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Recall This: Air Bags are HazMat Shipments

Aug. 15, 2014
A huge recall of defective airbags has automakers becoming hazmat shippers.

Auto parts dealers and automotive service operations may be shipping hazardous materials without even knowing it. These companies are returning the same product (airbags) to the same destination (Takata Corporation), which is recalling them for defects.

More than ten million airbags have now been recalled due to faulty inflators that can rupture and spray metal shrapnel inside the vehicle. The manufacturer’s recall has so far affected car models from Honda, BMW, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Fiat, Chrysler, Ford, and Subaru. 

Airbag modules, or inflators, are equipped with an explosive propellant which deploys the airbag upon impact. Because of this explosive quality, the U.S. Department of Transportation regulates the transport of airbags under its Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). Among the U.S. DOT requirements is a mandate that every employee involved in the hazmat shipping process receives adequate training.

Parts dealers, service operations, and dealerships affected by the airbag recall must train employees on the rules for classifying, packaging, marking, labeling, and documenting the defective products for transport. According to Lion Technology Inc., providers of such training, overlooking the U.S. DOT requirements for hazmat shipping could result in civil penalties (as high as $75,000 per violation) as well as incidents and injury during transit given the defective nature of the recalled airbags.

A New York Times report quoted Takata as stating it had improperly stored chemicals and had mishandled the manufacture of the explosive propellants used in the air bags at its plant in Mexico. The manufacturer had also failed to keep adequate records of quality control, making it difficult to identify vehicles with potentially defective air bags.