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From Point A to B in the USA: Transporting Dangerous Goods

Posted by Richard Tsai on Aug 6, 2015 11:00:00 AM

biohazardThere are many things to consider when shipping dangerous goods; the type of material, how it's being transported, and the governing body all play an integral role in getting your material from Point A to Point B.

At Fisher BioServices, we are well versed in the management of dangerous goods; ranging from kit production to transportation. In this blog, we'll touch on some of the important information associated with dangerous goods, how they are transported, and the importance of personnel training.

Shipping by Land or Air
The definition of what constitutes a "dangerous good" is dependent on the selected mode of transportation and the associated governing body.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) sets all legal standards and procedures for the ground transportation of hazardous materials to, from, or through the USA. Per the DOT definition, a dangerous good is a substance or material that the Secretary of Transportation has determined is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety and property when transported in commerce. These standards are published in the Code of Federal Regulations Title 49 (49 CFR Subchapter C).

When transporting dangerous goods by air, one must adhere to the regulatory guidelines governed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). IATA classifies dangerous goods as articles or substances which are capable of posing a risk to health, safety, property or the environment. Some dangerous goods are too dangerous to be carried by aircraft, others may be carried by cargo aircraft only (CAO), and some are acceptable by both passenger and cargo aircraft. A number of limitations are placed on dangerous goods which are permitted by air.

Examples of Dangerous Goods
The United Nations (UN) lays the general framework for processing hazardous materials in transportation and provides the basis recommendations for governing bodies like DOT and IATA to follow. According to their properties, dangerous goods are classified into hazard class(es), ranging from Class 1: Explosives to Class 9: Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods.

Some hazard classes can be subdivided into divisions. For example, Class 6: Toxic and Infectious Substances, has two subdivisions including:

  • Division 6.1:  Toxic Substances
  • Division 6.2:  Infection Substances

The hazard class or division communicates the type of hazard involved with the particular substance. Packing Groups are used to differentiate the degree of hazard a substance presents and are broken down into three groups:

  • Packing Group I:  High Danger
  • Packing Group II:  Medium Danger
  • Packing Group III:  Low Danger

It's important to understand the classification system because the hazard class or division communicates the type of hazard involved with the particular substance. The number assigned to the hazard class or division are for referencing purposes only and don't imply that any one class or division is more hazardous than the other.  

Preparing to ship
Prior to transport, it's important to ensure that all employees are trained, the material is not prohibited (to ship by air or otherwise), and the material must be properly identified, classified, packed, marked, labeled, and documented and in a condition for transport in accordance with regulation.

Packing
The transport provider is responsible for making sure that the dangerous goods are packaged into acceptable containers. When preparing packages for transport, the packaging not only has to meet detailed construction criterion, but also must pass a series of rigid performance tests.

Marking and Labeling
The transport provider is also responsible for all necessary marking and labeling of each package of dangerous goods.  Most packages containing dangerous goods require a minimum of 2 marks: Proper Shipping Name (technical name if required) and UN or ID Number, and Full Name and Address of the Shipper and of the Consignee.  Depending on the hazardous class (described above) the material may require additional markings.

Documentation
A Shippers Declaration for Dangerous Goods and an Air Waybill must be completed for each consignment of dangerous goods. The shipper is responsible for the completion of the Shipper’s Declaration and this must be completed in English. Two copies of the declaration must be presented to the operator. The initial operator must retain an original copy.

By following these guidelines for correct packaging, marking, labeling, and documentation you can ensure that the material is in a condition for transport based on the regulations. 

Importance of employee training
All persons concerned with the transport of dangerous goods must undergo initial and recurrent training programs. Though the specific training requirements for DOT and IATA differ, they both require that each employee have job-specific training that addresses their safety and security awareness. Employees must understand the potential danger in the material they're working with to ensure they safeguard against potential harm.

To learn more about risk mitigation and how to select the correct transport provider to safely move your irreplaceable biospecimen collection, download our InfoPoster!

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