Have you ever seen or handled a million dollar box? I have. It was small and lightweight. I could easily hold it in one hand. A friend who works for the Department of Transportation (DOT) assured me that it was easily worth a million dollars.
The box caught my attention because it rattle and displayed the white, frosty appearance of dry ice. However, the shipping instructions indicated no hazardous material present. Then a telephone call revealed several discrepancies:
�           The box held five pounds of dry ice
�           The box held 100 milligrams of the Marburg virus
�           The researcher said the virus was safe because he worked with it every day
�           The box had no external markings or labeling to indicate there was potential danger
�           No hazardous documentation accompanied the box
The box contained an infectious substance � definitely a hazardous or dangerous good. A shipper�s certification must accompany any restricted item and requires 11 specific pieces of information. There is a maximum fine of $25,000 per missing piece and no certification yields a fine of $225,000.
A look at the box failed to locate either the Class 9 label for dry ice or the Class 6.2 label for Infectious Substances. The weight of the dry ice was not marked on the box. The proper shipping name, the UN number and hazardous class were not marked on the box. The box was not marked with the required markings certifying it had passed required tests for Infectious Substances packaging. Charitably speaking, that is seven violations with $175,000 in fines.
The box was unmarked because it was untested. No drop test, no vibration test and no stacking test had been performed. Insufficient absorbing material was used. The inner containers did not meet federal requirements. A minimum of five violations at $125,000 existed.
Regulation Expenses
I could easily see $525,000 in fines and I knew with time more violations could be found. The complete disregard for the regulations and the researcher�s attitude that the package was okay to ship as is forced me to question if 49CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) mandated safety training existed in the laboratory. I asked to see the records for employees who had received general awareness training, safety training, function specific training, etc. The absence of this training for individuals was no surprise. Federal Regulations clearly specify general awareness and safety training for anyone involved in handling the hazardous material. In addition, specific training is required for packaging the item, selecting the packaging, certifying the packaging, packing the substance and preparing the airbill and certification, etc. The fine for non-compliance is $25,000 per day.
The primary regulation document for all dangerous goods (interchangeable with hazardous materials depending on whether you use American or European terminology) is Chapter 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The legal supplement for air transportation in the US is the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Technical Instructions. All US carriers require you to comply with the International Air Transport Association tariff (IATA), but the legal requirements in the US are 49CFR and ICAO.
However, the Marburg virus is one of those substances crossing over several lines of regulation. It is regulated by the Public Health Service and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The shipping and receiving laboratories must be certified to safely perform the research. A completed CDC form EA-101 must accompany the shipment. A red and white Etiological Agent label must be on the box. Violations are punishable by fines of $250,000 for the individual and $500,000 for the company. A one-year jail sentence may accompany the fine. These regulations are found in 49CFR, part 72 of 42CFR and part 1910.1030 of 29CFR relating to blood borne pathogens.
A Chance to Show Off
This does not have to be the million dollar box for you. It can be your golden opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the non-Postal federal regulations that affect the mail center. You can save your company major dollars by ensuring proper training programs and records are in place to meet the requirements of the federal regulations. These rules are the law and are enforced by lawmen.
Some of the nine classes of hazardous materials are infectious substances, explosives, flammable liquids, corrosive substances and radioactive materials. Aerosol cans and dry ice are hazardous materials when shipped. Restrictions apply to their movement. The fines are stiff because violations put people�s lives at risk.  The shipper and carrier training requirements are stringent for the exact same reason. Even the secretary typing the shipping documents must have periodic function-specific training.
The seriousness of enforcement officials about the training requirements was demonstrated a few years ago when a cargo handler in Canada was exposed to the HIV virus because of a hospital�s violation of shipping regulations. The Canadians sought a one-year jail sentence for the Archbishop of the Diocese because they felt it was his responsibility to insure the rules were followed.
These regulations apply to all shipments of dangerous goods. Not all carriers accept all hazardous levels. Even the USPS will accept only certain levels of hazardous material shipments. Anyone can be affected if their employers process any material found in the Hazardous Materials Table in 49CFR.
Several sources for training are available:
1.         UPS, Federal Express, etc. have classes available to shippers.
2.         Training material is available on CD-ROM.
3.         The DOT offers training through the Transportation Safety Institute (TSI) inOklahoma City, Oklahoma.
All the training resources are good. Many companies sell classes on interactive CD, VCR and also in person. The IATA tariff lists potential training sources. The Transportation Safety Institute is part of the DOT setup specifically to train US shippers on US laws. It offers one course that qualifies students to ship hazardous materials by any mode of transportation � air, rail, water or highway. Specialized classes by mode of transportation and shipping function are also available.
TSI offers a two-day course on shipping infectious substances. It coordinates the rules of the differing federal agencies regulating this hazard class as well as providing an excellent summary of rule changes now in the comment period of the DOT rule-making process. The instructors are excellent resources both in the classroom and back in the workplace.
You can contact the DOT for training information by visiting www.tsi.dot.gov,www.text-trieve.com/tsi or by phone at 405-949-0036 ext. 374 or fax 405-946-4345. Shipping hazardous materials can be a million dollar problem or a golden opportunity. The choice is yours.
Elbert Haitt has over 37 years experience in mailing and shipping � the past 14 years as manager of University Mailing Services at Oklahoma State University and 20 years previous experience with Emery Air Freight/Emery Worldwide Corp. For more information, his telephone number is 405-744-5385, fax 405-744-6053 and e-mail Patton@okstate.edu.