GAWDA Government Affairs Committee

A review of recent activities, and a look at what’s ahead

With new consultant Bob Yeoman taking the lead, GAWDA compiled and submitted distributor comments to the FDA’s proposed medical gas guidelines in 2003. The committee is working with CGA and Congress to ensure that the final guidelines will provide a margin of safety without overburdening distributor practices.

We also filed comments with the Department of Transportation on its new hazmat security regulations, and secured revisions to the agency’s proposed shipping paper requirements that would have jeopardized certain distribution practices in rural areas.

GAWDA was also successful in petitioning the Transportation Security Administration to postpone implementation of its background check requirements for CDL drivers with hazmat endorsements. We made sure that the TSA rules will not prevent a driver from continuing to work if the background check takes longer than anticipated. In addition, GAWDA has developed a driver certification form (available at so that companies have some assurance that a CDL driver holding a hazmat endorsement remains eligible to drive a vehicle carrying hazardous materials.

On cylinder issues, GAWDA is now working cooperatively with the CGA and the Research and Special Programs Administration of DOT to develop a tolerance standard for overfilling of cylinders above their service pressure. At present, any filling above a cylinder’s service pressure is a violation of the hazardous materials regulations, even if within a few hours, the temperature in the cylinder drops and the pressure settles to less than the service pressure. We expect to have a proposed industry standard for RSPA’s consideration by the time you read this.

A recurring issue in 2003 was how to deal with the legal and regulatory issues when other companies test and fill a distributor’s cylinders without permission. This can involve DOT regulatory violations as well as civil and criminal law, and I am preparing to give a presentation on this issue at the GAWDA Spring Management Conferences.

In addition, many members are now concerned about liability from litigation over long-term exposure to welding fumes and the availability and affordability of liability insurance for welding rods and wire. GAWDA is attempting to coordinate information about the lawsuits and to provide suggestions for minimizing distributors’ exposure to claims. We are also working with insurance providers and state insurance regulatory agencies to maintain continuous coverage for the industry. For the long run, we have contacted the head of the national tort reform effort to assist in passing remedial legislation, although that effort is not likely to produce legislative results until 2005 at the earliest.

Furthermore, the committee has served as an information outlet for members on all of the above issues, as well as the new truck driver hours of service rules, OSHA accident reporting changes, EPA SARA Title III requirements, new Customs and FDA requirements for securing shipments of food-grade gases, and various human resources issues by conducting compliance teleconferences and publishing articles.

What about 2004? Security regulations will only become more prescriptive. See the article on page 52 on what to expect from the Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security and other federal and state agencies to ensure the security of hazmat shipments. Additionally, the FDA medical gas guidelines will see publication soon, and distributors will need to adjust their operating procedures to meet these new requirements. Welding fumes exposure will also grow in importance if juries follow the lead of a recent Illinois verdict and no tort reform legislation is enacted. Finally, transportation and worker safety regulations will remain at the top of everyone’s agenda.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Meet the Author
Richard P. Schweitzer, Esq. is GAWDA’s government affairs and human resources legal consultant and president of Richard P. Schweitzer, PLLC in Washington, D.C.