Every year, more than 1.25 million dangerous goods are transported by air. This number is predicted to increase significantly in the coming years, creating a lot of potential (and potential red tape) for those in the eCommerce business.
Shipping hazardous materials internationally requires following strict regulations, requirements, and best practices to ensure the safety of people, animals, and the environment.
This process can seem a little daunting. Many of the required documents were traditionally meant for occupational hygienists and safety professionals, so they are not the easiest to understand for business owners and workers to now complete.
In this blog, we’ll walk you through this process of international hazmat shipping, so it doesn’t have to be so hazardous for you.
What is Hazmat Shipping?
Hazmat shipping, also known as hazardous materials shipping, is the transportation of dangerous or hazardous goods by air, sea, or land. This type of shipment can pose a significant risk to human health, safety, and the environment if not handled and transported properly.
Hazmat shippers need to be aware of the regulations and requirements for shipping hazardous materials to avoid penalties and ensure the safe transportation of goods.
Which products are considered Dangerous or Hazardous Goods (DG)?
So, what exactly is considered a dangerous or hazardous good? The United Nations outline nine classes to help us understand and communicate the type of hazard they pose throughout the transportation process. These classes include:
- Class 1—Explosives
- Class 2—Gases
- Class 3—Flammable Liquids
- Class 4—Flammable Solids; Substances Liable to Spontaneous Combustion; Substances which, in Contact with Water Emit Flammable Gases
- Class 5—Oxidizing Substances and Organic Peroxides
- Class 6—Toxic and Infectious Substances
- Class 7—Radioactive Material
- Class 8—Corrosives
- Class 9—Miscellaneous Dangerous Substances and Articles, Including Environmentally Hazardous Substances
Based on the DG’s classification and composition, it will be assigned a UN number and a proper shipping name.
One of the most commonly transported DGs is lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are widely used in electronic devices, such as laptops, cell phones, cameras, and tablets. They are also used in electric vehicles, power tools, and medical devices.
Regulations for International Hazmat Shipping
- Regulatory Bodies
There are several regulatory bodies that oversee the transportation of hazardous materials, including the United Nations (UN), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the US Department of Transportation (DOT). These organizations have developed regulations and guidelines to ensure the safe transportation of hazardous materials.
What is an MSDS → Material Safety Data Sheet
A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is a document that provides information on the physical and chemical properties of hazardous material, as well as instructions for safe handling, storage, and transportation. MSDSs are required for all hazardous materials shipped by air, sea, or land.
- MSDS Requirements
MSDS requirements vary by country and mode of transportation, so make sure you do your research beforehand. Hazmat shippers must ensure that they have the correct MSDS for each hazardous material being shipped and that it meets the requirements of the destination country. MSDSs must also be provided to carriers and emergency responders in case of an incident.
In Canada, there are 9 categories of information that must be present on an MSDS:
- Product Information: Product identifier (name), manufacturer and supplier names, addresses, and emergency phone numbers
- Hazardous Ingredients
- Physical Data
- Fire or Explosion Hazard Data
- Reactivity Data: Information on the chemical instability of a product and the substances it may react with
- Toxicological Properties: Health effects
- Preventive Measures
- First Aid Measures
- Preparation Information: Who is responsible for preparation and date of preparation of MSDS
If You Don’t Meet MSDS Requirements
Failure to meet MSDS requirements can result in regulatory penalties and safety risks, which can be quite severe. For a first offence in Canada, you can receive a fine of up to $50,000.
But with due-diligence and the correct precautions in place, you shouldn’t have to worry. And if you are feeling unsure, get some help with your shipping (it’s much cheaper than the fine).
Best Practices for Shipping Hazardous Materials
To ensure the safe transportation of hazardous materials, we’ve compiled a list of best practices when it comes to proper packaging, labelling, and documentation.
- Proper Packaging
Proper packaging is essential for the safe transportation of dangerous goods. Depending on the hazardous goods being shipped, there are different requirements for its packaging. Depending on its class and degree of danger, there are different packaging requirements.
Labeling is critical to identify the hazardous materials being shipped and to provide emergency responders with the information they need in case of an incident.
Hazmat shippers must label each package with the proper hazard warning label that corresponds to the type of hazardous material being shipped, as you can see in the image below. The labels must be placed on all sides of the package, and they must be clearly visible.
Documentation is necessary for the safe transportation of hazardous materials. Depending on where you are shipping the DGs, there will be different requirements, such as a MSDS, or a dangerous goods declaration form. Make sure this is all ready and accurate before you ship your items.
- Transporting Lithium Batteries
To safely transport batteries, here are a few tips:
- Protect batteries and terminals from damage and short-circuiting
- Cover terminals with non-conductive materials and pack each battery in fully enclosed packaging
- Avoid placing heavy items on packed batteries and keep them away from other metal objects
- Don't turn on devices with batteries during shipping, and cover device switches to prevent accidental activation
- Store batteries at a moderate temperature and ensure they are not defective or placed incorrectly
- Pad the device in the package to prevent movement that could lead to accidental activation
Hazmat Shipping Services
Hazmat Shippers can choose between different hazmat shipping services that specialize in the transportation of hazardous materials, such as going directly through the carrier, or using a third-party logistics (3PL) provider.
It is also important that you ensure that the carriers you use are trained in handling hazardous materials and that emergency response plans are in place – only certain ones offer hazmat shipping.
Currently, this includes FedEx, UPS, DHL and USPS. These carriers will have the experience and knowledge to ensure your hazardous materials are shipped safely.
Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Providers
3PL providers offer a range of logistics services, including transportation, warehousing, and distribution.
Some 3PL providers offer hazmat shipping services as part of their logistics solutions. They can assist you with packaging, labelling, and documentation, as well as carrier selection and tracking of the shipment– making this whole process a breeze.
Shipping hazardous materials, including those with lithium batteries, requires following strict regulations, requirements, and best practices to ensure the safety of people, animals, and the environment.
Being aware of the regulations will help you simplify this whole process, but to avoid penalties and ensure the safe transportation of your goods, it may be worth it to get some help from a 3PL provider.
Here at eShipper, we offer a range of services including proper packaging, labelling, and documentation, as well as carrier selection and tracking of the shipment.
Together, we can make shipping of your hazardous goods safe, easy and as non hazardous as possible.