HAZMAT: The Definitive FAQ Guide

Before you ship HAZMAT read this guide.

It covers everything you need to know – from definition, types of goods, handling procedure, labeling to documentation of hazardous goods.

So, this guide will help you adopt a perfect shipping solution for HAZMAT.

What does HAZMAT Stand for?

HAZMAT is an acronym for “hazardous materials.”

These are substances, which appear in form or quantities likely to pose a threat to property, health, safety, and environment.

A thorough assessment of the contents of such materials reveals they can undermine the environment, health, and safety.



Which Products are Considered HAZMAT?

There are numerous products and materials considered as HAZMAT.

Such products often fall under the following categories;

  • Nuclear waste products
  • Fuel
  • Radiological agents
  • Biological agents
  • Chemical agents
  • Toxic chemicals

Some of the specific HAZMAT products you are likely to come across include the following;

  • Insecticides and pest control products
  • Wood treatment products
  • Aerosol spray receptacles
  • Bleaches
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Oxygen tanks
  • Car batteries
  • Inks
  • Hand sanitizers
  • Fertilizer compounds
  • Paints, thinners, and paint removers
  • Flammable essential oils
  • Ammunition and gun powders
  • Fragrances
  • Refrigerant gases

HAZMATs are often present in form of liquids, gases, or solids.

In some instances, they can be released in a combination of all three states.

This may include mist, smoke, vapor, dust, gas, and fumes, among others.

How do you Classify Dangerous Goods?

HAZMAT are classified into various categories as a way of enhancing precaution and utmost safety.

There are nine groups under, which these types of materials are categorized, which include the following;

  • Group 1: Explosive materials
  • Group 2: Gaseous materials
  • Group 3: Inflammable liquids
  • Group 4: Inflammable solids
  • Group 5: Materials, which contain peroxides and easily oxidizing agents
  • Group 6: Highly toxic and Infective substances
  • Group 7: Radioactive materials and substances
  • Group 8: Erosive substances
  • Group 9: Dangerous materials and miscellaneous substances in nature

Notably, all the categories from Group 1-6, with exception of Group 3, have a variety of sub-heads.

The essence is to further sub-divide HAZMAT classification for ease in packaging and storage of the goods.

Sub-categorization of the HAZMAT include the following;

HAZMAT Classification

HAZMAT Classification

Group 1 consists of six sub-classes, which range from explosives with major explosion threat.

Group 2 has three sub-categories compressed gases, flammable gases, and health hazard gases upon inhaling.

Group 4 consists of three sub-classes flammable solids and combustible materials.

All these substances exhibit the tendency to give off inflammable gases whenever they in tangency with water.

Group 5 has two sub-categories of materials, which oxidize easily and those that contain peroxides hence likely to cause harm.

Group 6 also consists of two sub-classes, which deal with toxic and radioactive substances.

What is HAZMAT Packaging?

This refers to a receptacle for containment of all the materials and substances regarded as hazardous during transit.

HAZMAT packaging must conform to all the specific minimum requirements, as outlined in the HAZMAT rules and regulations.

What Factors should you Consider when Choosing Packaging for HAZMAT?

Here are the vital elements regarding HAZMAT packaging, which you need to have in mind when selecting one;

  • Inner-packaging volume – This is the amount or quantity of packaging, which needs outer packaging for efficiency and safety during transportation. It often applies majorly to combination packaging.
  • Cushioning and absorbents – These are components that must be used in transporting HAZMAT, especially liquid substances.
  • Strong outer packaging – This refers to the outermost layer of the package designed to protect inner packaging from releasing its contents.
  • Specification packaging – It is the kind of packaging, which complies with one of the standards for packaging in HAZMAT policies.

The marking of these packaging is done to ascertain all regulatory requirements, including performance tests, are met.

  • Number of inner packaging per package – This is the maximum quantity or amount of different products in a specific HAZMAT package.
  • Authorized packaging – It is the type of packaging prescribed to the packaging section of HAZMAT policies for a specific hazardous substance.

How do you Prepare a HAZMAT Package for Shipping?

Transporting HAZMAT package can be a complicated process, especially over a long distance.

Technically, it poses a variety of serious risks in case you get it wrong.

