6 Quick Logistics Safety Tips for Shipping Hazmat

Posted by Paul Little on 20 January 2014

Shipping hazmat in today’s global supply chain can involve the use of multiple modes of transportation and several logistics service providers. Therefore, the selection and preparation of the hazmat package must consider the applicable international and domestic transportation regulations, each mode of transportation as well as any unique transportation and storage practices used in each country that the cargo will pass through. Here are a few logistics safety tips to help ensure safe, secure, compliant and on-time global logistics.

1. Selection of Packagings: The choice of packaging type is a critical decision when handling hazmat. Not only must the selection of the packagings be based on regulatory requirements, it should also consider:

  • the product's physical/chemical characteristics
  • global transportation and storage practices
  • customer handling procedures and sustainability goals

istock 000008913449small pattern of drumsChoosing a particular container because that’s what was used for a similar product is a strategy that will eventually fail. Testing to ensure chemical compatibility may be appropriate for new products and the introduction of new container types should always include a management of change process.

2. Filling Non-Bulk Packagings: The filling process for drums and other small containers is heavily guided by regulations, so check before you act. Some important considerations are:

  • the use of open vs. closed headed containers (e.g., important when shipping by air)
  • the manufacturer’s instructions to close the container
  • the proper selection and placement of labels and marks 

It’s also recommended that the stacking height of packages (e.g., max. 3 high) be shown to avoid damage in-transit and at warehouses. Finally, consider a strategy to secure all containers with security seals and/or tamper evident tape.

3. Loading: 
Non-Bulk Shipments: Loading trailers and sea containers may require segregation of hazardous materials - the need to physically separate certain hazmat classes due to chemical incompatibility. The DOT also places restrictions on foodstuffs and hazmat in the same transport unit. Segregation due to potential odor issues may also be a consideration (e.g., does your product emit or absorb odors?). These issues are especially difficult to coordinate when shipping less than full loads due to the chemical properties that may already be present in the trailer. An additional area of consideration is blocking and bracing - the securement of the containers to prevent shifting and falling cargo. (See Blog post: 15 Best Practices to Proper Blocking and Bracing)

Bulk Shipments: With any transport vehicle, but especially with bulk trucks and portable tanks, the integrity of the tank is of utmost importance. Give your logistics service provider your specifications so that they can inspect the tank before dispatching their driver. This provides you with the opportunity to ensure valves, fittings and the general condition of the tank are satisfactory. Many shippers require a cleaning certificate at time of acceptance and place restrictions on chemicals already present in multi-compartment cargo tanks.
Two final issues:

  • Bonding and grounding of potentially flammable/combustible materials requires strict attention to managing static electricity during loading/unloading. 
  • Attendance during the loading/unloading of bulk shipments is also important. The DOT is clear on this requirement but you can apply for a special permit if an equivalent level of safety is provided.

4. Reusable Packagings: The care and maintenance of cylinders, drums and IBCs is also an important consideration. The hazmat regulations establish requirements for:

  • Reuse
  • Repair
  • Reconditioning
  • Remanufacture and
  • Routine maintenance of reusable packagings.

Be certain that you understand the requirements for each of these activities.  It is advisable that the logistics safety function oversee the management of packagings that could see more than a single use.

5. Small Packages: A special mention of small package shipping is called for because it can inadvertently be completed by someone that is not trained to ship hazmat. Small packages are often shipped by air and will undergo close scrutiny by inspectors. Minor errors can easily be traced back to the employee that shipped the package and result in significant fines. The employer should be clear about who can prepare a small package for shipment and require that a checklist be used. If small package shipments aren’t the norm, consider a 3rd party packing company.

6. Employees Transporting Chemicals: The final tip about shipping hazardous materials concerns employees that transport chemicals as part of their job, possibly as a material of trade in their personal vehicle or on public transportation. Allowing these types of shipments increases your logistics safety risk. An in-depth review of employees transporting chemicals will be the subject of a future blog.

Awareness of these tips on shipping hazardous materials will help ensure your supply chain remains safe, secure and compliant.