Dangerous Goods 1: Rules, Regulations & Responsibilities
Our latest newsletter series will be exploring the world of Dangerous Goods (DGR) and looking at some of the problems ground handlers may face, including NOTOCs, DGR systems and the DGR data update process.
This first newsletter is meant as an introduction to DGR and provides an insight into this complex and important area of air cargo handling.
So what qualifies as Dangerous Goods (DGR)?
A DGR is a substance or article that is capable of causing health risks, damage to people, property or the environment and covers a multitude of goods from corrosives to explosives, toxic or infectious substances to flammable liquids and solids, gases or radioactive material.
Clearly explosives or toxins are obvious examples, but dangerous goods aren’t always so apparent. Take “Cola” for example, an everyday substance that has the ability to corrode an object if it is left immersed for a long period. Now, put a large quantity of Cola (Corrosive, Class 8) in its concentrated form in an aircraft, that is made mostly of aluminium and should the concentrate leak during a flight, the potential consequences could be very serious.
Ensuring that these dangerous goods do not go undeclared on board an aircraft is one of many key objectives of IATA’s dangerous goods program.
What are the DGR Regulations?
Information is key to any safety program, no less for dangerous goods in air transport. Through its Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) and a comprehensive and effective training program, IATA ensures that shippers, forwarders and carriers have the tools and resources to ship dangerous goods safely.
These regulations are published yearly by IATA. The basis of the regulations is comprised from many sources SCoETDG, ICAO, IAEA and IATA. By working closely with governments and other national authorities to develop the regulations, IATA ensures that the rules governing dangerous goods transport are both effective and efficient with the main goal to make it just as easy to ship dangerous goods by air as any other product so it removes any incentive to by-pass the regulations.
Addendums to the current regulations are produced throughout the year with new regulations becoming effective on the 1st day of the New Year. The regulations are available printed or via a CD or flash drive within a software package.
What is the purpose of the DGR Regulations?
The regulations detail an international standard for the shipping of dangerous cargo by air. They also define substances that cannot be transported by air due to the high danger that they pose in the event of an accident. Sometimes a countries government or an aircraft owner might impose stricter rules than are defined by the standard IATA regulations and these are known as State & Operator variations.
By defining these document standards, handling and training and by actively promoting the adoption and use of those standards by the air cargo industry, IATA have achieved a very high degree of safety in dangerous goods transport.
An operator (airline) or its Ground Handling Agent (GHA) must ensure that they comply with the regulations for dangerous goods and follow the correct procedures for acceptance, storage, checking, loading and the reporting of the loaded dangerous goods items to the “Pilot in Command”.
Training must also be completed for each employee involved in the handling of dangerous goods.
Each employee must undergo approved IATA training course and pass an examination to verify the understanding of the regulations.
Each employee must perform recurrent training every 2 years to ensure they are aware of the current regulations.
Records of training must be kept by the Operator GHA and will be required in the event of a dangerous good incident.
Playing with Fire: What happens when DGR transport goes wrong?
In August 1980, a Lockheed L1011 took off from Riyadh. Seven minutes later an aural warning indicated a smoke in the aft cargo compartment. Despite the successful landing all 301 persons on board perished due toxic fumes inhalation and uncontrolled fire.
In May 1996, fire, originating from incorrectly carried dangerous cargo, broke out on board a DC9. The fire damaged the aircraft flying controls before the crew were able to land the aircraft and it crashed in the Florida Everglades.
In July 2011, a Boeing 747- 400F reported main deck fire 50 minutes after take off. Eighteen minutes later the aircraft crashed into the sea. The on-going investigation is focusing on dangerous goods being carried which included lithium ion batteries.
A shipper must comply with the current regulations and must ensure that all documentary requirements are followed and that the packaging meets the requirements for shipment by air.
The shipper is also responsible for ensuring that maximum net quantities of the dangerous substances are not exceeded.
For comprehensive information from IATA on the Dangerous Goods Regulations visit their website: www.iata.org
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