ASSE 'Release' in Best Interest of Business, Public

May 2, 2002
More than 3.1 billion tons of hazardous materials were transported throughout the United States in 2000, and a new brochure from ASSE offers guidance on transporting hazardous materials and reporting incidents.

Of the more than 3.1 billion tons of hazardous materials transported throughout the United States in 2000, there were 17,514 hazmat incidents resulting in 13 fatalities and 246 injuries. They caused $72,727,595 in damages. Ohio had the most incidents, with Texas second and California third.

Some 800,000 shipments of hazardous materials are made daily, and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has developed a free brochure titled Hazardous Materials Safety Information Guide.

This brochure, developed in part to support the North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) week (May 5-11), notes that 300,000 shipments per day involve chemicals and 100,000 involve hazardous and medical waste.

Hazardous materials can be corrosive, ignitable, reactive, radioactive, toxic or infectious. Each type can be identified by the signage on the hazardous materials themselves or by the mandated identification placards placed on transport vehicles.

The brochure also contains information about hazardous materials laws, such as:

  • The USA Patriot Act of 2001 - A state may not issue a hazmat license to any individual unless the U.S. Transportation Secretary determines that the individual poses no security risk. This includes license renewals.
  • Hazardous Material Transportation Uniform Safety Act of 1990 - Clarified the conflicting local, state and federal regulations.
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA/Superfund) - Oversees the clean up of thousands of known contaminated sites across the United States.
  • Resources Conservation & Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) - The first national hazmat law. It identified hazardous wastes, listed guidelines for using, treating and transporting them, and developed a method to track the hazardous wastes from the place where they are created to their eventual disposal.
  • Toxic Substances Control Act (1976) - This law allows the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor production, use and health and environmental effects of various chemicals.

On April 30, 2002 the U.S. Senate passed S.R. 245, sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D,Ill.), which recognizes NAOSH week and states, "With the continued threat of terrorism and the potential use of hazardous materials it is vital for Americans to have information on these materials." It "commends safety professionals for their work to protect people, property and the environment."

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Commodity Flow Survey, Texas has the highest amount of hazardous material shipments in the United States and Louisiana ranks second in flow, followed by California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, Florida, New Jersey and Michigan.

Should an emergency occur, federal officials say the general public should first call 911 and, if callers can identify the size and color of the placards without endangering their own safety, provide that information.

As for safety planning, there are State Emergency Response Commissions (SERC) who designate Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC) in most communities across the United States. They were set up in the mid 1980s by Congress following several serious hazmat accidents. LEPCs are made up of local emergency service personnel, occupational safety and health professionals and local officials and work to prevent and plan responses to accidental or deliberate chemical incidents. You can locate your LEPC by checking the EPA Web site at

EPA offers a free software program, "Tier Two Submit," on its Web site ( The program allows businesses to record the hazardous materials found on their sites, as required by law, quickly and more efficiently.

For round-the-clock reporting, the National Response Center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Reports of all chemical, radiological and etiological discharges into the environment can be made by calling 1-800-424-8802.

To order a free copy of ASSE's Hazardous Materials Safety Information Guide, call ASSE customer service at 847-699-2929 or e-mail [email protected] and ask for item number G017. The brochure and fact sheets can be downloaded for free from ASSE's Web site at under "NAOSH".

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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