While shipping is an efficient form of transporting goods nationwide and internationally, strict precautions exist for shipping potentially hazardous substances. Your business may be liable if something goes wrong, so it is essential to ensure your packages arrive at their destination safely and securely.
Dangerous goods are liquids, solids or gases whose properties may present a potential hazard to any living organism or an entire environment’s safety. When you need to ship biological or biohazardous material for your company, you want to ensure safe transport to prevent accidental exposure to dangerous substances.
What Are the Biological Substance Categories for Shipping?
People classify dangerous goods according to whether or not they are flammable, explosive, corrosive, toxic, poisonous or present a different type of risk. You might be wondering what items qualify as dangerous goods. We’ll break down the different categories, so you and your staff know how to carefully handle and ship specific substances.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, biological shipping materials may fall under these categories.
- Infectious Substances, Category A: When exposure occurs, a Category A infectious substance may cause extreme disability or life-threatening disease in healthy animals and humans. Exposure occurs during transportation when a contagious material escapes its protective packaging and results in physical contact with live organisms. Packaging for these substances must consist of a primary receptacle, secondary packaging and rigid outer packaging.
- Infectious Substances, Category B: A Category B substance may contain pathogens and other unsafe material but fail to meet the criteria for Category A. While Category A poses a higher degree of risk than Category B, the class designation UN3373 must accompany infectious Category B substances. Packaging for UN3373 must be durable enough to withstand transport conditions and prevent any loss of contents through temperature, humidity, vibration and pressure changes. Category B may also include genetically modified organisms or microorganisms.
- Exempt Human Specimen or Exempt Animal Specimen: Exempt specimens include substances with a minimal chance of present pathogens, such as blood, urine or tissue sent for monitoring or testing. These require minimum packaging and markings in air transportation. Other substances in this category may include medical, regulated or clinical wastes from bio-research.
How to Ship Biohazard Substances
The following steps will help you safely ship all your biohazard substances for every shipment.
1. Undertake Proper Training
2. Classify Your Goods Correctly
3. Contact Your Shipper
4. Package and Label Your Shipment Properly
5. Pay Attention to Detail
Mistakes to Avoid When Shipping Biohazard Substances
When shipping dangerous substances, even the slightest mistake can prove disastrous for your company. Here are some crucial tips to avoid potential problems.
- Use a leakproof bag when shipping liquids: Using specialized bags and rigid containers will reduce the risk of liquid shipment spills and contamination.
- Use plenty of cushioning and absorbent material: Cushioning biohazardous substances when packaging will prevent damage and leaks and ensure all the package’s intended components are intact.
- Close all containers correctly: Following directions to close all containers properly will prevent exposure to any hazardous substances during transportation. Failing to apply the specific closing torque on a packaging system for dangerous goods will affect its integrity.
- Train your employees: All your employees must understand the proper practices for categorizing, shipping and handling risky goods. For example, while it is not illegal to mail urine, you may receive a hefty fine for failing to classify and ship it properly. Keeping your training certifications current will also help you stay ahead of changing regulations.
- Pressure-test your packaging: If you are shipping liquid material by air, conducting a pressure test will ensure it is suitable and safe for air transport.
- Be upfront on all shipping papers: For airlines, shipping companies and other carriers to ensure safety when transporting your goods, you need to make complete declarations for each biohazardous material.