What is Hazmat Training?

If you are interested in learning how to select the right hazmat (an abbreviation for ‘hazardous materials’) transportation training course, it is likely because you are required to take one. You may have heard of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Title 49, commonly referred to as “49 CFR”. 49 CFR Subpart H, Section 172.704 (49 CFR 172.704) states that hazmat employees – whether rookies or seasoned professionals who have changed job functions – must receive appropriate training to enable them to properly perform their specific job functions as they relate to the safe transportation of hazardous materials, and this training must be refreshed at specified intervals. In transportation, the terms, “hazardous materials” and “dangerous goods” are synonymous and interchangeable; “hazardous materials” is the U.S. Department of Transportation’s term for what are referred to as “dangerous goods” in the international standards. Both of these terms refer to substances or articles that pose a hazard to health, safety, property or the environment when transported in commerce; if you are involved in their preparation or transportation, national and international regulations state that you must be trained. Undergoing hazmat training online does involve some time and effort on your part, and it is not even a one-time thing. You may be wondering why the hazardous materials training requirements are so stringent. The answer lies in the name: your job involves handling materials that are hazardous.

The hazardous materials you work with bear that ominous descriptor for a reason. These substances have been determined to present a hazard to health, safety, property or the environment, and they must be transported according to a specific set of rules and regulations whether transported by air, water or ground (surface).  Hazmat professionals must transport these goods in a manner that minimizes the risk of an incident or accident, including a catastrophic event.  Regulatory compliance is critical, as the very nature of these dangerous goods means that even seemingly small missteps can result in an unsafe situation.

The U.S. DOT does not require hazmat employees to be "certified" in the traditional sense that an electrician or an accountant would be certified to perform their job functions properly. However, the U.S. DOT does require a hazmat employer to ensure that each of its hazmat employees is trained in accordance with the requirements prescribed in Subpart H of 49 CFR (§172.702(a)).


Who Needs Hazmat Training?

Anyone who either:

  • Transports hazardous materials in commerce
  • Offers hazardous materials for commerce
  • Causes hazardous materials to be transported in commerce
  • Performs pre-transportation functions

Must undergo appropriate training. (49 CFR 171.1)

This includes but is not limited to the following pre-transportation functions:

  • Determining the hazard class of a hazardous material.
  • Selecting a hazardous materials packaging.
  • Filling a hazardous materials packaging, including a bulk packaging.
  • Securing a closure on a filled or partially filled hazardous materials package or container or on a package or container containing a residue of a hazardous material.
  • Marking a package to indicate that it contains a hazardous material.
  • Labeling a package to indicate that it contains a hazardous material.
  • Preparing a shipping paper.
  • Providing and maintaining emergency response information.
  • Reviewing a shipping paper to verify compliance with the HMR or international equivalents.
  • For each person importing a hazardous material into the United States, providing the shipper with timely and complete information as to the HMR requirements that will apply to the transportation of the material within the United States.
  • Certifying that a hazardous material is in proper condition for transportation in conformance with the requirements of the HMR.
  • Loading, blocking, and bracing a hazardous materials package in a freight container or transport vehicle.
  • Segregating a hazardous materials package in a freight container or transport vehicle from incompatible cargo.
  • Selecting, providing, or affixing placards for a freight container or transport vehicle to indicate that it contains a hazardous material.


Hazmat Training Requirements

All hazmat employees within the United States must be trained in the following areas dealing with hazardous materials (§172.704(a) 49 CFR, IATA 1.5.2 and 1.6):

  • General Awareness training: provides familiarity with the requirements and allows employees to recognize Dangerous Goods in the workplace,
  • Function-specific training: detailed job-specific training,
  • Safety training: includes emergency response and measures to be taken in case of an emergency at your workplace, and
  • Security training: security risks associated with hazardous materials transportation and enhancement of transportation safety.


Initial vs Recurrent Training

Initial Training: Employers are responsible for providing appropriate training to all hazmat employees.  A new hazmat employee or a hazmat employee who changes job functions may only perform those functions prior to completion of training provided the employee performs functions under direct supervision of a properly trained and knowledgeable hazmat employee and the training is completed within 90 days after employment or change of job role.

Recurrent Training: 49 CFR and IMDG requires hazmat employees be trained every 3 years. IATA/ICAO requires hazmat employees be trained every 2 years.

What happens if my training expired?

In the event that your training expires and you have not retaken hazmat training prior to the expiration date you can no longer perform hazardous material job functions in compliance with the regulations.  You must retake your training prior to your expiration date to avoid non-compliance with the regulations.  If your training expires and you have not retaken hazmat training prior to the expiration date it is at the discretion of your employer to decide if initial or recurrent training will be sufficient.