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What’s your back up plan?

A few weeks back, I got a call asking for me to come and do a last-minute repackaging job for a customer I’ve known for many years. I found out that their main shipper was out of the office for a few days and to my surprise, they didn’t have anyone else trained to ship Dangerous Goods.

It worked out that they called me on a day when I wasn’t teaching, but it got me thinking about what companies do when their primary Dangerous Goods person isn’t around. The way I figure it, there are three options:

  1. Best case scenario: There is a backup shipper. Obviously this is the best option, but it goes deeper that I thought at first. In the situation a few weeks ago, a backup shipper would have been able to ship the dangerous goods, and even if he or she had to work at a slower pace than the regular shipper, this solution still probably would have been easier for the company than scrambling and trying to find help (on a Friday afternoon no less). The added benefit of having more than one shipper trained in Dangerous Goods is that there is that in a regular week, when both people are around, they can double check each others’ work. Having a second set of eyes can help make sure that important information isn’t accidentally overlooked. It’s also great to see coworkers teach each other about different things they read in the Regulations. Let’s be honest, the Dangerous Goods Regulations are huge. Having an opportunity to discuss the information is invaluable.
  2. Next best thing: Call a specialty company for help and have them do it. This is what happened in our scenario. I was happy to help, and it’s always great to see friendly faces, but depending on the requirements, the cost of doing a single last-minute repackaging job can sometimes be more expensive for a company than the cost to train an extra employee. Most training is valid for 2-3 three years too. We do have a lot of companies who still prefer to have us do their repackaging jobs. These clients are usually ones that ship very infrequently. If they only have the need to ship Dangerous Goods a few times per year, they feel more confidence in having the experts do it instead of having their employees struggle through remembering the requirements every few months. I think that’s totally fair, but for businesses that regularly ship Dangerous Goods, outsourcing is probably not a great solution.
  3. Least viable option: Have a different employee take online training that day and make the shipment. We have had people take our online training in order to ensure they had the proper certification to make a shipment immediately after. I think it’s great that they get to dive right in, but one common problem that arises is the pressure from a time crunch. I always encourage my students to spend a few extra minutes reading through everything in a bit more detail when they make their first few shipments. Being rushed doesn’t help in the learning process. I’ve seen intelligent students take an online class, but not feel confident enough to make the shipment due to their time constraint. In those scenarios, they’ve called me to come help. I enjoy doing this, as it gives me the chance to do a bit of on the job training that is hands on for them, but again, it isn’t very cost-effective for the company. There is a great benefit to online training though, and that’s being able to review the information again before making shipments. This way, even if the shipments are fairly infrequent, employees can regain their confidence from a quick refresh. Because of this philosophy, we ensure that all students who take our classes have access to the material online for the duration of their certification.

I’ve noticed that often while teaching public classes, I’ll have someone from a company show up one month, only to have one of his or her coworkers show up the following month for the same training. In this way, the company didn’t have to suffer with missing both shippers at the same time, but both people got the knowledge. Some companies go a step further and have training in their facility for multiple students, so that they have many people who are able to handle the dangerous goods. I think that’s great!

It’s always interesting to see how different people and different companies handle similar situations. I feel proud being able to contribute to helping out in all the different scenarios that come up so that all the shipments get sent with full compliance.

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