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Each year more and more dangerous goods are moved across Canada by road, rail, water and air. These shipments range from industrial chemicals to manufactured goods and, while indispensable to our modern way of life, they can pose a threat if not handled safely.
The transportation of such products by air, marine, rail and road is regulated under the federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992. The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations, adopted by all provinces and territories, establishes the safety requirements for the transportation of dangerous goods.
Federal and provincial legislation provide for the regulation of an extensive list of products, substances or organisms classified as dangerous goods. The products fall into one of nine classes:
Class 1, Explosives
Class 2, Gases
Class 3, Flammable Liquids
Class 4, Flammable Solids, Substances liable to spontaneous combustion; Substances that on contact with water emit flammable gases (water-reactive substances)
Class 5, Oxidizing Substances and Organic Peroxides
Class 6, Toxic Substances and Infectious Substances
Class 7, Radioactive Materials
Class 8, Corrosives
Class 9, Miscellaneous Products, Substances or Organisms
A system of diamond-shaped placards and labels is used to identify dangerous goods. Different colours and symbols, such as a flame for flammables or a skull and crossbones for poisons, depict the dangers peculiar to each regulated product.
Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) Directorate
Transport Canada is the focal point for the national program to promote public safety during the transportation of dangerous goods. The department's TDG Directorate serves as the major source of regulatory development, information and guidance on dangerous goods transport for the public, industry and government employees. Through its various components, the Directorate works closely with other federal and provincial agencies to implement the safety program.
Regulatory Affairs Branch
- Develops and amends the federal TDG Act and Regulations.
- Leads the development of policies to promote the safe transportation of dangerous goods.
- Represents Canada at international meetings, including the United Nations Subcommittee of Experts on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods.
- Includes scientists (chemists, microbiologists) and other experts who provide guidance and interpretation on the proper classification of dangerous goods.
- Includes engineers and experts who develop, introduce and oversee standards and regulations governing the manufacture, selection and use of containers for the transportation of dangerous goods.
- Issues equivalency, emergency and temporary certificates, when exceptions to the regulations are warranted.
Safety Research and Analysis Branch
- Has three units: Safety Research, Safety Analytics, and Compliance Measurement and Data Governance, which work to help inform decision-makers.
- Conducts technical research, risk evaluations and statistical analysis related to the transportation of dangerous goods.
- Recommends changes to policies and regulations to minimize the adverse effects of incidents for people, property, and the environment.
- Supports the TDG Program through an Integrated Data Governance Framework by aligning data elements of all program activities to ensure that a comprehensive data set is available for analysis.
Compliance and Response Branch
- Delivers a national inspection, investigation and enforcement program to ensure consignors, carriers and consignees comply with the regulations.
- Coordinates the activities of all dangerous goods inspection agencies.
- Delivers the TDG safety awareness program.
- Provides information and advice about the TDG Regulations to industry and to federal and provincial/territorial inspectors.
- Answers inquiries related to the TDG Program the public submits via the Transport Canada Website.
- Reviews Emergency Response Assistance Plans registered with the Directorate and conduct investigation on the use of the plans to ensure they can be activated to respond effectively to dangerous goods transportation incidents.
The TDG Newsletter is published quarterly by the Directorate. It includes information on incident flows and trends, regulatory interpretations, reports on national and international events, regulatory and compliance requirements and activities, risk management and assessment techniques, emergency response and data compilation and reports. It is available upon request and distributed electronically free of charge to more than 23,000 readers.
Transport Canada has five regional offices — in Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairie and Northern and Pacific. The regional offices across Canada, ensures that consignors, carriers and consignees are complying with the TDG Regulations through a national inspection, investigation and enforcement program and coordinates the activities of all dangerous goods inspection agencies. The regional offices also provide an information and advisory service to industry and the public.
Canadian Transport Emergency Centre (CANUTEC)
- Provides advice during dangerous goods emergencies and incidents on a 24/7 basis.
- Collaborate in the publication of the Emergency Response Guidebook for fire fighters, police and other emergency services personnel.
- Offers Canadian consignors registered with CANUTEC, the use of CANUTEC’s toll free number (1-888-CANUTEC or 613-996-6666) to satisfy the requirement for the 24-hour number on dangerous goods shipping documents.
For general information, call 613-992-4624.
For emergencies, call 1-888-CANUTEC (226-8832) or 613-996-6666 (collect calls accepted).
Other Government Agencies
The TDG Directorate works closely with the Marine, Civil Aviation and Railway Safety Directorates in Transport Canada as well as non-transport departments and agencies such as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Environment Canada, the Explosives Branch of Natural Resources Canada, and Health Canada. These groups provide specialized advice on their respective regulations. They also participate in compliance inspection and accident response activities within their own area of responsibility.
The TDG Directorate has established working relationships with the highway transport administrations and certain non-transport groups of all provincial and territorial governments. These groups provide advice on regulations pertaining to highway transportation and carry out related compliance and accident response activities.
Industry plays an active role in the regulatory consultation process and in the development of consensus standards.