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Your Guide to Shipping Hazardous Materials

January 22, 2019 Air Cargo

Hazardous materials don’t always seem hazardous. Sometimes they can be simple household items, like batteries, paint, or sunscreen

So what’s the best way to ship these items?

It depends on what you’re shipping and how fast you need it to get to the recipient. 

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the process involved when you ship hazardous materials. So let’s dive in. 

What Is Considered Hazardous Material?

There are several agencies in the United States that regulate hazardous material laws (including OSHA, NRC, DOT, and EPA). Each of these agencies has their own definition of what constitutes a hazardous material. 

But for the most part, hazardous materials can be a variety of chemical, biological, radiological, or physical substances. If the substance has the potential to harm living things or the environment, it is considered a hazardous material. 

Sometimes hazardous materials aren’t necessarily dangerous on their own, but if they interact with other factors, they can become harmful. 

Here’s a list of common hazardous materials: 

  • Compressed gas
  • Any type of dangerous chemicals
  • Any type of radioactive substances 
  • Infections materials 
  • Liquid nitrogen 
  • Lithium batteries
  • Dry ice 

There are many other types of hazardous materials. If you think the item you’re shipping might be hazardous, you should talk to your courier service before you package it. 

Getting Certified to Ship Hazardous Materials 

You can’t ship any type of hazardous materials without being approved to do so first. To get approved, you must complete a training course that teaches you how to handle, package, and label these materials. 

You can find these training courses at postal services various postal services, such as FedEx. 

Packing and Labeling Hazardous Materials 

Once you complete the necessary training, you can start shipping your hazardous materials. But you must package and label the hazardous material to meet specific regulations. 

Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know when packaging and labeling hazardous materials. 

Packaging Regulations 

You can’t use traditional boxes when you’re packaging your hazardous materials. Items containing your hazardous material, like cylinders, must have an outer package marked as an overpack. 

The package must also pass the following tests:

  • 20-pound packages-must meet 32-edge crush test or 200-pound bursting test
  • 21 to 50-pound packages-must meet 44-edge crush test or 250-pound bursting test
  • 51 to 70-pound packages-must meet 55-edge crush test or 275-pound bursting test

If you aren’t sure how you should package your hazardous material, you should reach out to your courier service provider. They’ll be able to give you the proper instructions. 

Labeling Regulations 

Along with your address and the recipient’s address, you need to provide the proper shipping name of the hazardous item (given by DOT). You’ll also need to include the UN/NA identification number. 

Your package should have at least one diamond hazard label. This label will describe the class and division of the hazardous material inside. 

Some materials are hazardous in more than one way. These materials will need multiple hazard labels. Make sure any subsidiary labels are no more than 6 inches away from the main label. 

Anyone handling this package must be able to see these hazard labels clearly. Before you put a label on your package, make sure it is a contrasting color to ensure it stands out. 

What’s the Safest Way to Transport Hazardous Materials? 

There are several different ways to transport your hazardous materials, but again, they must meet specific regulations. This is to ensure the materials (and anyone around them) make it from point A to point B safely. 

The right option for you depends on your circumstances. 

Let’s take a closer look at the different ways to transport hazardous goods so you have a better understanding of which option works for you. 

By Land 

Ground transportation is the cheapest and most popular way to ship hazardous materials. But there are two ways to ship hazardous materials by land: on the highways or on the railways. 

  • Highways 

The company shipping your hazardous materials must have the right documentation on them at all times. This documentation should say what type of material is in the package, it’s hazard class, it’s identification number, it’s weight, it’s package type, and it’s package group. 

While this shipping method is convenient, it is more dangerous than rail freight. 

Why?

There’s a higher risk of an accident on the highways, and in the case of an accident, the hazardous material can harm more people. 

  • Railways 

The regulations for railways are similar to highway regulations because they’re both ground transport. 

Rail freight is the safest way to move any type of hazardous materials over long distances. It is also one of the most cost-effective options. 

By Air

Not all hazardous materials can be shipped by air. Many shipping companies won’t fly lithium batteries or medications. The temperature and elevation change can cause the batteries to explode and the medication to sustain damage. 

Because of this, air freight has extra temperature control regulations ground freight doesn’t have. It also has additional requirements for temperature-sensitive labeling. 

Air freight is the most expensive way to ship hazardous materials, but it is also the fastest. If you need something transported quickly, this is the best choice for you. 

By Sea

Shipping hazardous materials by sea is safe, but it takes a long time. Because of this, some materials might degrade before they reach their final destination. 

Most of the time, sea freight are used for international shipping. But it is the most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly option out there. 

How to Ship Hazardous Materials 

Before you can ship hazardous materials, you have to get the right training. After that, you have to package your material in the correct packaging. You also have to include proper labels and hazard signs. 

Once you get that done, you can pick the best shipping option for you. 

Ground freight is the most common option. Air freight is fast, but it costs a lot of money. Sea freight is the slowest choice, but it can save you the most money. 

Pick what works for you and your hazardous materials. 

Do you think air freight is your best option? Click here to learn more about our air freight services.