Driving down the interstate it is not uncommon to see trucks marked with warning labels regarding the transport of hazardous materials. These hazardous materials could be flammable, explosive, radioactive, or even poisonous. Drivers of semi trucks carrying hazardous materials must follow a long list of protocols, but as we all know, accidents can still happen.

Do you know what to do if you encounter a trucking accident involving hazardous materials?

Keep away.

The first and most important thing that you can do is to keep yourself and others as far away from the accident as possible. This can be difficult if you see someone in need of immediate medical assistance, but it is still crucial to stay away until you know that the area is contamination free. Even if you do not visibly see any hazardous material, there could still be hazardous gases involved in the accident.

Stay upwind.

Some hazardous materials can go airborne in a crash resulting in fatal consequences. Not sure which way is upwind? The most common method for identifying it is to wet your finger and hold it straight up in the air. Whichever side of your finger feels cooler is the upwind side, so head that direction (assuming that it is not directing you towards the scene of the accident).

Seek help.

It is also important to get emergency responders to the scene immediately by calling 911. Make sure to tell the dispatcher as much as you can about the nature of the accident—including the fact that hazardous materials are involved. There are varying degrees of responders and some are more trained in dealing with the containment of hazardous materials than others, so it is important to get the right people on scene as soon as possible.

Identify the hazard.

Vehicles carrying large amounts of hazardous material are required to have Department of Transportation (DOT) labels on all sides. Often these labels will include a class number or a four digit number in the center which helps responders to identify the chemical involved. Never go towards an accident, but if you can see this label it will assist responders in their handling of the accident. It is also helpful to know the color-coding of these labels:

  • Orange: Explosive
  • Red: Flammable
  • White: Poison
  • Black & White: Corrosive
  • Yellow: Oxidizer
  • Green: Non-flammable
  • Yellow & White: Radio Active

We hope that you never encounter a trucking accident of any kind—particularly one that involves hazardous materials—but if you do, following these tips could help save lives. And if you’ve had the unfortunate luck of being involved in a trucking accident, contact the truck accident attorneys at Boughter Sinak today for a free evaluation.

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