When you think of hazardous or dangerous materials items, you think of items such as chemicals and radioactive material, though many dangerous goods are items that you may have in your home, like gas and lithium. Because some items are dangerous, there are laws restricting their shipment and even prohibiting them altogether.
In order to safely transport dangerous goods, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and other national and international organizations have created regulations for transporting hazardous and dangerous goods. The regulations mandate the means by which dangerous goods are to be handled, packaged, labeled, and transported.
What Are Dangerous Goods?
The first step to determining if you require Certified Hazardous or Dangerous Goods Packaging is to see if the item you’re shipping falls into any of the classified dangerous goods categories.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines hazardous materials as “materials posing an unreasonable threat to the public and the environment.”
There are nine classes of hazardous material, all of which need to be certified hazardous or dangerous goods packaging in order to be transported from one place to another. If your item falls into one of the classifications listed below, then dangerous goods packaging is mandatory.
Class 1—Explosives: Includes materials or items which have the ability to rapidly conflagrate or detonate as a consequence of a chemical reaction. They require a special kind of hazardous packaging due to their potential to cause catastrophic damage through force.
Class 2—Gases: This class includes materials that are compressed, dissolved under pressure, or pressurized cryogenic liquids and liquefied gases. Gases are regulated because they are capable of posing serious hazards due to their flammability, potential as asphyxiates, ability to oxidize, and toxicity or corrosiveness to humans.
Class 3—Flammable Liquid: Includes materials whose Flash Point (FP) is not more than 141°. They are capable of posing serious hazards due to their volatility, combustibility, and potential in causing severe conflagrations, and their need to be transported with extreme care.
Class 4—Flammable Solids: Defined as substances liable to spontaneously combust. They include items that, when under conditions encountered in transport, are readily combustible or may cause or contribute to fire through friction.
Class 5—Oxidizing Substances; Organic Peroxides: Defined as substances which may cause or contribute to combustion, generally by yielding oxygen as a result of a redox chemical reaction. Organic peroxides are thermally unstable and may exude heat while undergoing decomposition.
Class 6—Poisonous (Toxic) and Infectious Substances: Toxic substances are those which are liable either to cause death or serious injury or to harm human health if swallowed or inhaled or by skin contact. Infectious substances are those which are known or can be reasonably expected to contain pathogens.
Class 7—Radioactive Material: Defined as any material containing radionuclides where both the activity concentration and the total activity exceed certain pre-defined values.
Class 8—Corrosives: Included substances which, by chemical action, degrade or disintegrate other materials upon contact. They can potentially cause severe damage when in contact with living tissue or can damage surrounding materials.
Class 9—Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods: Includes environmentally hazardous substances, elevated temperature material, hazardous wastes, and marine pollutants.
Sending Hazardous Materials
If you determine that your item does require certified hazardous or dangerous goods packaging, the good news is that you have completed the most difficult step. Properly classifying dangerous goods is the most important step because all other requirements are based on the proper identification.
The bad news? You have a tough task ahead of you. There are many responsibilities in order to ensure that you ship these materials properly. Luckily, there are numerous resources available to help, such as this comprehensive dangerous goods shipping overview and the 2017 58th Edition IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR). Published by the IATA, this book is the most user-friendly reference for shipping dangerous goods and is used by more than 200 airlines.
In addition to determining whether a material meets the definition of a “hazardous material,” the shipper is responsible for the following: proper shipping name, class/division identification, identification number, hazard warning label, packaging, marking, and employee training. There are guidelines for each of these steps, which can be found in the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations.
For the actual package itself, hazardous materials must be packaged in special materials and boxes based on the standards put in place by IATA. This means using United Nations Performance Oriented Packaging (UN POP). This packaging is approved based on UN standards and requirements for construction, materials, and maximum capacity. Depending on the class your hazardous item falls, you will need items like 4GV boxes, lithium battery kits, or infectious and biological substance packaging.
Shipping dangerous goods can be a complicated task, but, with the right resources and packaging materials, you can safely and correctly send your hazardous item. Be sure to properly identify the correct hazardous material class, and then follow the labeling, packaging, and training regulations.