How to Safely Pack and Ship Hazardous Materials for Businesses

Hazardous Materials for Businesses

Several rules and regulations are involved when it comes to supplying dangerous goods. Mishandling such material can be hazardous, hence the name hazardous materials or HAZMAT. This is why knowing all the procedures regarding packing and shipping dangerous goods is crucial. 

For many businesses, it is essential to supply hazardous materials. Safety should be the utmost priority for a business that deals with HAZMAT. However, following hazardous materials regulations, materials can be transported safely via different carriers despite the risks.

With that said, here we will guide you through the process of handling hazardous materials for your business.

What Are Hazardous Materials?

Commonly known as dangerous goods, hazardous materials or HAZMAT are substances that can be harmful to humans, animals, property, or the environment. Materials that are identified as toxic or injurious, and materials that can cause infections or cancer are considered HAZMAT. These substances include all three forms—solid, liquid, and gas.

Moreover, materials that can cause harm during shipping are also categorized as hazardous materials. These are substances that can cause an explosion, fire, radiation, acidic liquid or gas, etc. 

HAZMAT According to DOT

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has specified hazardous materials for shipping. According to the DOT’s definition, hazardous materials include toxic and disease-causing substances, hazardous wastes, and elevated temperature materials. Additionally, they have categorized hazardous materials into nine classes. If a substance fits into any of these classes, it is considered HAZMAT.  

This classification of hazardous materials is internationally recognized. These classes can be further divided into subclasses which add up to a total of thirty-three. The primary nine classes for hazardous materials according to DOT are as follows.

Class 1

Material that can cause explosions is in the first class. In this class, there are six subclasses.

Class 2

Gasses are considered Class 2 hazardous materials. All gasses including both flammable and non-flammable. Additionally, toxic gases are considered within this class.

Class 3

The third class of hazardous materials includes liquids that are hazardous. It includes flammable and explosive liquids.

Class 4

The fourth class contains solids that are dangerous. These materials can be flammable or be materials that are prone to creating fire. These materials can be something that can cause an explosion or fire both being solid or when getting wet. 

Class 5

This fifth class includes materials that have one of the two characteristics. Either the materials are oxidizing substances or they are organic peroxides. This class contains two subclasses.

Class 6

This class includes substances that are toxic or can cause infection. 

Class 7

The seventh class of hazardous materials consists of radioactive materials. 

Class 8 

This class contains both solid and liquid corrosive materials. 

Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials

As the name suggests, this class contains all the hazardous materials that are not classified differently. Materials that consist of batteries can be allocated in this category. Also, environmentally regulated substances belong to this class. Batteries, elevated temperature substances, asbestos, dry ice, etc. hazardous materials are in this class.

Responsibilities of Shippers of HAZMAT Supplies

Identifying hazardous materials might be the first thing, but there is a lot more involved when you think about shipping or delivering them. Depending on the methods of shipment or distance, as well as the materials themselves, there could be several protocols and verifications involved. Shippers must know about and comply with them. 

The regulations are more strict for international shipping. Various agencies regulate the supply or shipping of dangerous goods. Transportation of HAZMAT can be regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) which defines the materials and regulations of transportation. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates the transportation of hazardous materials by air, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) ensures the safety and regulations of transporting dangerous materials through motor vehicles. The hazardous transport regulation authority for the railway is the Federal Railway Administration (FRA).

Some other agencies that can be involved in the process of regulating hazardous materials transportation and safety are Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the United States Coast Guard USCG). Additionally, there could be other international agencies involved in the regulations of shipping HAZMAT internationally.

To comply with the rules and regulations for international shipping of dangerous goods, there are several responsibilities of shippers or businesses who are sending dangerous goods overseas. Some of the responsibilities are as follows.

Shipping Papers

Shipping papers need to have information regarding the hazardous materials, and the carrier must be in possession of them. The shipping paper needs to show that the shipping method is following the applicable regulations for shipping or transporting hazardous materials. A carrier is not permitted to carry HAZMAT without shipping papers.

