Sunday, July 21, 2024
Critical measures for transporting dangerous goods

Critical measures for transporting dangerous goods

Handling dangerous goods in the airfreight and logistics sector presents unique challenges and responsibilities. To gain insights into this critical aspect of the industry, Michael Tesch, President of Dangerous Goods Management (DGM) has opened up on the primary considerations and best practices for ensuring the safe transportation of this cargo.

Dangerous or “classified’?

“The handling of dangerous goods requires strict adherence to international regulations, such as the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR), and compliance with local aviation authorities’ requirements,” Tesch emphasised.

“When I approach people who are not familiar with the subject, I start by calling it ‘classified’ or ‘regulated’ goods because I want to draw attention to the fact that these goods may not necessarily be immediately perceived as ‘dangerous.’

“For transport purposes, however, they have a classification that requires them to be treated accordingly. This approach helps in demystifying the term and allows for a more rational discussion on the necessary precautions and handling procedures.”

Proper classification, identification, packing, marking, labelling, documentation, and handling are fundamental to managing these goods safely.

“For instance, perfumes are ‘classified’ due to their flammable contents, and articles containing lithium batteries are ‘classified’ because of their potential to overheat and cause fires. These items require dedicated treatment during transport. By understanding the specific risks associated with each type of classified good, we can better manage their safe handling and shipping.”

Training is crucial

“From my point of view, the criticality of standardisation and widespread safety standards across the airfreight industry is still very high and in some aspects not fully explored,” Tesch outlined.

“The growing need for people to ship by air what has been sold through e-commerce services is multiplying, in some cases even unknowingly, the shippers of dangerous goods. Unfortunately, the case of shipments of ‘hidden dangerous goods’ is frequent.”

Tesch believes that lack of knowledge is often the cause and, as such, it is necessary to raise awareness among manufacturers and distributors of each substance or article to consider if it has been ‘classified’ for transportation purposes.

“Without wishing to return to the subject, shipping a small bottle of perfume is rarely considered ‘dangerous,’ even though it is ‘regulated.’ This underscores the need for better education and standardisation in handling such goods,” he added.

“The challenge of co-existence between safety, security, sustainability, and business can be very complicated. Goals are not always the same, and the complexity of achieving balance between these factors is immense. People and goods are increasingly on the move, with the expectation that almost everything can be delivered ‘to the other side of the world, on time, and in proper manner.’

“This happens amidst mountains of rules in every field, each of which must be fully respected. The effort involved is truly remarkable but often invisible to the majority of people.

“Every actor involved knows that difficulty in achieving the goal may be just around the corner, which is why operators plan everything meticulously according to rules, assess every opportunity as best they can, and yet, reality may still present unforeseen challenges.

“I believe that transport and logistics activities have a great capacity for flexibility and problem-solving, which are crucial in navigating these complexities.”

Equipment and procedures

The use of specialised equipment and facilities for safe storage and transportation is another key consideration.

“Investing in the right equipment and infrastructure enhances safety,” Tesch explained. “From state-of-the-art packaging materials to advanced cargo handling equipment, these investments are vital.”

Emergency response procedures and contingency plans are also critical.

“We must have robust emergency response plans,” Tesch highlighted. “Immediate notification to authorities, activation of trained response teams, isolation and containment of incidents, and thorough investigations are all part of our protocol to minimise risks.”

To minimise risks to cargo operations, comprehensive risk assessments are conducted: “Identifying potential hazards and developing tailored risk management strategies are essential steps.”

Internal audits also play a crucial role in continuous improvement.

“We adhere strictly to international and national regulations,” he continued. “This includes the ICAO Technical Instructions, IATA DGR, and other relevant authorities’ guidelines. Compliance ensures safety and operational efficiency.”

The role of technology

Advancements in technology have significantly contributed to the safe handling of dangerous goods.

“Tracking systems and monitoring devices provide real-time visibility of cargo, enabling proactive monitoring and intervention,” Tesch pointed out.

“These technologies, combined with data analytics, enhance safety and security.”

“Shipment analysis is essential, whether done with technological tools or human reasoning. Clearly, precisely because of the large numbers in the industry, technical support is important. The technological process is itself programmed by humans, and it has to be continuously fed with new cases, new scenarios, and new solutions. The more the merrier!

“Technological advancements, such as tracking systems and monitoring devices, contribute significantly to the safe handling and transportation of dangerous goods by providing real-time data and insights, thus enabling better risk management and incident response.”

Challenges with lithium batteries

Handling lithium batteries poses unique challenges due to the risk of thermal runaway and fire. “Strict packaging and labelling requirements are necessary to prevent damage and ensure proper handling,” Tesch explained.

“The air transport of lithium batteries is so special that some engineers, smiling, think it would need dedicated regulations separate from other dangerous goods, taking up so much room in the regulatory books! Joking aside, there is really a lot of complexity in this case.

“Lithium batteries pose significant risks due to their potential to overheat and catch fire. This requires stringent packaging, handling, and shipping protocols to mitigate these risks. While I may not be sufficiently technical to delve into all the specifics, it’s clear that the complexity surrounding the safe transport of lithium batteries necessitates continuous review and adaptation of regulations and practices.”

The impact of e-commerce has increased the volume of lithium battery shipments, necessitating stricter adherence to regulations. “Adopting specialised packaging and labelling solutions, along with integrating battery safety considerations into supply chain management, is crucial,” Tesch noted.

The regulations governing the transportation of dangerous goods are highly detailed and constantly evolving.

“They are designed to ensure the safety of people and property,” Tesch emphasised. “Collaboration with regulatory authorities and industry organisations helps us stay updated on best practices and regulatory changes.”

“Our goal is to ensure safety and security while serving the many sectors that rely on the transport of dangerous goods. This requires continuous adaptation, investment in technology, and collaboration across the industry.”

Picture of Anastasiya Simsek

Anastasiya Simsek

Anastasiya Simsek started her journalism career in 2016 at Ukrainian TV-Channels: 24 Channel and 1+1 Media. Having worked across a number of different sectors, including news, medicine and lifestyle, she joined the Air Cargo Week editorial team in 2024. To share your news and exclusive insights, contact Anastasiya.Simsek@AirCargoWeek.com

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