Guide to Shipping Hazardous Materials

Posted On: August 6, 2019
There are many pitfalls you can encounter when attempting to ship hazardous materials. The most common mistakes people make is not understanding shipping regulations and best practices. Negligence is not an excuse when it comes to shipping hazardous materials—you will face massive fines, lost production time, and extensive shipping delays. The best way to avoid these shipping problems is to understand what causes them, so you can avoid them at all costs. Below, we will introduce how to safely and legally ship hazardous goods so that you continue to operate smoothly.

Hazardous Materials Shipping Regulations

Because hazardous materials can be dangerous when handled by unsuspecting mail handlers and laypeople, the government enforces serious regulations when shipping them. These regulations apply to everything from nail polish to heavy-duty chemicals. Depending on where you’re planning to ship your goods, you will have to follow the appropriate hazardous shipping regulations exactly.

49 CFR

If you’re planning to ship your goods only within the United States, you need to familiarize yourself with the guidelines in the 49 CFR volume. It’s part of the Code of Federal Regulations which governs the shipping of hazardous materials to, from, and within the United States. 49 CFR is managed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a subset of the Department of Transportation. 49 CFR contains guidelines for everything from packing, shipping, and handling to receiving shipments containing hazardous materials. The guide starts with an introduction to hazardous material classification and an explanation of different hazardous material classes like explosives, flammable materials, and corrosive agents. It then goes on to explain the number of hazardous materials that can be shipped per package and how each material class needs to be packed, prepared, and labeled to be handled safely.

United National Model Regulations

The UN Model Regulations provide strict guidelines for shipping hazardous materials outside of the United States. There are differentiating factors between the domestic regulations in 49 CFR and the international regulations in the UN Model, so it’s important to understand the differences between the two. These regulations were created and are managed by the Transport of Dangerous Goods Sub-Committee of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. While these regulations do not adhere to every country’s specific hazardous material shipping requirements, they are widely accepted by most countries. Like 49 CFR, the UN Model Regulations focuses on preparing, packaging, labeling, and shipping of all classes of hazardous materials.

Shipping Compliance

Because there are so many rules and regulations when shipping hazardous materials, it would be impossible for us to cover every aspect of 49 CFR and the UN Model Regulations. That’s why we are focusing on compliance with 49 CFR. For those shipping internationally, you should still follow the compliance tips below, just know the specifics might be a little different when adhering to the UN Model Regulations.

Employees Should Be Trained and Certified in 49 CFR

Employers involved with hazardous materials (Hazmat Employers) are required to train all employees in 49 CFR standards and regulations. Any employee involved in the loading, handling, or preparing hazardous goods for transport needs to be certified in 49 CFR. Additionally, any employee involved in operating a vehicle that’s shipping the hazardous materials needs to be certified. To become 49 CFR certified, there are five types of training the employee will need to complete:
  1. General Awareness Training: This introductory training explains the identifying factors of hazardous materials and ensures employees can properly categorize them.
  2. Function-Specific Training: This course focuses on the specifics of an employee’s position. For example, an employee involved in packing hazardous materials will take a different course than one who drives a vehicle that transports them.
  3. Safety Training: A general safety overview for anyone who directly or indirectly works with hazardous materials.
  4. Security Awareness Training: This training explains common security threats employees who are shipping hazardous goods might face. Specifically, this course dives into recognizing security threats and the best ways to handle them.
  5. In-Depth Security Training. This course builds off the security basics introduced in the Security Awareness Training course and expands on company-specific security procedures.
Initial compliance training must be completed within the first 90 days of an employee’s start date, and it must be retaken every three years to maintain 49 CFR compliance.

Review Material Safety Data Sheets

Employees need to learn how to correctly review and study classification information in the Material Safety Data Sheets and follow the classification information accordingly. Material Safety Data Sheets contain all pertinent shipping and handling information for specific hazards. This information should be closely followed when preparing to ship a hazardous material as it will provide the necessary details you will need to smoothly ship your package.

Choose Packaging and Labels

The Material Safety Data Sheets will provide instructions on what packaging and labels should be used for each hazardous material. To properly select your packaging, you will need to know how the goods are being shipped. Will it be by air, truck or sea? Once you’ve determined the mode of transportation, you will need to consider all packing aspects, including inner packaging, cushioning and closures.

Test, Certify and Pack

Before the package can be shipped, you will need to test and certify that the proper packaging is sourced, supplied, correctly marked, and is fit for use, Once you’ve determined the packaging is 49 CFR compliant, employees can move on to packing the hazardous goods for shipment per the manufacturer's packing instructions.

Declare the Package

You cannot ship hazardous materials anonymously. The packages must be appropriately labeled so the transporter can plan accordingly. Most hazardous materials are unable to be shipped with non-hazardous materials, so correct labeling and declarations prevent any mix-ups or delays.

Keep all Shipping Records

Once you’ve sent the package to the carrier, you can’t throw your shipping papers and documentation away. For hazardous goods, shipping records must be retained for two years after the package was originally accepted by the carrier. For hazardous wastes, you’ll need to keep these types of shipping papers for three years. You’ll want to ensure your shipping papers for hazardous materials contain the date shipped, the class of hazardous goods included, and the amount of hazardous material per package.

Get Your DOT Hazmat Training

For more information on what is required in shipping papers for hazardous materials and for  Hazmat shipping papers template, visit the Department of Transportation’s website. Shipping hazardous materials can be a time-consuming process, but complying with 49 CFR is the only legal way to ship them in the United States. Although we hope the above introduction to shipping hazardous materials has been helpful, it isn’t a substitute for a full training course. For those shipping hazardous goods, we recommend our DOT & IATA Hazmat training for more detailed information. Sign up for your DOT Hazmat training today!

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