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Hazardous Materials Incident Prevention Manual

Originally Published in July 1995


This manual has been prepared on behalf of the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to help reduce the number of hazardous materials incidents during transportation. It is directed towards transportation by commercial vehicles but includes loading, unloading and temporary storage issues. The focus is on management policy, employee training, equipment usage and inspection activities. Where appropriate, incident mitigation approaches have been included as the response to a hazardous materials incident has an important effect on the final outcome.

Safety and hazardous materials specialists can use this manual in guiding carrier and handling companies towards improved safety. Management within companies can use this manual in reviewing policies and promoting dialogue relating to hazardous materials incidents. Hazardous materials employees can benefit from reviewing and practicing the many safety tips provided specifically for their area of responsibilities.

The manual is not intended to provide interpretation of Federal Regulations, nor does it set out criteria for judging the performance of hazardous materials employees in particular circumstances.



This manual presents countermeasures which may be used to reduce the number of Hazardous Materials Incidents. It includes guides and tips to help Hazmat employees and safety managers formulate strategies appropriate to their company circumstances which will lead to improved hazardous materials safety. The manual is intended to complement the Commercial Vehicle Preventable Accident Manual already in use by DOT Safety Specialists to assist carrier companies improve their safety performance.

Incident Prevention:

The Department of Transportation definition of a hazardous materials incident involves leakage from a container. If there is no actual release of hazardous material then, according to this definition, no hazardous materials incident has occurred. However, it is recognized that the factors leading up towards a hazardous materials incident may be present even though no actual leakage occurs and that such factors should be addressed. The table of hazardous materials incidents in the first section of the manual is therefore supplemented by a table of High Risk Situations so that, even if no release occurs, the underlying factors contributing to a hazardous materials incident may be drawn into any dialogue.

How This Manual Should be Used:

The manual contains a table of typical hazardous materials incidents, together with a supplemental table of high risk situations. For each incident and situation some potential causes are listed, together with principal and secondary countermeasures which may help to address those causes. Each countermeasure referenced in the table is fully described on an individual sheet. The sheet contains questions and tips intended to prompt the reader to consider strategies which could be implemented to counter the incident or high risk situation. Since circumstances vary widely, countermeasures should be considered as guidelines for developing into strategies appropriate to the particular company.

Each countermeasure sheet references selected books and resources for further information. Appropriate countermeasures from the Commercial Vehicle Preventable Accident Manual are also referenced for those situations where vehicle accident issues are also involved. Federal Regulations which address the issues are also referenced where appropriate.

Following the countermeasure and reference sections is a section containing Hazmat Incident Analysis Work Sheets as an aid to the safety analyst. The primary intent of the work sheet is to provide DOT specialists with a systematic method of exploring a more complete set of hazardous materials situations and to identify appropriate countermeasures for use in developing safety improvement approaches.


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