Knock-Knock. Who’s There? PHMSA Auditors… What!?

By September 23, 2013 Uncategorized

The receptionist brings you the business cards of two PHMSA auditors and tells you they are waiting to speak to you. What do you do?

Well, after taking a deep breath, you go introduce yourself and find out why they are there. A “surprise audit” is how they respond, and you think, “OMG, how can this be happening?” Once you regain your senses, you ask them more about the process and what they wish to see. When they ask you questions, be honest; don’t try to hide things – that will only get you in trouble.

First question: Where are the training records?

If PHMSA feels that you are a hazmat employer, you will have hazmat employees. Under 49 CFR 172.700 you are required to train employees in general awareness, function specific, security and safety training. You are required to have documentation of that training. It is required every 3 years.

There are several possible violations: failure to train and/or failure to document the training.

A violation for training is easy to avoid. Keep good records, and ensure all employees who could be considered hazmat employees are retrained every three years – without question!

Second question: Where are your packaging records?

What packaging are you using? Do you have a packing instruction sheet for that package on file? Are you preparing it as the manufacture said you should? Did the manufacture provide you with instructions that are repeatable time after time? Are you following the closing instructions? Are you torqueing the bottles as you should? PHMSA will ask to see everything, including the torque wrench that you are using.

At the end of the day, PHMSA will sits down and explain what they find. If you are lucky, you will have no probable violations, and perhaps some recommendations. If you are not so lucky, PHMSA will explain the probable violations, and the process for the corrective actions.

Corrective actions are very important. Your response to the corrective action may determine how bad your actual violation maybe in the end. If you have probable violations, spend time ensuring that the corrective actions are well thought out meet the 49 CFR standards and correctly respond to the violation.

What starts out as a stressful day turns out to be a valuable learning experience. If you are doing things right to begin with, PHMSA will understand that, and will work with you to fix about problems.

Did you know that ICC has auditing services? Let our regulatory experts come and audit your operation, including training and packaging records. We will provide a list of “probable violations” and feedback that you can use to improve. You never know when you will have that knock on the door.

Karrie Ishmael

Karrie Ishmael

Karrie started with the company in 1988 and has worked in a variety of capacities including customer service, sales, management, and marketing. In her current role as Regulatory Manager, she manages and supports ICC's efforts in supplying value-added services including training and SDS services to our clients. She is knowledgeable in a variety of regulations. She actively participates in a multitude of associations including DGAC, COSTHA and is the former chair of SCHC’s OSHA Alliance Committee.


  • Avatar Kris says:


    PHMSA personnel are not auditors, they are investigators. They do not perform audits, they perform investigations and compliance inspections. And they look at more than just packaging and training records. PHSMA is not mode specific, so if you ship HM via highway, air, rail or vessel, you could receive an inspection from PHMSA personnel. You may be getting an inspection because you had leaking packages in transportation or it may be because you have a special permit or approval from PHMSA. There are many reasons why PHMSA shows up for unannounced inspections.

    And HM training is covered under 172.700, not 800.

    • Kris,
      Thank you for your feedback.
      I apologize for my error, you are correct, training is indeed under 172.700. I have updated it accordingly. I agree with your feedback as well. My blog is written from my personal experience. Why PHSMA visits, and depending on what you do, and how you ship, the investigation will vary.
      Thanks again for your feedback.