The United Nations Committee of Experts On the Transport of Dangerous Goods

by Karen Miller, Program Director, National Hydrogen Association
The National Hydrogen Association participated in training given by the Compressed Gas Association on 14 -15 August 2000. The goal of this training was to enhance the understanding of procedures and operations of US experts in the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) technical committees. The training started off with a description of an activity at the United Nations that currently has a huge impact on how international standards are to be used for the transport of dangerous goods, including compressed gases. As hydrogen energy systems are commercialized and products are available on the international market, this activity will become increasingly important to the hydrogen community.

Bob Richard, Assistant International Standards Coordinator for Hazardous Materials Safety at the U.S. Department of Transportation, described the effort with a well-prepared presentation. This article is based on his presentation.

The United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods is responsible for the UN recommendations on the transport of dangerous goods. The purpose of the effort is to provide international harmonization of dangerous goods regulations sufficient to facilitate the intermodal transport of dangerous goods in international commerce.

NAFTA recommends the UN Recommendations as the basis for harmonization because UN recommendations provide the basis for international model regulations, including:

UN recommendations will be reformatted into a model regulation to enhance safety through improved understanding of the regulations and improved compliance and to facilitate international trade.

You may be wondering why the US should participate in international standards when there are a number of adequate national standards. The rationale is that harmonization promotes safety, economic growth, and free trade. In addition, participation by the United States in this effort is required by the hazardous materials law of our country.

There are a number of issues currently being addressed by this UN committee. They include:

As you can see, a number of these issues are likely to relate to the hydrogen community. The gas cylinder issue certainly applies. In addition, efforts to promote the use of hydrogen in portable electronic devices using hydrides or other storage media may also apply.

The hydrogen community has been working closely with the international standards bodies, especially ISO/TC-197 (the technical committee on hydrogen within the International Organization of Standardization) to create international standards. It is also necessary now to work with the US DOT on these UN recommendations. Why? The UN Committee of Experts may adopt an international standard as is, with modification, or not at all. It is important that the rationale for decisions made in the international efforts is provided for the benefit of the UN committee.

To achieve this cooperation, the US DOT holds public meetings before and after UN meetings and participates in organizations with consultative status to bring the US industry views and concerns into the process. They currently include the Compressed Gas Association due to the expertise and interest in the gas cylinder issue. The NHA would like to work with the US DOT to help facilitate DOT and UN recommendations for hydrogen energy system issues in the near future. Our members and staff bring a wealth of expertise on hydrogen safety as well as manufacturing practices, and have participated actively in the development of international standards for the safe use of hydrogen energy systems.

The NHA acts as an information source and facilitator in the hydrogen safety discussion. Industry is committed to the actions necessary to achieve the acceptance of hydrogen as a commercial energy carrier. I look forward to building a relationship with the US DOT and the UN Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods to develop international model recommendations that allow the safe, intermodal transport of hydrogen in international commerce.

For more information, visit hazmat.dot.gov/intstandards.htm.

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