The shipping papers will contain information such as the shipper and receiver, the hazard class, identification number, packaging group, etc. Other additional information or documents might be needed depending on the material.


Packaging is incredibly important for transporting hazardous materials. Leakage, spills, and exposure can be harmful and dangerous, so there are strict regulations regarding packing. The UN has established standards for packaging hazardous goods. Good hazardous materials packaging companies comply with the UN standard for packaging, such as the Air Sea DG. The containers or packaging have to pass a few tests before qualifying to carry hazardous materials. The tests will check the thickness of the container, weight capacity, resistance, metal fatigue, abrasion, etc. 

While packaging, the quantity and the type of hazardous material matter. Based on that, the packaging can be different. Moreover, the compatibility of different materials needs to be taken into consideration if several materials are being transported together.


The packages need to have a clear marking on them with the identification number, class, and shipping name. These need to be written in English. For bulk packages, the identification numbers need to be written on both sides of the container. 

Based on the packaging or amount of HAZMAT, the requirements for marking can vary. For instance, for Class 7 or radioactive materials, poisonous materials, explosive materials, marine pollutants, etc., there is additional marking required.


Transportation or logistics companies need to ensure that every package or shipping container is labeled. These labels will specify if the contained items are HAZMAT. For different classes of HAZMAT, the labels could be different. There are also labels for mixed and consolidated packaging.


Placarding is a requirement mostly when there is a large amount of hazardous materials involved. For a smaller amount, there might not be any need for a placard. However, above a certain weight limit, a placard is mandatory. This is more important for highways and rail transportation. Usually, when hazardous materials weigh more than 1000 lbs, a placard is needed. There is also a set rule for how to use the placard.

Emergency Response Information

All hazardous material containers of packaging need to have a label that contains emergency information. The emergency response information has to be included on the shipping papers. However, it needs to also be included on the packaging. 

For emergency response information, there has to be an emergency telephone number, a description of the dangerous goods, what to do immediately after the emergency, how to immediately handle small leakages, spills, or fires of the hazardous materials, and what first-aid measures need to be taken in case of emergency, etc.


General training is required for all employees who will handle hazardous materials. However, further training might be needed. General training provides knowledge about hazardous materials and creates awareness. Afterward, they will need more training such as function-specific training where the employees learn the skills to handle or transport HAZMAT. Security training is so important that it has become essential in most cases. 

A well-trained employee will be capable of handling hazardous materials. They are taught to read labels, understand classes, understand what materials should not be mixed, etc. Moreover, they are also taught how to minimize damages, the spread of hazardous materials, what to do in case of emergencies, evacuation procedures, and so on. Having high risks, this training is incredibly important for the employees in the HAZMAT workspace and transportation.

Security Plan

For the transportation of hazardous goods, a security plan is mandatory. To avoid any interference during the transportation, the employees need to know about the security plan. To comply with the requirements, employees need to have training so that they are capable of following the security plan. Security plans are mostly needed for bulk hazardous materials transportation. With the evolution of transportation and tracking, security is essential.


If a business is supplying multiple types of HAZMAT, then it needs to be aware of what types of dangerous goods cannot be mixed together, how to keep them separated, etc. They have the duty to inform the shipper or person in charge of transportation about the matter. On the other hand, the shipper is equally responsible to check compatibility. They need to identify whether the materials are compatible and can be shipped together.

Loading and Unloading

Based on the way of transport, there can be several regulations related to the loading and unloading of hazardous materials.

Blocking and Bracing

There needs to be plenty of blocking and bracing around the containers or packaging for the hazardous materials so that there are minimal chances of spillage or leakage.


Supplying hazardous materials can be a risky task, especially if they need to be transported overseas. The consequences of mishandling hazardous materials can be dangerous. Therefore, it needs to be done with utmost caution. While packing and shipping, businesses need to make sure that they are complying with all the UN and Federal laws regarding shipping HAZMAT. Moreover, if any problem occurs, it needs to be reported immediately to the respective authority.

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