COMMENT: Dealing with the transportation of dangerous goods

by Canadian Shipper

Today, more than ever, Canadians are concerned about incidents involving dangerous goods. The Canadian Chemical Producers’ Association (CCPA) and Transport Canada are responding to this concern, in part with a congress taking place November 8th-9th that will deal with the issue of the transportation of dangerous goods. This conference will look specifically at how to further improve regulations and responsible practices.

This is especially important now as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Mississauga Derailment, an event that highlighted the need for these initiatives in 1979. At that time, a cargo train came off the tracks in this southern-Ontario city, leaking large quantities of chlorine, styrene and propane into the environs. Approximately 250,000 residents were evacuated. At the time, in fact, it was the largest peacetime evacuation in North America.

It is events like these that push us to respond. The CCPA developed Responsible Care , an ethic for the chemical industry that commits chemical producers to continuous improvement in health, safety and the environment. Invented in Canada, Responsible Care, , is practiced in over 47 countries all over the world. In fact, this is the most significant undertaking done by members in the 37-year history of the CCPA.

The ethic states that we are stewards of our products and services during their life cycles in order to protect people and the environment. An important part of this is the safe and reliable transportation of potentially dangerous goods. In light of this, we have developed, as one of the major components of the program, the Transportation Code of Practice. This code governs CCPA members’ responsibilities for chemical transportation via rail, truck, marine, air or pipeline.

The Code is designed to make sure that chemicals and chemical products are transported in a way that prevents injury to the people moving the goods, to the people along the transportation route, and to the environment.

When a member companies hires a third party to carry goods, that third party is expected to operate according to the principles of Responsible Care. This means that members must evaluate carriers of their materials on safety performance and programs, inspection and maintenance procedures for equipment, and selection and training of drivers and support staff. If carriers cannot meet the expected standards, they should not be hired.

What’s more, employees of third party carriers, as well as people living in communities along the transportation route, should have the same access to the same health and safety information as company employees. This is what we call the Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response (TransCAER). The aim of TransCAER is to reduce the number of transportation incidents while reducing the impact they have should they occur. Transportation routes should be chosen to minimize the exposure of people and environmentally-sensitive areas to the potential hazards caused by chemicals and products.

As well, each company should have an up-to-date operational transportation emergency response to deal with hazards, to contain and clean up releases, to provide technical advisors at accident scenes, and to assist local emergency response forces.

We also recognize the public’s right to have information about the safe movement of chemicals and related products through their communities. This is why we also created the Community Right-to-Know policy. Good emergency response is also good risk management. The record speaks for itself there has been a steady decline in transportation-related incidents since 1992.

A key part of this is safe transportation of all goods, including potentially dangerous ones. Our partners in Responsible Care include transporters such as Canadian National, Canadian Pacific Railway, Diverse Transportation, Harmac Transportation Inc., Procor Limited and the Canadian Association of Chemical Distributors.

A key partner in Responsible Care and in the upcoming congress is Transport Canada. We are working closely with the Transport of Dangerous Goods Directorate, the focal point for the national effort to promote public safety during the transport of dangerous goods. Transport Canada is currently in the process of performing a 10-year review of the Transport of Dangerous Goods Act. The review is a normal process. When the TDG Act was passed, in June 1992, a promise was made to review its application after 10 years which happened in 2002. However, it was at first restricted to security issues, following the events of September 11, 2001.

Today, stakeholders such as CCPA are communicating their positions as to where they believe the Act could be improved. So far, comments have come in regarding security and new concepts that hadn’t been integrated in the original version. This review will no doubt cumulate into a solid and comprehensive set of laws and regulations that will keep the Canadian public safe.

These topics and many more will be widely discussed at next week’s conference. With a gathering of top experts both nationally and internationally, we can count on much progress being made in the area of transportation of dangerous goods. This is important for Canadians to know so that they can feel confident that work is being done to prevent an incident like the Mississauga Derailment from ever taking place again.

Richard Paton is the president and CEO of the Canadian Chemical Producers’ Association

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