Fertilizer plant cited for shipping violations, lack of required labeling

Having proper chemical labels is not only important for businesses involved in the production and manufacturing of hazardous products, but also when it comes to shipping those items to other companies. How are employees supposed to know the proper shipping and handling procedures if they do not even know what is in a particular drum or barrel?

Additionally, an organization can face hefty fines for not having the necessary labels for their products. For example, the West Fertilizer Company, located in West, Texas, is facing heavy scrutiny. Nearly two weeks ago, the plant exploded, killing at least 14 people and injuring many others.

A recent Wall Street Journal article explained that last year, the company paid $5,250 in civil penalties to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. According to the news source, the fertilizer company had faulty shipping practices. While these violations are not related to the explosion, the Journal explained that the citations also included failing to develop a safety plan that dealt with shipping bulk quantities of certain chemicals.

Specifically, West Fertilizer was shipping anhydrous ammonia in "unauthorized and non-specification" cargo tanks.

"The violation notice issued in January 2012 states that the hazardous material was shipped in cargo tanks, or nurse tanks, that were missing required markings and placards and with illegible data plates," explained the Journal article.

Without accurate and detailed chemical labels, it can be difficult – if not impossible – to know how to handle packaged products. Hazardous items must have clear labels that adhere to GHS labeling standards, and any other federal requirements. That way, all employees and customers who come into contact with the items understand how to keep themselves and others safe.

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