I have had several requests for HazMat and HazCom training recently and have found a lot of confusion in what companies were actually looking for. In talking to some colleagues, I realized that this is a fairly common problem. Companies all need to provide OSHA HazCom training and ones that ship transport or receive hazardous materials need to provide DOT HazMat, but they may not know where one stops and the other starts. It is understandable because they overlap and a lot of classes are hybrids of the two.
With that in mind, I just finished a two-day class on HazMat Prep and Response Training offered by the Sustainable Workplace Alliance under a DOT grant. It was outstanding hand-on training by an outstanding instructor, Nick Vent.
Two things made it particularly valuable:
- The use of real equipment. How often do you get to play with a thousand dollar chemical exposure suit or see what happens when the wrong gloves are used to handle a particular chemical? Companies routinely send their people out to be fit tested on respirators, but may not know what that involves. SWA has done a good job in just bringing together so much equipment for hands-on training.
- Tying the different regulatory regimes together into one coherent class. OSHA, DOT and the EPA all own a piece of the hazardous chemical/material regulations, but separate classes that focus on simply regulatory compliance with HazCom or HazMat may not tie them together the way a safety professional needs them connected. There were more than a couple of arguments in class about when a truck driver falls under the OSHA or the DOT regulations. What the class does well and what we really need to look at in industry is, what happens between a package showing up on my loading dock to my interaction with an emergency responder if there is a release, a fire or an injury? At each step do the right people have the information and the competency to do their jobs safely? It is particularly valuable to have the perspective of a responder as an instructor because many safety departments focus their emergency planning on their own employees and not on what the fire department needs to know before they walk into an unknown environment.