Descartes UK

Transporting Dangerous Goods? Then for safety’s sake - train

We live in a dangerous world. Each year hundreds of thousands of tons of lethal hazardous materials are transported by air, sea, road and rail. The business of transporting freight around the world is vital to all economies and when that freight is of a hazardous nature, stringent rules must be understood and applied.

These rules generally emanate through various organisations within the umbrella of the United Nations. Such rules for road transport are to be found in the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR). The UK Government have some additional regulations relating to dangerous goods by road transport and these are contained in Statutory Instruments which include training requirements thus making training for the transport of dangerous goods by road mandatory Several countries outside of the European Community have signed up to the ADR rules and a number of others, notably the USA, have their own regulations for internal transportation of dangerous goods known as CFR 49.

For transportation by sea they are encompassed in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. This is published by the International Maritime Organisation and accepted by most countries worldwide. It is of note that the UK has a Marine Pollutant Act (MPA) which is enforced by the Marine Coastguard Agency (MCA). Breaches of the IMDG Code can constitute an infringement of the MPA and result in prosecution. Also be aware that if your dangerous goods are predominantly travelling by sea they will need to get to a port by road and whilst the road and sea dangerous goods regulations are similar they are not the same. You need to know the differences, so training is essential.

Although readers of this magazine are more likely to be involved in road transport it could be of value to include reference to the other modes of transport which have different governing regulations:

The rules for air transport also emanate from the United Nations through the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Most people see these in the form of the Dangerous Goods Manual published annually by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). These rules have always included training which has to be carried out by specialist Schools. In the UK these rules are enshrined in British law and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are empowered to enforce them and to control those who train in the subject. Only Training Schools who are approved by the CAA can operate in the UK and all materials and Instructors are carefully vetted before the Approval is granted. 

Transport of dangerous goods by rail and inland waterways are also subject to their own respective regulations. For rail the rules are contained in the RID Manual and for inland waterways in the ADN Regulations. Whilst these two modes may not be as widely used for transporting hazardous goods the regulations are encompassed in British law and therefore non-compliance can result in prosecution.

The whole purpose of all the Regulations is to promote safety. Professional training is the key to ensure that all your staff are properly equipped for their job in this critical subject. In the UK it must be remembered that under the Health & Safety at Work Act employers must ensure that employees are conversant with all aspects of the functions that they perform as part of their normal duties. This includes all matters relating to the handling of dangerous goods. The degree to what training they must be given is determined by their individual roles. For instance, if they sign a dangerous goods note then they will require a full certificate of competence. If they move goods around in a warehouse, then the least that they must have is an awareness of the dangers of such goods.

It should also be noted that all the regulations referred to are updated at regular intervals, either annually or every two years. It is essential that staff who are working with hazardous materials are given refresher training when the regulations change.

The staff of Cargo Training International have a wealth of industry related experience ranging from airline through to shipping and packing. This makes for a good mix of practical application in the interpretation of the rules relating to the handling and transportation of dangerous goods.

Whilst the company specialises in training for the handling and transportation of dangerous goods, it also offers a preparatory course for the UK/European Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser (DGSA) programme. As a rule of thumb any organisation that stores, handles or transports dangerous goods must have (or have contracted to them) a Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser. The UK have vested the responsibility for setting and administering the examination for this qualification to the Scottish Qualifications Authority. This means only that body is able to offer the examination for the DGSA, but preparatory training is highly recommended for this complex subject.

Cargo Training International have been undertaking dangerous goods training since 1992 and have made this market their speciality. Since all their Instructors must be approved by the CAA the standard of training is of the highest calibre. Safety is a major issue and no chances can be taken whether you are sending a tin of paint or a container full of hazardous substances. Whatever you do – make sure that your staff are properly trained and certificated. You will be doing your bit for a safer world and avoiding a fine (or prison) if your consignment is found to be inadequately presented.

Author biography

Bob Carter has spent 32 years with major airlines in the United Kingdom.

After a five-year Commercial Apprenticeship with British European Airways specialised in the Personnel (Human Resources) profession, including training. Held various senior posts in the airline industry including Head of General Training for British Airways and Head of Human Resources and Training for the British Airways Cargo Division. In this latter capacity had overall responsibility for all Cargo staff training world-wide and devised the strategy and policy for the Training Unit.

Represented British Airways at various forums and made key presentations at conferences throughout the world.

Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, and a Member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport (UK)

He is a co-founder and Managing Director of Cargo Training International.