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Hazmat Packaging Bears Rigorous Testing

Hazmat Packaging Specs

Shippers of Hazardous Materials (or Dangerous Goods) know that the packaging they use has to meet certain specifications and pass standard tests before it can be considered appropriate for the hazardous shipment. Most training classes will explain that the package design must go through various tests to simulate conditions they may encounter during transport.

I started to wonder if users of the packaging really understand the conditions these designs are put through. No, it doesn’t look like this…

… but a few of the tests are quite rigorous! Below are some examples.

  • Drop Test – Drop testing is done on five test samples. The samples are prepared as they are intended to be used by a shipper. Each sample is dropped on a different surface of the package (top, bottom, long side, short side, and corner) from a height between 2.9 and 5.9 feet (0.8 – 1.8 meters), depending on the packing group of the materials that are going to be authorized. Any release of sample material during any of the drops is considered a failure.
  • Stack Test – Stack testing is done on three test samples. The samples are subjected to force that is equivalent to the weight of identical packages stacked to 3 meters. The samples must withstand the weight for 24 hours without leaking or showing any damage or distortion that could reduce Continue Reading…
Right to Know
Has Right to Know Gone Too Far?

Right to know regulations are great for employees. They help educate the employees to understand all of the hazards they may be exposed to. OSHA’s philosophy behind their hazard communication standard is based around the “right to know” concept. One key to the system is the training of employees to not only know about a hazard, but to understand the hazard. Some states have implemented individual right to know requirements to provide information to workers above and beyond the federal level.

One state in particular has gone way beyond and branched the right to know into the consumer sector. Yes, I’m talking about California and their Prop 65 legislation. According to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) website (click here), Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, was enacted as a ballot initiative in November 1986. The proposition was intended to protect California citizens and the State’s drinking water sources from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm, and to inform citizens about exposures to such chemicals.

The list of chemicals covered by Prop 65 can be found on OEHHA’s website (click here). Note that they specify coverage to citizens, not just workers. This means that Prop 65 applies everywhere in California, not just workplaces where employees are trained to understand what the information really means. Continue Reading…

When an Ordinary Box Isn’t so Ordinary After All (HazMat Box)

We have all used a fiberboard (or cardboard as most people call it) box to ship something. It may have been a box of gifts for a friend or family member, or a package of merchandise for a client at work. Most of the time, you probably didn’t give much thought to the box other than to make sure it was sturdy enough and big enough to contain what you were shipping. For these typical kinds of shipments, that ordinary box will do just fine. HazMat (or dangerous goods) shipments, however, aren’t ordinary and neither is the box that they need to be shipped in.

The packaging industry is a science in itself, with ever evolving processes, techniques, materials, treatments, and regulations. HazMat packaging is a specialized area of packaging technology, and it has some very specific requirements that must be followed. Even though a HazMat box may look identical to a standard shipping carton, there are some significant “behind the scenes” differences between them!

  1. Material matters! When dealing with HazMat boxes, there are specific tolerances for manufacturing. The combination of materials used to make up the fiberboard has very little wiggle room once the design has been approved and certified. Changes in the material may invalidate the certification and make the boxes non-compliant.
  2. Proven performance! HazMat boxes have to be put to the test before they can be Continue Reading…
Traveling With Hazmat … What Will and Won’t Fly

As a frequent traveler, for both business and pleasure, I am often passing though airport security checkpoints before whisking off to my final destination. Because of the industry I am in, I always seem to notice things that most travelers don’t. Most passengers tend to know the rules regarding carry on liquids. They usually know that they need to take off shoes and remove laptops from bags before x-ray screening. While waiting in line, I start thinking about how many of them really understand how many hazardous materials we may be taking on vacation with us and that there are additional rules for carrying them on aircraft.

Traveling with HazMatDuring my most recent trip, I noticed a sign while in the queue for the security checkpoint at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. It seemed odd to me that they would choose to display this sign in a passenger area. While the information provided on the sign is accurate and useful, it is not appropriate for the audience it is reaching. Those passengers who actually stop to read the sign will likely think it does not apply to them because they are not traveling with packages as pictured. In my opinion, a more effective sign for this location would warn that lithium batteries that are used with personal electronics can start fires if they are dropped or improperly charged. Showing photos of Continue Reading…

When a Hazmat Incident Hits Close to Home

I was scrolling through my news feed this morning when a post from the local Fire Department info page caught my eye. I read the statements “Suspicious Package. Niagara County Hazmat Team and US Airforce Hazmat Team from Niagara Falls Air Base requested to scene.” and I immediately started to look for more information. The location of the scene is not only within a few hundred feet of Niagara Falls and the Canadian border, but it is approximately 8 miles from my office and only 1.5 miles from my daughter’s elementary school. In this industry, I hear about hazmat incidents every day, but this one hit close to home.

Thanks to social media, I was able to get real time updates on the situation from the Facebook pages of The Niagara Gazette, Niagara County Fire Wire and Niagara Falls Fire Department Calls and Info. These sources were reporting information broadcast over public scanners. Local news stations hadn’t yet started to report the story. An envelope with a suspicious material was discovered in the human resources department. Employees were evacuated as a precaution. The Air Reserve team was on site first, with the county team in route to assist them. The hazmat team was directed to take samples, check the package for any additional suspicious content and to photograph the package. Initial data lead the Hazmat Command to Continue Reading…

Single Packaging
The Carrier Has The Final Say

Have you ever prepared a shipment that you were 100% certain was done according to regulation, only to have it refused by the carrier? The reason may be because carriers can put in place requirements that go above and beyond the regulations and will refuse your shipment if you do not comply. Finding these extra requirements can be simple for air shipments thanks to the Operator Variations listed in IATA Section 2.8.3. However, other modes of transport do not have the variations listed, and even the IATA variations don’t cover every possible extra requirement.

