As most of us in the dangerous goods packaging world know, in order to continue manufacturing UN packaging designs, we are required to re-test our combination packaging every two years and one year for single packaging in a certified lab per 49CFR 178.601(e). With the recent Covid-19 pandemic still upon us for the unforeseen future, this requirement may seem rather difficult in some cases. As a result, PHMSA is providing temporary relief if packaging manufacturers are unable to conduct periodic design qualification retesting due to Covid-19 operational disruptions. But as you will see below, some conditions apply.
On April 20th, PHMSA gave notice that it will not take enforcement action against any company that continues to manufacture a UN performance oriented packaging conforming to a tested design that is not more than 90 days past its re-test date. This relief is relevant to manufacturers of non-bulk packaging, intermediate bulk containers, large packagings, and flexible bulk containers. If you manufacture a packaging design that is tested and certified for Packing Group (PG) II (Y-marked) or PG III (Z-marked) hazardous materials you are in luck, as this relief will apply. However PG I (X-marked) packaging designs are not eligible for this relief and must be re-tested on schedule to continue manufacturing. With this in mind, the following packaging types are eligible for relief from the periodic retest requirement under this Notice of Enforcement Discretion:
- UN Specification non-bulk packagings manufactured in accordance with part 178, subpart L and M to PG II and III performance standards;
- UN Specification IBCs manufactured in accordance with part 1 78, subpart N and O to PG II and III performance standards;
- UN Specification large packagings manufactured in accordance with part 1 78, subpart P and Q to PG II and III performance standards; and
- UN Specification flexible bulk containers manufactured in accordance with part 178, subpart R and S.
In order for a UN packaging manufacturer to qualify for this relief, they must document the reasons why compliance is not possible (why they won’t be able to re-test their packaging at this time) prior to manufacturing the packaging which are not more than 90 days beyond the required retesting date. In addition, the packaging manufacturer must maintain a copy of the documentation and the most recent UN test report until the packaging is again successfully retested. It is expected that once testing capability returns to normal that it be completed in a timely manner. Keep in mind this relief is only taking place while the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) January 31, 2020, determination that a public health emergency pursuant to Section 319 of the Public Health Service Act related to Covid-19 is in effect, or 90 days from the date of issuance of this Notice, whichever comes first. The formal notice from PHMSA is posted at the link below. For more information on UN packaging call 1-888-442-9628.