Letter Re: NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards

I would also recommend the Emergency Response Guidebook published jointly by the USDOT and Canadian and Mexican Transportation agencies. This reference (ERG) lets you identify the material being transported by pipeline, tanker truck, or railcar. As a guide for First Responders to a HazMat accident, it also lists specific hazards and evacuation distances in the event of spill or fire.

I use this book to evaluate how at risk I am to accidents involving bulk materials being transported nearby. You need to pay attention to the placard (label) information on the side of the tanker. In my community I frequently see tanker trucks and railcars placarded “2448 Molten Sulfur”. Looking up Sulfur, Molten in the Emergency Response Guidebook tells me it is a flammable solid, and that I should stay upwind and evacuate at least 330 feet away from a spill. The evacuation zone increases to 1/2 mile if there is a risk of fire. My homestead is several miles from the nearest train tracks so my concern of exposure after a derailment of cars carrying molten sulfur is limited. I am, however, prepared to stay upwind and leave the proximity of a highway or rail crossing accident involving molten sulfur-carrying tankers.

A search on the internet for “MSDS + molten sulfur” provides me with the Material Safety Data Sheet for molten sulfur. Reading the Fire & Explosion Hazards section tells me that these tankers may vent the toxic gas hydrogen sulfide if exposed to heat , thus the need to stay upwind of an accident.

The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards is valuable for letting you know how to protect yourself against personal health hazards when working with various chemicals, but alone doesn’t address spill/fire/explosion protocols. – Carol J.