PHMSA Rule Adopts Industry Standard On Storage of Explosives During Transport

Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...

The Department of Transportation is issuing a final rule that would adopt an industry standard for storing explosive materials temporarily in safe havens during transportation, according to a Federal Register notice to be published June 7.

Under the final rule, DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will use the National Fire Protection Association standard 498 (NFPA 498) as the federally approved standard to build and maintain safe havens for the unattended storage of Division 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3 explosives.

The final rule would amend 49 C.F.R. Parts 171 and 177. It finalizes a proposed rule that PHMSA and FMCSA issued July 27, 2010 (142 DER A-11, 7/27/10).

Safe havens are storage facilities where trucks transporting hazardous materials can be left unattended for short periods of time during transportation. Under federal rules safe havens must be specifically approved in writing by federal, state, or local government authorities.

According to PHMSA, “NFPA 498 is an accepted standard that imposes rigorous safety requirements on facilities at which explosives are temporarily stored during transportation.”

That is because the standard is tailored to the risks posed by commercially transported explosives. In the final rule, PHMSA said, any facility that conforms to the safe haven requirements specified by this standard would be authorized for use as a safe haven. It does not impose any material quantity or storage time limits.

NFPA 498 provides safety guidelines including requirements that:

• safe havens be located in secured areas no closer than 300 feet from a bridge, tunnel, dwelling, building, or place where people work congregate, or assemble;

• signs warning of the presence of explosives mark the entrance to safe havens;

• fire protection equipment be provided;

• explosives not be transferred from one vehicle to another except in case of necessity or emergency; and

• security personnel be on site or other means of acceptable security, such as electronic surveillance, be provided.

The comment period on the proposal closed Sept. 25, 2010. PHMSA said the comments largely supported using the industry standard.

The Institute of Makers of Explosives recommended that PHMSA incorporate the 2010 edition of the standard that came out after PHMSA and FMCSA proposed the rule. PHMSA agreed, as it did not identify any significant differences among the 2006 edition and the current edition.

The IME had also asked PHMSA to address theft and loss of explosives by referencing the theft and loss reporting standards used by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and to require risk assessment of safe havens in the final rule.

PHMSA said the standard provides “adequate measures” to ensure that unattended explosives are stored safely during transportation. Moreover, PHMSA said shippers are required to assess security risks in transportation already under 49 C.F.R. Part 172 anyway.

“The requirements for safe havens under NFPA 498 coupled with the carrier’s assessment of safety and security risks along routes will enable carriers to make more uniform and risk-based decisions regarding the use of safe havens,” PHMSA said.

By Amena H. Saiyid

Request Environment & Energy Report