There's Nothing Cute about HazMat
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration recently launched an online campaign, Check the Box, to draw people’s attention to the inherent danger and necessary care required when shipping packages that contain hazardous materials.
“Sending packages can get tricky, especially if hazardous material (hazmat) is hiding in one of your packages. Certain items that are essential to our daily lives — such as batteries and common household items — may seem harmless, but they can be toxic, corrosive and even explosive if handled inappropriately,” the agency warned.
The hazmat campaign is highlighted by a blue cartoonish character named HazMatt that has orange flames for hair.
That aside, the agency correctly warns package shippers, especially those newbies involved in the burgeoning e-commerce space, that “it is your responsibility to know whether those products are hazmat and to communicate their hazards appropriately, according to DOT’s hazmat regulations.”
To determine if a consumer product is a hazardous material, PHMSA said package shippers should first review a manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS), formerly known as the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). The information should be found on the manufacturer’s website.
PHMSA’s Check the Box program also provides a step-by-step explanation on how to further identify the type of hazmat by using the Hazardous Materials Table, determine the proper packaging and how to mark and label your hazmat shipment, as well as prepare the necessary paperwork.
PHMSA’s Hazmat Information Center also offers personal one-on-one assistance over the phone (800-467-4922) Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for those shippers who still have questions.
There’s nothing cute about hazmat shipments. An improperly packaged can of spray paint that starts to leak during shipping, for example, can quickly become a fire hazard inside a conveyance, be it an ocean container, aircraft or road trailer.
PHMSA said there are about 1,500 reported incidents involving undeclared hazmat shipments each year. It’s much scarier to think of all those improperly handled hazmat shipments that move freely through the transportation system — especially in air freight.