I love crow.

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I have spent the last 25 years of my professional life eating crow. It has a lot to do with the job. At first, it is really hard to eat, but now I don’t mind, even though I have never liked the taste. I think the secret to enjoying crow, is how it’s served to you. See, as an EPA, DOT, OSHA comedian, instructor and publisher, in my small fiefdom, I reign over the hazardous, materials, waste, chemicals and substances requirements. I do this by covering transportation, environmental and worker protection interfaces, inconsistencies and overlaps, which I feel is the critical interface between these three agencies that everyone who uses chemicals must understand when they ship, store, use or dispose of them.

By memory, I can cite the 49 CFR, 172.200 hazardous materials and waste shipping paper regulations.  I am one of a small crowd that knows why DOT, EPA and OSHA all use the term hazardous substance and know every regulation for and differences between an empty drum, in a truck, a spill or in your plant. I know that testing is never required for a 29 CFR OHSA Safety Data Sheet and that the shipping and disposal sections on them is not mandatory and usually incomplete or wrong.

But, I don’t know my wife’s birthday, not sure how old my children are and sometimes I can’t spell my middle name. That is because, my days are immersed in regulatory subchapters, parts, subparts, sections and paragraphs, then at night as I sleep hazardous materials, hazardous substance, hazardous waste, and hazardous chemicals continue to dance in my head.  

For years, I’ve gone to great lengths, in my seminars, to talk about the 49 CFR 172.400, 4x4 inch square EMPTY label under the department of transportation and its use for empty radioactive containers. Often, it is mistaken for a mark but, it is really a label. I was always under the impression that it was only to be used for empty radioactive containers, to be placed over the diamond shaped radioactive hazard Class label when a container that had ‘previously’ contained a Class 7, radioactive material was being shipped back to the original supplier of the material. But, of course I was wrong. I recently found out the EMPTY label can also be used for empty packaging that formerly contained “any” class of hazardous material.

See, at my last seminar in Honolulu, I was approached at the end of the day, by a very good customer, who told me that I might be mistaken about the EMPTY labels uses, and of course not to embarrass me during the course of the seminar she waited until most of the participants had left. Not only that, she said she also had proof, a letter of interpretation that stated that the radioactive EMPTY label could be used on a container that had previously contained a hazardous material, but, now was completely purged and no longer contained any residue of the previous contents.


I quickly scanned her letter of interpretation and told her “she” obviously misread the letter and I dismissed her, then went surfing. Then, three weeks later on my way home from the seminar in Puerto Rico, I found the copy of her DOT letter tucked into my computer bag. Upon further inspection of the letter, to my horror, I found out that she was correct. Apparently the empty label can be used for containers previously containing any hazardous material. I am such an ass.

It seems this letter of interpretation, #01-0169 on August 20, 2001,  by the department of transportation states :

“Specifically, you ask if the empty label required under 173.428 for an empty radioactive material package may be used for a cleaned and purged packaging that formerly contained a non-radioactive hazardous material.” So, “The answer is yes.” A shipper may apply the empty label depicted in § 172.450 to an empty packaging that formerly contained a hazardous material of any hazard class.”

But, what upset me the most, was the fact that I had not looked at nor discussed the letter, at the time it was originally presented to me. See, I wasn’t wrong, the label is “primarily” used for empty radioactive containers.  I was upset because this customer had only taken the time and effort to show me this information to make sure that my future presentations would be correct, where as I thought it was about her, it was about me.

Even worse, a few years ago I had a representative from one of the state environmental protection agency’s tell me that they were handing out and recommending these 49 CFR DOT mandatory EMPTY class 7, shipping labels for designating empty 40 CFR hazardous waste containers, no longer under the 90 or 180 day storage requirements. Signifying that the containers were, at the very least, below the 1 inch, 2.5 centimeter, federal non-acute empty hazardous waste container requirements under the environmental protection agency for hazardous waste generators under 40 CFR 261.7 Residue of hazardous waste an empty containers.  

At the time I had told him they could be only used for empty radioactive containers, which was wrong. However, in retrospect I would still would not recommend using a department of transportation shipping label to meet an environmental protection agency hazardous waste requirement.

Why would you use a DOT empty label on a container that was not regulated by the department of transportation, especially in light of the requirement to use it on empty radioactive containers. It seems crazy to me for someone to go back in to a regulation they are not under to label a container, that is not regulated under that regulation. Then, if these non RCRA empty packaging with residues were shipped off site for any reason, with the EMPTY marks still a fixed, the shipper would be in violation of 49 CFR 173.29 Empty packaging.

So, obviously, I wanted to update at the very least all of the people, I had personally chastised for using the empty mark for anything other than a container that previously contained a radioactive material. But more importantly, I wanted to say thank you to each and everyone of you that has come up to me after a seminar, called or sent me an email to correct “my” incomplete presentation.  

I still have a client, one of my favorites, who I run seminars for every year, that called me up a few days after his last seminar and pretended he did not know the answer to a question on material I had covered in his seminar. I didn’t realize until I got off the phone with him, that he knew the answer but, he really just wanted me to be the best I could be, without humiliating me.

I can’t think of a better way to be served crow.

If you ever have a question, comment or a correction please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you for your readership and support.


