DGR - or Dangerous Goods Regulations, has been something which airlines and handlers alike have taken very seriously since brought into effect by IATA more than 50 years
To prevent negligent or improper handling of DGR shipments, which could cause harmful consequences, training and constant awareness must be kept at the forefront.
Even back in the early sixties and seventies, DGR training for those in the air cargo scene, was seen to be the number one training course one should and must attend.
The DGR regulations for the carriage of goods on passenger and freighter aircraft are so complex that they can fill a number of manuals of their own.
And quite rightly so!
On top of this comes the necessity for those handling and loading such goods, to be able to determine the correct method of palletizing and spreading of these items on applets or in containers.
Recent events with lithium products have shown that a basic ignorance of what they are and their possible effects through wrong documentation and loading can, and were fatal.
The safe transit of cargo is one which entails many processes.
And - it seems that the means of controlling whether shipments are properly handled or loaded are getting more refined.
Lithium batteries still remain a headache for those handling such shipments at the airports and for the airlines themselves, who are in constant worry about whether the present regulations are waterproof enough.
There have been many incidents where lithium batteries are said to have been the cause of aircraft having to re-route flights due to “unsafe loads.”
The loss of the two B747F’s from UPS in Dubai and Asiana in the Far East, although not yet fully analyzed, are seen by many experts as having been due to lithium shipments overheating and causing on board fires.
The same is seen with the National B747F which stalled on takeoff in Iraq and was lost with all on board. Here, the possible weight and balance or loading procedures were not met. This however, still has to be certified.
The industry must come up with a final ruling on the carriage of these shipments. One, which is really waterproof.
Training is the secret to safety.
Training and awareness – those are the two most important aspects for safe loading and documentation of DGR and outsized cargo.
There are all kinds of DGR shipments which although they are dangerous if not handled or loaded properly, are still officially allowed in the bellies of passenger aircraft.
Once loaded down there, they are hard to control if something goes wrong.
Admittedly - modern aircraft holds contain a variety of new gadgets to detect odors, smoke and spillages as well as far better fire extinguisher systems than were available a decade ago.
However! - once something starts down there, it’s hard to control.
Therefore, better to push even harder on training and awareness.
Thankfully, this is being done with serious cargo aircraft handling schooling becoming more and more present at the world’s airports.
The main issue is to see that the training is carried through in such a way that the employees will always remember what they have learned and hence be aware all the time.
New labels have cropped up in the last years which are there to ensure handling staff do actually load properly.
So call “Tip-N-Tell” and “Shockwatch” labels for example.
The Tip-N-Tell is an extraordinary invention. This label, once placed on a package which should be loaded upright and never tipped, has blue beads which move over the middle line of the label and stick themselves to the adhesive part of the label, thereby showing that the package had been tilted or turned over during transport.
This is especially important for shipments which are in transit from one flight to another.
Shockwatch has a glass tube within the label which turns red once someone has mishandled the shipment on loading or handling in transit.
And - there is more, which is making the transport of DGR safer and safer.
However, none of these will be of use if good training and constant awareness is not kept at the forefront.
John Mc Donagh