Both “hazardous chemicals” and “dangerous goods” are widely used terms across various industries. Understanding what these terms mean is necessary to ensure optimum safety for workers and other persons who come into contact with such harmful substances.
As a person who handles hazardous materials or dangerous goods, you must know the regulatory requirements and standards and comply with them strictly. Learn more about the differences between each term and the regulations that govern them below.
What Are Hazardous Chemicals?
Hazardous chemicals generally consist of substances or mixtures that pose harm to human health, the environment and properties. Due to their dangerous capabilities, governments and other institutions implement regulations to ensure they are correctly handled, stored, transported and disposed of. The term “hazardous chemicals” is sometimes interchanged with others like “hazardous materials” (hazmat) and “hazardous substances.” Even so, regulations define them slightly differently.
For example, OSHA defines hazardous chemicals as chemicals classified as a physical or health hazard, a simple asphyxiant, pyrophoric gas, combustible dust or hazard not otherwise classified.
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) defines hazardous materials as materials or substances that can pose unreasonable risks to safety, health and property in commerce and is designated hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103. The definition includes the following:
- Hazardous substances
- Hazardous wastes
- Elevated temperature materials
- Marine pollutants
Finally, the definition of “hazmat” under 49 C.F.R. section 171.8, which the DOT adopted, is different from “hazardous substances” under the same law. Essentially, the law defines each term by placing them under different categories. Common examples of hazmat are:
- Reactive materials
- Radioactive substances
- Compressed gasses
- Poisonous materials
- Organic peroxides
Hazmat workers must strictly comply with their training and these regulations to ensure the safe handling and transportation of hazmat.
What Are Dangerous Goods?
Dangerous goods are solids, gases and liquids capable of causing harm to people, property and the environment. These substances are usually flammable, corrosive, toxic, oxidizing, spontaneously combustible or water-reactive.
Dangerous goods are often interchanged with hazmat in the U.S. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) defines dangerous goods as substances or materials capable of posing unreasonable threats to the health and safety of humans and properties when transported in commerce. The FAA’s definition is the same as hazardous materials provided under 49 C.F.R. section 171.8.
The FAA further indicates that dangerous goods include everyday products like dry ice, aerosol whipped cream and lithium batteries. Although they seem harmless, transportation conditions such as vibrations, temperature and pressure variations, and static electricity can cause them to leak, ignite, generate toxic fumes or explode.
Government agencies have developed strict standards for handling, documenting, training, promoting and using dangerous goods. For example, people transporting such products must ensure they’re properly packaged, classified, labeled and placarded.
Hazardous Materials and Dangerous Goods Regulations
Hazardous materials and dangerous goods regulations are the minimum standards for handling, storing, transporting and disposing of harmful substances. In the U.S., the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act is the primary legislation for transporting hazardous materials and dangerous goods. The regulations are in Title 49 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations and are enforced by the DOT.
There are also international regulations related to shipping dangerous goods, such as the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) code. IATA DGR regulations are specific to air travel, while the IMDG code relates to maritime transportation. The IATA works closely with the International Civil Aviation Organization and local governments to develop regulations and practical transportation solutions.
Are There Differences Between Hazmat and Dangerous Goods?
Some agencies in the U.S., like the FAA, define hazmat and dangerous goods similarly. However, there are some differences in how the two are classified.
Hazardous materials are generally classified based on their health implications, whether immediate or long-term. In comparison, the easiest way to identify dangerous goods is according to their immediate physical or chemical effects, such as the ability to cause fire, explosion, corrosion, poisoning or negatively affect health and the environment.
Again, not all dangerous goods are hazardous chemicals. Dangerous goods may include articles like lithium batteries and airbags, which may not be considered dangerous chemicals. Overall, both hazardous chemicals and dangerous goods can pose threats, prompting agencies to implement standards to control their risks.
How Do You Identify Dangerous Goods and Hazardous Materials?
The easiest way to identify dangerous goods and hazardous materials is to locate the relevant safety data sheet (SDS) and check the transportation information. An SDS, previously called the material safety data sheet, is a document a manufacturer uses to provide a product’s hazardous classification and other valuable information on the transport risk related to the material.
It’s important to point out that the terms “identification” and “classification” may differ. When classifying substances, hazmat employees determine whether the substances are hazardous materials according to the regulations and assign them to the proper hazard class. Identification focuses on assigning dangerous materials to the proper shipping names (PSNs) and identification numbers, considering their hazard classification, physical state, properties, composition and intended use. Some hazardous materials require unique treatment, and hazmat workers must ensure they’re correctly marked and labeled.
The hazardous materials table provided under 49 C.F.R. Section 172.101 establishes the PSNs for substances, mixtures, articles and solutions that qualify as hazardous materials. If the substance is omitted from the table or includes the term “Not Otherwise Specified,” the hazmat worker must assess the product’s components and other indications to ascertain the most fitting PSN.
Register for Hazmat School Courses Today
Complying with hazmat and dangerous goods regulations can help you protect yourself, workers and others against harm. Compliance also helps keep the environment safe and safeguard properties. Therefore, it’s crucial for people handling such substances to equip themselves with the right skills and information through efficient training programs.
Hazmat School is one of the nation’s leading workplace and transportation safety training institutions, providing practical online courses and in-person classes to individuals and businesses. We offer various hazmat and dangerous goods modules, including the IATA online training course, the DOT and IATA hazmat shipping training course and the DOT, IATA and IMDG hazmat shipping training course.
Register for a course today, or contact us if you have any questions about our courses!