Robert J. Keegan
Publisher and President
Hazardous Materials Publishing Company

It's what's Inside...


I know you’ve heard the expression, “it is what’s on the inside that counts.” However, that may not be the case if you ship hazardous materials, waste, and substances; in addition to, marine pollutants and/or elevated temperature materials. The Department of Transportation has issued new fines and penalties concerning the closure of packagings of hazardous materials in 49 CFR.

New fines and penalties have been assessed for hazardous material shippers that failed to meet the proper closure requirements for packaging. The general ‘‘No Leak Standard” for all packagings can be found in 173.24(b) and it deals primarily with packaging as a whole, however it is 173.24(f) that focuses on the closure. Also be aware that the Department of Transportation has considered both leak and non- leak scenarios along with the package size to reach the appropriate penalties.

You better hope there is no leak, which if found could increase the fines usually up to 50%. Then, in any circumstance in which a leak comes into contact with a human being, it well could increase the fine by at least 100% (up to $79,976), this of course is only if no one is hurt.

If the violation results in death, serious illness, injury or substantial destruction of property, the  fine amounts would increase. This maximum amount could reach up-wards of $186,610.


—Small bottle or box. .....................................................................................................$1,000

—55-gallon drum. ............................................................................................................$2,500

—Larger container, e.g., IBC; not portable tank or tank car ..............................$5,000


And it’s not just what’s on the inside, apparently DOT also is concerned about what is on the outside. Shippers should be aware that this new rule states, any residue of a hazardous material that is found adhering to the outside packaging in transportation could be a additional fine of up to $5000. This fine again, would only be increased based on human exposure, death, serious injury or substantial destruction of property.

This new rule includes clarification on the liability for shippers who use incorrect, improperly stenciled and unmarked containers. Download a copy of this November 27, 2018 Federal register at  https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2018-11-27/pdf/2018-24930.pdf  .

We will be covering all these topics and more at the next Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Compliance Seminar, in a city near you. If you have any questions, comments or input please contact me. Thank you for your readership and support.

Robert J. Keegan

Publisher and President

Hazardous Materials Publishing Company

Transportation Skills Programs Inc.


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I was told once by my father, that if you stand still long enough, someone will eventually start a line behind you, see he felt that a lot of people were sheep. In fact, it was not uncommon for him to slowly and quietly “ Baaa”, when he was in a line waiting for non-existent or quite frankly even slow service. 

On December 21, 2017, Tom Ferguson from the Council on Safe Transportation of Hazardous Articles, in Queensbury, New York, sent a letter to the Department of Transportation concerning their recent  49 CFR 172.407 label specification amendments. The amendment stated that on December 31st, 2018 the inner border line of each hazard class hazardous material container label must be at least 2 mm wide, as apposed to the old requirements for the inner border line to be at least 1 mm.



First, did you know current DOT regulations state that the diamond (square-on-point) hazard class labels must be at least 100 mm (3.9 inches) on each side with each side having a solid line inner border 5 mm inside and parallel to the edge. The 5 mm measurement is from the outside edge of the label to the outside of the solid line forming the inner border and the width of the solid line forming the inner border must be at least 2 mm, not the current 1 mm.  

Listen, unchanged is the size of the labels hazard class or division number that appear on the label, which still must be at least 6.3 mm (0.25 inches) but not greater than 12.7 mm (0.5 inches).  Then, any label names and any text indicating the hazard, that is displayed on a label, still must be shown in letters measuring at least 7.6 mm (0.3 inches) in height. 

There are two important exceptions, first for the SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUSTIBLE or DANGEROUS WHEN WET labels, in which the words “Spontaneously” and “When Wet” must be shown in letters measuring at least 5.1 mm, (0.2 inches) in height

And, the second, could be used only if the size of a package was to small to accommodate the aforementioned specification labels. The dimensions of the label and its features may be reduced as long as the symbol and other elements of the label remain clearly visible. Please, don’t try reducing the spec labels because the solid line forming the inner border still must remain 5 mm from the outside edge of the label and also, the minimum width of the line must remain at least 2 mm, even though all the other features (images, letters and type) shall be in approximate proportion to the larger labels.

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Here’s the kicker, the United Nations Committee of Experts on Dangerous Goods, has decided the thickness of the inner border line, has little if any affect on safety and has authorized the use for the old 1 millimeter inner border line on the international hazard class labels. If you have anticipated the changes in the labels on December 31, 2018, fine. However, if you have old labels, with the 1 mm inner border lines, as opposed to the 2 mm thick inner border lines, don’t discard them, they can still be used internationally - under ICAO & IMO. And I hear from the DOT hotline, in the next major Department of Transportation, International Harmonization Rulemaking, they will most likely authorize the use of both the new 2 mm or the old 1 mm inner border line on the hazard class labels.

If you don’t know the transitional history, the old 1 mm thick inner border lines labels were only allowed to be used until December 31, 2016, hence to align with international requirements but, the date was then moved up to December 31, 2018.

In the meantime, it might be a good time to get a copy of the new 2018/2019. Hazardous Materials Substances and Wastes Compliance Guide or better yet, sign up for my next Haz-mat seminar when I am in town, with my personal guarantee that the only line you will see is the one at the end of the day, when my attendees are trying to get out the door. 

Thank you,
Robert J Keegan 

Publisher and President