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Question of the Week: What’s Going to Happen to ORM-D?

Posted on May 31, 2011 by James Griffin

Q. I’ve heard the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is phasing out the Consumer Commodity (ORM-D) exceptions from the Hazardous Material Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR parts 171-180). When did this happen? When does it take effect? And does this mean that regular consumer products need shipping papers and the whole rigmarole of marks, labels, and UN specification packaging like regular hazmat?
A. Some of what you’ve heard is correct. As part of an effort to harmonize domestic regulations with international standards, the DOT is phasing out the ORM-D exceptions for consumer commodities. After December 31, 2012, you won’t be able to use the ORM-D-Air provisions, and after December 31, 2013, you won’t be able to use the ORM-D exceptions for other modes of transportation (vessel, highway, or rail). 
Once the ORM-D Consumer Commodity classification goes away, any products you shipped under that description will have to be described as regular hazardous materials.
But, because consumer commodity type packages don’t contain very much hazmat, they still have a lot of options that don’t require the full weight of the HMR [76 FR 3308; January 19, 2011].
Limited Quantities
Literally, the term “limited quantity” means the maximum amount of a hazardous material for which there is a specific labeling or packaging exception. In practice, it means that a package that doesn’t contain very much hazmat is relieved from the most stringent packaging and hazard communication requirements. [49 CFR 171.8] All packages that were ORM-D consumer commodities did—and probably still do—qualify for limited quantity exceptions. 
Once you have classified your hazardous material, look it up in the 49 CFR 172.101 Hazmat Table. If the entry in the table for your material designates an exception (Column 8a), then you can prepare a package of that hazmat according to the specified alternative packaging and hazard communication requirements. Provisions for limited quantities of Class 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9 are found at 49 CFR 173.150-173.156 and at 73.306 for Class 2 Gases. 
The International Air Transport Association’s Dangerous Goods Regulations (IATA DGR) and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG) work the same way. Not all hazmats authorized as limited quantities by the DOT are authorized by the IATA and IMDG, and the packing instructions for limited quantities are found in Section 2.7 and in all of the “Y” designated packing instructions of the IATA DGR, and Chapter 3.4 of the IMDG Code.
Because “limited quantity” packages contain small amounts of hazmat, they present less of a risk during transportation and the rules that apply are less stringent than for “fully regulated” bulk or non-bulk packages of the same material. 
Limited quantity packages do not require expensive UN specification performance oriented packagings, but must instead be packed in “strong outer packagings” that meet the general requirements in 49 CFR Part 173 Subpart B. For transport by aircraft, only materials authorized for transport by passenger aircraft can be offered as a limited quantity and the additional packaging requirements in 173.27 apply. 
A package of hazmat prepared as a limited quantity must be in a combination packaging and cannot exceed 30 kilograms (66 pounds) gross weight. Inner packagings are limited to 0.1-5 L (0.3-1.3 gallons) or 1-5 kg (2.2-11 lbs) depending on the packing group of the material. For air transport, more detailed limitations on inner packaging quantitity limits are found at 173.27.
Packages of hazmat prepared as a limited quantity are eligible for the additional packaging exceptions at 49 CFR 173.156. These additional exceptions used to apply only to ORM-D shipments, but can now be used by any kind of limited quantity package.
Hazard Communication
One great thing about the way the DOT has phased out the ORM-D classification is that while the ORM-D category and the Consumer Commodity shipping name are being phased out, most of the actual reliefs from regulation are staying in place or being extended.
Whether or not a limited quantity package contains a consumer commodity material, it does not require:
  • UN Identification number markings 
  • Proper Shipping Name markings 
  • Hazard Labels (except if transported by aircraft) 
  • Shipping papers & emergency response information (unless it’s a hazardous substance, hazardous waste, or marine pollutant, or is transported by vessel or aircraft) 
Markings and Placards
Each package that contains a limited quantity of a hazardous material must be marked with the limited quantity symbol (Figure 1). And, if it is ready for transport by aircraft, the symbol must include a “Y” (Figure 2). A shipping container, transported by vessel under the IMDG Code, that contains only limited quantities of hazardous material must display a placard sized version of this symbol. 
Figure 1.                                                  Figure 2.


Training and Other Issues
A person who handles or ships limited quantities of hazardous materials must comply with the hazmat employee training standards (49 CFR Part 172 Subpart H). This means their training must include general awareness, security awareness, and function-specific training on packaging and shipping the materials they work with. 

For more information on shipping limited quanitities or consumer commodities, register for Lion Technology’s Shipping Limited Quantities and Consumer Commodities online course.