials (unless excepted from regulation) are HazMat Employees.  This does not include the transfer of a hazardous material across a public roadway if the road divides a single property.
Additional guidance on identifying your HazMat Employees can be found in a PHMSA document:  What you Should Know: A Guide to Developing a Hazardous Materials Training Program.
It has been my experience that many HazMat Employers are not aware of the complete definition of a HazMat Employee and thus fail to identify the entirety of their requirements under the Hazardous Material Regulations.  One of these requirements is to train your HazMat Employees with 90 day of hire and triennially (every three years) thereafter per 49 CFR 172.704(c).  I provide  HazMat Employee training and am willing to discuss your training needs with you at any time.