Steps to Ship Dangerous Goods & Hazardous Materials Correctly

If you plan to ship any products that contain hazardous materials, also known as dangerous goods (DG), you as the shipper are responsible for properly classifying and packaging your products in accordance with national regulations. 

The steps below are generalized outline and may not list out all the requirements for your specific items. If you work with a shipping expert or outsource to a 3PL or logistics provider, work with them about any further actions you’ll need to take to ship hazardous materials safely.  

For assistance with understanding hazmat transportation regulations, contact the US Department of Transportation Hazardous Materials Information Center, 1-800-467-4922 or [email protected]. 

Step 1: Identify and Classify Your Hazardous Materials 

Before you can label or ship any dangerous goods, first you need to identify the materials that are considered hazardous. This can be located in your SDS (Safety Data Sheet) provided by your manufacturer.  

The Safety Data Sheet contains a four-digit UN Number which identifies the specific dangerous or hazardous substance. This number will determine how to classify your product. Use the UN Number to locate your product within the Hazardous Materials Table. This table will also tell you the packaging, handling, documentation, and other requirements needed for your specific type of hazardous material.  

Step 2: Determine DG Packaging Requirements

Two of the main requirements when shipping hazardous materials are quantity and type of packaging. The Hazardous Materials Table will tell you the quantity of your goods you are allowed to ship at once. Once this is determined you can select the size and type of packaging you’ll use for transport.

Here is a guide to understanding packaging markings for dangerous goods and hazardous materials.

While packaging your products, follow all manufacturer’s instructions for assembly. Handling hazardous materials puts you at a safety risk, so following all inner and outer packaging, plus any closure requirements is critical.

Step 3: How to Label Dangerous Goods for Shipping  

Apply the appropriate hazmat label to your package. It will likely include the following:  

  • Arrows to orient the package  
  • Shipper’s information 
  • Hazardous material identification number  
  • Proper shipping name markings 
  • Hazard class labels 

If you mislabel your DG goods, you can pay steep fines or be denied shipping service all together. 

When sending dangerous goods abroad, there may be additional international shipping documentation needed.  

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Which Carrier Will Ship Dangerous Goods? 

It’s important to check with your shipping carrier, before you package your products, which services support the transport of hazardous materials. There are some carriers who support dangerous goods, and others that don’t. Be sure you adequately research the shipping services that will transport dangerous goods—you may be surprised by some of the restrictions, like air freight.  

If you are new to shipping dangerous goods, work with a carrier or logistics provider to accurately perform the steps listed above. An expert will be helpful to ensure you’re following the protocols perfectly.  

Common Products Classified as Dangerous Goods 

Some product brands need to be well-versed in shipping dangerous goods, like health and beauty brands, and those who sell consumer electronics products with lithium ion batteries 

If you’re wondering if your products should be classified as dangerous goods or not, here is a quick list of common goods that should follow the above steps before shipping. 

  • Aerosol spray receptacles (e.g., household cleaners, disinfectants, hairspray, spray paint) 
  • Airbags and airbag inflators 
  • Alcohols (e.g., rubbing alcohol, high-proof spirits) 
  • Ammunition and gun powders 
  • Bleaches 
  • Camping equipment (e.g., camping stove, kerosene lanterns) 
  • Car batteries 
  • Carbon dioxide canisters and cylinders 
  • Consumer electronics with lithium batteries (e.g., cell phones, laptops) 
  • Dry ice 
  • Essential oils (flammable) 
  • Fertilizer compounds and ammonium nitrate fertilizers 
  • Fire extinguishers 
  • Fireworks – consumer and novelty 
  • Fragrances (e.g., perfumes and colognes) 
  • Fuels (e.g., gasoline, diesel fuel, propane, kerosene) 
  • Fuel-powered equipment (containing fuel) 
  • Hand sanitizer 
  • Inks (flammable) 
  • Insecticides and pest control products 
  • Lighters and matches 
  • Lithium batteries, including portable chargers and power banks 
  • Mercury and articles that contain mercury 
  • Nail polish and nail polish remover 
  • Oxygen tanks (medical and recreational) 
  • Paints 
  • Paint thinners and removers 
  • Refrigerant gases (e.g., liquid nitrogen or carbon dioxide) 
  • Scuba tanks 
  • Smoke detectors 
  • Swimming pool chemicals 
  • Wood treatment products (e.g., sealants, stains, varnishes) 

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