Protect Your Company by Following the DOT's Oxygen Provider Regulations
by Victoria Marquard

Medical oxygen (or oxygen USP) is considered both a hazardous material by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and a prescription drug regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The DOT considers it a hazardous material because it is delivered to the patient in a vehicle as a gaseous or liquid state. The law the DOT follows comes from title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations sections 40, 382, 383, 387, 390-397 and 399 (otherwise known as Federal Law). The DOT requires you to outfit your vehicle in a certain way, train employees on certain topics and carry certain papers in your vehicle.

Items Required in the Vehicle

According to the U.S. DOT, any vehicle transporting hazardous materials must have the following items on board. Oxygen manifest—These shipping papers are also sometimes called hazard manifests, pick-ticket, oxygen manifest, way bills, daily trip sheet, etc. Shipping papers contain information on what type, size and quantity of hazardous material you ship and must be in reach of the seat belted driver and left in the vehicle at all times. Lack of shipping papers or improperly prepared shipping papers is the most common DOT violation. Shipping papers are required any time a hazardous material is transported or offered for transport, even if only one cylinder is delivered to a patient’s home.

The only exception to the shipping paper requirement is when the hazardous material is used as a material of trade. For example, a welder or a plumber is transporting the gas to a job site, where she will use the gas in the course of her work. That would be considered a material of trade.

Oxygen, because it is being sold as a product, does not fall under the spirit of this material of trade exception. A person who falls under a material of trade exception is not selling her hazardous materials; she is selling her services. North American Emergency Response Guide (NAERG) or equivalent information (per 49 CFR 172.602)—Currently, the most recent version is 2012. The NAERG is updated every four years. This guide is used to aid first responders in how to properly handle an accident or other incident.

DOT Required Personnel Training

Hazmat training is required by the DOT for all hazmat employees, or anyone who comes in contact with a hazardous material offered for transportation and drivers of vehicles transporting 1,001 pounds or more of hazardous materials. This could be the driver, filler or anyone who loads, unloads or otherwise touches the hazardous material. It includes anyone who is employed full time, part time or temporarily. Please note that if the driver of any vehicle fills oxygen—either from a liquid dewar mounted in the truck or from a transfill system—they will also require training to comply with FDA requirements on manufacturing drug products.

Every hazmat employee must have the following training every three years and within 90 days of employment for new hires. All training should be documented to show inspectors when it was requested. If you can get proof of this training from a previous employer, you will not need to have your new driver retake the training.

  • General awareness safety training should familiarize hazmat employees with DOT law, such as training requirements, vehicle requirements and other standards the DOT expects.
  • Job specific and safety training should teach hazmat employees how to safely comply with DOT law when dealing with the specific hazardous material they transport every day (i.e. oxygen).
  • Security awareness training is clearly defined by the DOT and covers ways to protect the driver and public from attacks using hazardous materials.

Hazmat employees who drive vehicles with hazardous material weighing 1,001 pounds or more must require additional training including:

  • Commercial Driver’s License training (per 49 CRR 177.816(c))
  • Drivers must have received drug and alcohol information
  • The driver’s supervisor must be trained on drug testing

The DOT has been known to fine companies for not meeting safety requirements. For example, failure to provide initial training to hazmat employees could cost $2,100 per employee for a company with more than 10 hazmat employees.

Victoria Marquard-Schultz Esq. is Applied Home Healthcare Equipment’s general counsel and regulatory director. She has 17 years of experience with Applied and has written several scholarly legal publications.