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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Hazardous Material Inspector


A Hazardous Materials Inspector monitors regulatory compliance of hazardous materials shipments by rail within an assigned territory.  Significant duties include: 

  • Plan and carry out an itinerary of periodic inspections of the handling of hazardous materials at all rail facilities, including intermodal facilities, shipper/consignee locations, and tank car manufacturing and repair facilities within the Region and if called upon in neighboring Regions.  Also, inspects rail cars, freight containers and intermodal bulk containers for compliance with applicable hazardous materials regulations, freight car equipment and safety appliance standards. 
  • Conduct investigations of collisions, reportable derailments, unintentional releases of hazardous materials, or other accidents/incidents resulting in serious injury to person(s) or to the property of a railroad occurring on the line of any common carrier engaged in interstate transportation.  Determines probable cause of accident or incident and if Federal regulations were violated.  Develops comprehensive reports (e.g., accident, incident, and notices of probable violation) which outline findings and recommendations. 
  • Investigate the method of construction, repair, testing, retesting and manufacture of specification containers used for hazardous materials so as to determine compliance with existing regulations, specifications, and the need for changes in the specifications. 
  • Investigate railroad shippers' packaging, marking, labeling, shipping procedures and documentation of shipments of hazardous materials. 
  • Investigate the loading/unloading, switching and movement of cars containing hazardous materials by rail, as well as the shippers/carriers' documentation of such carloadings. 
  • Investigate and develop evidence of violation of hazardous materials regulations relating to railroads, including interviewing witnesses and examining and securing pertinent evidence and/or documentation. 


To be qualified for a Hazardous Materials Inspector position you MUST have demonstrated knowledge in the following areas:

  • Federal regulations and standards governing the shipment of hazardous materials by rail including containerization, loading, handling, documentation and placarding. 
  • Typical reactions of the different hazardous commodities transported by rail and the safe procedures for containing or controlling leaks, fires, or explosions. 
  • Typical reactions of the different hazardous commodities transported by rail and the safe procedures for containing or controlling leaks, fires, or explosions.

To qualify for the GS-12 , you must have at least one full year of specialized experience equivalent to the work performed at the next lower grade level for this occupation.  Your experience must include at least a year:

  • Inspecting the containers and handling procedures of hazardous materials at various rail facilities, including intermodal, shipper/consignee and tank car manufacturing facilities.
  • Investigating and reporting on collisions, derailments, releases of hazardous materials and accidents or incidents with serious injury.
  • Using technical writing to complete railroad related inspection reports, accident reports, incident investigation narratives, and technical documents. 
  • Verbally addressing issues involving the transportation of hazardous materials in one-on-one or group setting to audiences representing railroads, labor unions, chemical shippers, and general public forums. 

Physical Demands and Work Environment:

The work requires long periods of walking over rocky and uneven surfaces around railroad train yards and repair tracks at accident sites.  It requires considerable bending, crouching, stretching and crawling in restricted areas to inspect railroad cars.  Requires frequent climbing of ladders on cars and negotiating embankments around track roadbeds.  Incumbent is often subjected to exposure to hazardous materials, noxious gases and similar other materials deemed to be categorized as “hazardous” at rail installations, wreck sites, shippers, etc.  The major work environment of the railroad safety inspector usually takes place along railroad tracks where the employee must be alert for trains and the movement of wreckage by repair crews.  While conducting accident investigations, the employee may be exposed to a variety of weather conditions and other environmental discomforts imposed by the site of the wreckage or to poisonous, explosive or other hazardous material that may be leaking from containers or suddenly ignited if improperly or carelessly handled.  The inspector must be constantly aware of potential dangers and protective measures to combat them.