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The first quarter of every year brings adverse weather and an increased risk of an accident. When firefighters and law enforcement rush to the scene of a commercial motor vehicle accident to provide assistance, they are trained to locate hazardous materials shipping papers that offer instructions on how to mitigate chemical releases.
Understanding emergency response information (ERI)
Most hazmat shipments that require shipping papers must be accompanied by ERI. The following information must be provided:
- Basic description and technical name of the hazmat,
- Immediate hazards to health,
- Risks of fire or explosion,
- Immediate precautions to be taken in the event of an incident,
- Immediate methods for handling fires,
- Initial methods for handling spills or leaks in the absence of fires, and
- Preliminary first aid measures.
The regulations also state that the information must be complete, printed legibly, and in English.
The most common methods of providing the required ERI include:
- Listing it directly on the shipping papers,
- Keeping a copy of the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) with the shipping papers,
- Keeping a copy of the appropriate guide page from an ERG with the shipping papers, and
- Keeping a copy of the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) with the shipping papers.
The ERG was developed to help first responders at the scene of hazardous materials transportation incident. It enables responders to quickly identify the hazmat and hazards involved and protect the general public during the initial response phase.
Location of the shipping papers
The location of the shipping papers and ERI is just as important as the information contained in the documentation. If first responders are unable to locate the necessary documentation, valuable time could be lost, resulting in the additional loss of property and/or life. The HMR requires that the shipping paper must be readily recognizable and available to authorities in the event of an accident or incident.
The hazmat shipping paper must be clearly distinguished from other papers of any kind, either by distinctively tabbing it or having it appear first. When the driver is at the controls of the vehicle, the shipping paper and ERI must be within immediate reach while the driver is restrained by a seat belt, and either be readily visible to someone entering the driver’s compartment or be in a holder mounted on the inside of the driver’s door. Compliance with ERI placement is critical when seconds count during a significant incident, so ensure that the ERI information is in the correct place for first responders.
Key to remember: Strict compliance with the ERI regulations will enhance first responder and general public safety during the initial response to an incident or accident.
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