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Who is Responsible for Submitting the Hazardous Material Incident Report?

Who is Responsible for Submitting the Hazardous Material Incident Report?

The Hazardous Material Regulations (HMR) of the PHMSA/USDOT require the reporting of certain types of incidents that occur during the transportation of hazardous materials (HazMat).  As a shipper or carrier of a HazMat you must be aware of the regulatory requirements and your responsibility for reporting a Hazardous Material Incident.  This article will identify who is responsible for the reporting of a Hazardous Material Incident pursuant to the HMR.

The HazMat incident reporting requirements can be found in the HMR at 49 CFR 171.15 and 171.16.

  • 171.15 requires an immediate, telephonic report (within 12 hours) to the appropriate authorities for certain types of HazMat incidents.
  • 171.16 requires a written report  (DOT Form F 5800.1) for certain types of HazMat incidents within 30 days of the incident and a follow-up written report within one year of the incident.

In a follow-up article I will explain what the PHMSA/USDOT identiies as the “certain types” of HazMat Incidents that require reporting.

Though different in many ways, in one aspect the two reports are very similar:  The person/entity responsible for submitting the report.  If a HazMat incident meeting the criteria for reporting were to occur the person responsible for completing the report (telephonic or written) is identified as:  “each person in physical possession of the hazardous material in transportation at the time of the incident.”

Generally, the entity having physical possession of the shipment during transportation will be the carrier and not the shipper.  Thus, with limited exceptions, the responsibility to report a Hazardous Materials Incident is that of the carrier (ie. transporter) and not the shipper.  This includes loading and unloading operations (including the transfer of bulk quantities to and from storage tanks) on the shipper’s property as long as the carrier is observing or participating in the operations.  Interestingly, loading and unloading operations that take place when the carrier is not present are not viewed to be “in transportation” and are therefore not subject to the HMR (12-0237).

One exception to this almost universal responsibility of the carrier is if the HazMat is stored temporarily during transportation.  In this case the person in physical possession of the HazMat at the time of the incident may be a warehouse or storage facility and the responsibility to submit the HazMat Incident Report is theirs.

Well, what if a HazMat Incident occurs on my property and/or involves my hazardous materials while in the physical possession of the carrier and I am uncertain of the carrier’s adherence to these regulations?  Am I – as the shipper – required to determine if a HazMat Incident Report was submitted correctly by the carrier?

The answer is no.  A person that was not in physical possession of the HazMat at the time of the incident is under no responsibility to report the incident or ensure a report was submitted (10-0232).  However, the HMR does not prohibit the shipper from completing and submitting the HazMat Incident Report (last line of 12-0237).  My opinion is that if a Hazardous Materials Incident Report is required, both the shipper and the carrier work together to ensure all reporting requirements are met.

Without reading this article or attending my training you may not have been aware that these reporting requirements existed.  Or perhaps you weren’t fully aware of your responsibilities and rights as a shipper of a hazardous material.  Whichever the case, my training is a good way to ensure your compliance with all of the HMR.  Please contact me to schedule training or for an answer to your questions.