Below are a few ways you can determine if there are additional requirements for your shipment.

  1. Ask your carrier! If you are using a new carrier or shipping a new material with your current carrier, ask them if there are any additional requirements that you should be aware of before you prepare the shipment. Most carriers have dedicated Dangerous Goods agents who will be able to let you know about any extras.
  2. Check the IATA variations even for ground or vessel shipments. Many of the operator variations that are listed in IATA apply to all shipments for that carrier, regardless of the mode of transportation. One common example is FedEx’s FX-02, which requires Division 6.1 material in PG I or II to be in special permit packaging for domestic shipments.
  3. Trial and error. Continue Reading…
Single Packaging
The Importance of Packing Instructions

Simon Says . . . It’s All About Following Directions

An experienced shipper knows that in order to be compliant for HazMat or Dangerous Goods shipping, packaging designs have to be subjected to performance testing. In fact, this should be something that even new shippers learn during their training. This testing is meant to simulate conditions that the package could encounter during typical transport operations.

Did you know that there are requirements to be followed even after the testing is complete and the packaging is marked as meeting the appropriate specifications? In a game of Simon Says, all players must do whatever Simon says. Packaging manufacturers are like Simon, they must provide proper instructions to customers so that they are able to assemble and use the packaging correctly. The packaging must be assembled in the same manner as it was during the testing process. If not, the shipment could be considered non-compliant.

The certification provided for the packaging is only good for the exact configuration that was tested. This is especially critical for combination packagings which can have numerous parts necessary to make a complete package. Making even minor changes to that configuration means there is no way to know for sure if it would still pass the testing criteria. Using specification packaging is much like a game of Simon Says . . . one wrong move and you Continue Reading…

Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
OSHA’s Safety Data Sheet Changes

One of the major changes that workplaces will see under OSHA’s new Hazcom 2012 regulations has to do with Material Safety Data Sheets. OSHA has decided to align their requirements with the UN’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) Safety Data Sheet (SDS) preparation requirements. What industry has historically called a Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS, will now be referred to as simply a Safety Data Sheet, or SDS.

Along with the new name, the SDS’s will have specific requirements for content. SDS’s under the Hazcom 2012 regulations are required to follow a 16 section format and include specific information in each section. The required sections are as follows:

  • Section 1, Identification
    • Includes product identifier; manufacturer or distributor name, address, phone number; emergency phone number; recommended use; restrictions on use.
  • Section 2, Hazard(s) identification
    • Includes all hazards regarding the chemical; required label elements.
  • Section 3, Composition/information on ingredients
    • Includes information on chemical ingredients; trade secret claims.
  • Section 4, First-aid measures
    • Includes important symptoms/effects, acute, delayed; required treatment.
  • Section 5, Fire-fighting measures
    • Lists suitable extinguishing techniques, equipment; chemical hazards from fire.
  • Section 6, Accidental release measures
    • Lists emergency procedures; protective equipment; proper methods of containment and cleanup.
  • Section 7, Handling and storage
    • Lists precautions for safe handling and storage, including incompatibilities.
  • Section 8, Exposure controls/personal protection
    • Lists OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs); Threshold Limit Values (TLVs); appropriate engineering controls; personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Section 9, Physical and chemical properties
Confessions of a Hazmat Nerd

I admit it. I am a hazmat nerd. I’m not sure exactly when I realized it. Maybe it was the first time I recited a section of 49CFR from memory during a class. Maybe it was when I decided to keep a copy of the ERG in my car so I could identify the UN numbers on placarded trucks. Regardless of when it happened, I now embrace my hazmat nerdiness… even my Facebook profile lists my occupation as “Hazmat Nerd”. Obviously, this is a great benefit when I’m on the job. I have a knack for remembering obscure requirements and knowing where to find them in the appropriate regulation. I enjoy hunting down the answer to tough questions or unusual situations. I like having customers who think of me as their go-to source for their questions.

One aspect of being a hazmat nerd is that I am always noticing things that relate to my job, even when I’m not at work (hence the ERG in my glove compartment). There was the time that I was doing some geocaching (my obsession…I mean hobby) in Buffalo. I had parked the car and jumped out to go find a cache. On my way, I had to dodge some large puddles due to a recent downpour. As I approached one of the puddles, I noticed something odd. There was a Flammable Continue Reading…

What do you do for a living?

I always cringe when someone asks me what I do for work. Not because I dislike my job (in fact, I’m one of the few people I know who truly enjoys their work) but because it’s so complicated to explain what I do! Sure, I could simply say I’m a Regulatory Specialist and let them stare at me blankly and try to figure out what that means, but they usually expect more of an explanation.

After going through the explanation for a new acquaintance yesterday, I got to thinking that many of our customers may not know exactly what ICC’s Regulatory Specialists do either. Some of my “regular” customers only deal with one aspect of my expertise, and are often surprised when they learn how many hats I really wear on a regular basis. After 8 years on the job, I have collected many responsibilities to keep me on my toes.

  1. Training – One of the main duties of the Regulatory Specialist (RS) at ICC is to deliver training classes to our customers. For me, this includes the US 49CFR Hazmat regulations, the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations and the IMDG Code. These classes can take place at our training centers, the customer’s facility, a hotel, or even via an online webinar. Not only do we conduct the training, but we also develop the presentations and quizzes that are Continue Reading…