Hazardous materials (HAZMAT) are exactly what they sound like – materials that are hazardous to your health or the environment. But it may surprise you to learn which everyday products are actually classified as HAZMAT.
This guide to shipping hazardous materials has everything you need to know about HAZMAT shipping and compliance for e-commerce fulfillment.
What are Hazardous Materials?
The Department of Transportation (DOT) defines hazardous materials as “articles or substances which are capable of posing a risk to health, safety, property, or the environment; are listed or classified in the regulations; and are transported in commerce.”
In other words, hazardous materials are any material, substance, or product that could risk the health of people, or harm living organisms, property, or the environment if improperly handled, packaging, stored, or shipped.
Those definitions may conjure images of radioactive waste, but there are hundreds of everyday products that the DOT considers HAZMAT, like:
- Aerosol Sprays – (e.g., hairspray, spray paint, household cleaners and disinfectants)
- Alcohols – (e.g., rubbing alcohol, high-proof spirits)
- Camping Equipment – (e.g., camping stove, kerosene lanterns)
- Consumer Electronics with Lithium Batteries – (e.g., cell phones, laptops)
- Hand Sanitizor
- Nail Polish and Nail Polish Remover
- Paints, Paint Thinners and Removers
- Smoke Detectors
- Swimming Pool Chemicals
- Wood Treatment Products – (e.g., sealants, stains, varnishes)
While these products may seem like everyday items, they have the potential to injure a person if the product drops, breaks, spills, or comes in contact with another substance.
That’s why common items like nail polish and spray paint are also among the most complicated, regulated and expensive products to store, handle and ship. Fortunately, there is a DOT guide on How to Comply with Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations.
Hazardous Materials Regulations Guide
Unfortunately, that guide is long, complicated, and doesn’t apply to the vast majority of e-commerce products. In any case, as the shipper, you are responsible for properly classifying material prior to offering it for transportation.
A good starting point for determining if your e-commerce product might be classified as hazardous is by obtaining its Safety Data Sheet (SDS) from the manufacturer. The SDS will have a transportation information section, which provides guidance on classification information for shipping potentially hazardous materials by road, air, rail, or sea.
What Products are Classified as HAZMAT
The DOT sorts hazardous materials into nine classes, all of which have a specific-sub class that provides more details on the classification. Things like explosives are classified as Class 1 because they are likely to explode under certain conditions.
More mundane items, like household cleaners and bathroom sprays, are classified as Class 2 because they contain gases that are dangerous when inhaled or when they make contact with a surface.
There are other classifications for flammable liquids, flammable solids, oxidizers, and corrosives, as well as biomedical and radioactive wastes. Since you are unlikely to ship many of those products via e-commerce channels, it’s prudent to look at what products Amazon and other online marketplaces categorize as HAZMAT.
What is an Amazon HAZMAT Review?
Amazon defines hazardous materials as goods as, “…substances or materials that may pose a risk to health, safety, property, or the environment while storing, handling or transporting because they contain flammable, pressurized, corrosive, or otherwise harmful substances.”
The Amazon definition mirrors that of the DOT’s because, like all retailers, the retail giant is subject to federal regulation. Amazon is very strict when it comes to safety and compliance. Regardless of whether you believe your product is harmless or contains toxic materials, Amazon will ask you to provide answers to the following questions regarding batteries and dangerous goods regulations:
- Is the product a battery or does it utilize batteries? How many?
- What type are they? If you do not know the type of battery your product is using, select “Unknown”.
- How much do they weigh?
- How many batteries does your product need?
- Are they needed for the product to function?
- Will the batteries be sold separately? Is it a removable battery?
- What is the composition of the batteries?
- Is your product considered a ‘dangerous good’ or hazardous material regulated for transportation, storage, and/or waste?
- What is the *UN number of your product?
- How much does your product weigh (kg)?
- What is the volume of your product (ml)?
- Does your product fall into GHS/CLP standards?
- Did you ask your manufacturer to provide you with a Safety Data Sheet?
HAZMAT Products Permitted for Sale Through FBA
As an FBA seller, it is not only your responsibility to ensure that the products you ship to Amazon warehouses comply with all legal requirements, but also provide accurate, detailed information about your product, even if your product is not officially regulated as dangerous goods.
Of the nine classes of hazardous materials, only the following classes are permitted for sale through FBA:
HAZMAT Products Prohibited for Sale Through FBA
For obvious reasons (they are too much of a liability for Amazon), the following classes of materials are prohibited by FBA:
How to Ship HAZMAT
Shipping any type of HAZMAT product is a complicated process, as there are serious implications for getting it wrong, and significant penalties for HAZMAT noncompliance. To help you through this critical, albeit complicated, process we broke the HAZMAT shipping process down into easy steps.
- Classify your product using the safety data sheet (SDS).
- Choose the correct packaging for your HAZMAT product and classification.
- Utilize correct marking, labeling, and placarding.
- Prepare the appropriate shipping papers (e.g., the UN identification number, proper shipping name, hazard class, and packing group, quantity, number, emergency contact information, and shipper’s certification).
Flowspace: The Best Way to Ship HAZMAT
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