Last reissued in 2008 and renewed every four years, the revised and updated 2012 version of the ERG is due to be released by the Department of Transportation any day now and may be in publication by the time you read this article. If you rely on the ERG for its primary function of emergency response, or you use it – as I do – as a part of DOT HazMat Employee training, you must soon discard the 2008 copies and replace them with the 2012.
But, what is the Emergency Response Guidebook?
It’s a joint publication of the US DOT, Transport Canada, and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation of Mexico (SCT). It’s purpose is to provide information to 1st responders in the event of a hazardous material emergency to enable them to…
- Quickly identify the material involved, and;
- Protect themselves and the general public during the initial phases (approximately the first 30 minutes) of the incident.
To accomplish this, the ERG is primarily made up of four colored sections: yellow, blue, orange, & green. They each have a role in identifying the characteristics of the hazardous material involved and the primary emergency response procedures:
Yellow: Lists the hazardous materials/dangerous goods in numerical order of the identification number. It also indicates the DOT proper shipping name of the hazardous material and, most importantly, the emergency response guide number.
Blue: Lists the hazardous materials/dangerous goods in alphabetical order by their DOT proper shipping name. It also indicates the 4-digit identification number and, again, the emergency response guide number for the hazardous material.
Orange: The most important section of the ERG, as it contains the safety recommendations in a hazardous materials incident or emergency. It contains 62 individual guides in a two page format. Each provides safety recommendations and emergency response information and is divided into three sections:
- Potential hazards that the material may display, with the highest potential listed first.
- Suggested public safety measures.
- Emergency response actions in the event of a fire, spills or leaks, or if 1st aid is necessary.
Green: If a material’s entry in the yellow or blue section is highlighted in green, it’s an indication to proceed first to Table 1 in the green section which lists Toxic Inhalation Hazards (TIH’s) that require initial isolation and protective action distances, ie. they may emit toxic gases.
Proper use of the ERG begins in the yellow or blue section and then proceeds to the orange and/or green section as appropriate. For a 1st response to work effectively, the required hazard communication methods (shipping papers, placards, labels, and markings) must be used correctly by the responsible HazMat Employees. I use this point in my training to illustrate the importance of communicating the correct proper shipping name and identification number on shipping papers, placards, and packaging as required. The ERG contains additional options for determination of the emergency response guide number when neither the proper shipping name nor the identification number are available, these are…
- Placards displayed.
- Rail car or road trailer silhouette .
- Hazard identification codes used on intermodal containers.
- Contact information for various emergency response agencies.
The above are only recommended for use if no other method to identify the hazardous material are available.
The 2008 Emergency Response Guidebook has been a great tool for emergency responders and to demonstrate to HazMat Employees the importance of the hazard communication methods, especially the proper shipping name and the identification number. Make sure you obtain a copy of the 2012 copy as soon as it becomes available.