Do You Know Your Responsibilities When Shipping Hazardous Materials?


Any business owner who ships products to his or her customers worries about packaging, but those who ship hazardous materials (hazmat) have an extra responsibility to customers, carriers, and the environment. These materials need to be handled properly during shipping, so there are strict rules in place to prevent anything from going wrong. To avoid hefty fines, business owners must familiarize themselves with these rules and follow them conscientiously.

Not sure what qualifies as a hazardous material or what precautions must be taken during handling? Read on to find answers to these questions and more.

What’s Considered a Hazardous Material?

Hazardous materials are any items that can threaten the health or safety of those who come into contact with them during transport. That includes not just people but also animals and even the environment. Hazardous materials include chemicals, toxins, irritants, corrosives, and sensitizers along with any flammable substances, among others.

Determining whether a material is considered hazardous can be difficult, but it’s never wise to just assume the best. That can lead to hefty fines. Business owners who aren’t sure whether their products are considered hazardous may want to contact professionals like those at C.L. Smith who can determine appropriate packaging options.

Who Regulates Hazardous Materials Shipping?

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for regulating the shipment of hazardous materials. They have designated everything from packaging requirements to labeling requirements for each hazmat category. Packages shipped by air are further regulated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has established Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) that apply to all hazardous goods under their jurisdiction.

What Are the Categories of Hazardous Materials?

There are nine categories of hazmat materials. They are:

Class 1: Explosives

Class 2: Gases

Class 3: Flammable Liquids

Class 4: Flammable Solids

Class 5: Oxidizing Substances and Organic Peroxides

Class 6: Toxic and Infectious Substances

Class 7: Radioactive Materials

Class 8: Corrosives

Class 9: Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials

In the context of shipping, these nine categories of hazmat are separated into groups depending on the risks they pose during transportation, with Group 1 posing the highest level of danger and Group 3 posing the least. These groups are what can be seen on hazmat packaging labels.

What Needs to Be Included on the Label?

The label should include the material’s technical name, the shipper’s full name and address, the product’s shipping name and ID number, the permit, and special instructions for safe handling. In addition to this label, shipping carriers are also required to use hazmat placards that indicate the level of hazmat being transported and the danger it poses to the public.

How Should Shippers Choose Packaging?

Make sure to work with a company that specializes in hazmat storage and material packaging. The responsibility for proper handling and transport of the hazardous goods still lies firmly on the shoulders of the company shipping them, but using a shipping expert eliminates the need to worry about packaging. Just make sure the company tests all its packaging products for DOT and IATA compliance.

The Bottom Line

Businesses that ship hazardous products to either other businesses or consumers have a responsibility not just to their customers but to all of society and the planet. They must ensure that the hazmat goods are appropriately packaged and handled only by trained hazmat personnel during shipping to avoid substantial penalties. Compliance is in everyone’s best interest.


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