However, the following steps come in handy when preparing this type of package for shipping;

Material Classification

By law, a product safety data sheet (SDS) must be submitted to the party handling the dangerous materials.

The SDS is essential in providing guidance to enable workers to handle such products to become familiar with such materials.

It also prevents them from mishandling the substances.

Contacting Reliable Carriers

You can get in touch with some of the top carriers such as FedEx, DHL, UPS, and USPS among others.

Such leading carriers often provide shipping options for HAZMAT.

However, every carrier is guided by specific principles regarding their execution and handling of such substances.

Determine the Right HAZMAT Package

The suitable type of package is dependent on the specific substance.

Consider confirming from the specific laws guiding packaging of hazardous substances.

For instance, drums are best suited for dangerous liquids.

However, the type of drum to use, whether plastic, steel, or aluminum, depends on the type of liquid.

Marking and Labeling the Package

HAZMAT have specific ways of marking and labeling, depending on their categories, weight, and identification number.

Always follow the right regulations when marking and labeling these items.

Get the Paperwork Ready

Some specific carriers often demand additional shipping papers to ship hazardous compounds based on a particular product.

Get all the documents and ensure they are correctly captured and match all the relevant details of the products.

Figure-out any Extra Carrier Requirements

Many carriers tend to have more or less similar rules regarding shipping HAZMAT.

But there are a few, which require additional requirements.

Therefore, inquire from the carrier about all the requirements they would require for shipping dangerous substances.

What are the Four Levels of Hazardous response?

These levels include the following;

Awareness Level

It is the basic level and targets random people who could be first on an emergency scene involving dangerous substances.

Responders, at this level, are expected to recognize the presence of HAZMAT.

Thus they should protect themselves, inform professionals, and secure the area to their best levels possible.

You can obtain this level from local institutions of higher learning.

Operations Level

This level consists of responders responding to releases of possible releases of HAZMAT as part of the initial response to an emergency.

The essence is to protect the property, environment, and nearby persons from the effects of the release.

First responders at this level are anticipated to respond in a relatively defensive mode.

This helps in controlling release from a comparatively safe distance and keep it from spreading.

Technician Level

This refers to a reasonably specialized and somewhat technical level.

Responders at the technician level take a more offensive approach when responding to releases of HAZMAT for controlling release.

Technician-level responders are accredited HAZMAT technicians expected to utilize specialized chemical protective clothing and equipment.

Specialist Level

It is the supreme level of HAZMAT responders.

Responders, at this level, have advanced and in-depth knowledge in a variety of science fields.

They assist technician-level responders with various responses.

In some instances, it may take a hands-on offensive approach to regulate or contain the hazardous release.

Specialist responders may as well work with the respective incident commander who offers guidance to technician-level responders.

How much does HAZMAT Shipping Cost?

Shipping cost for HAZMAT depends on a host of variables.

One of these variables is the specific type of HAZMAT you’re shipping.

Different hazardous products are charged differently based on a variety of factors.

Some are reasonably priced, whereas others tend to attract hefty charges.

The other variable is the delivery distance.

The further the delivery destination distance, the more expensive the shipping charges and vice versa.

Also, the specific carrier of your choice determines the cost of hazardous shipping substances.

All carriers offer HAZMAT shipping options often charge different rates depending on their policies.

Again, the particular mode of transportation influences the cost of shipping HAZMAT.

Airfreight will, of course, be more expensive than both trucking and ocean freight.

And most importantly, the volume or quantity of the HAZMAT you’re shipping is a determinant factor of cost.

Evidently, the large the volume or quantity, the more the shipping cost of this material and vice versa.

In a nutshell, there is no fixed shipping cost for hazardous substances.

They vary significantly based on these factors and other prevailing situations.

How do you know if a Product is Hazardous?

Typically, the manufacturers and importers of hazardous materials are required by law to classify products.

They are also responsible for developing the product’s containers label and safety data sheet (SDS), which comply with stipulated requirements.

You can use several ways to determine whether the product is hazardous.

Some of these ways include the following;

Requesting SDS from Manufacturer/Supplier

A material SDS ordinarily lists all the ingredients in a dangerous substance.

The manufacturer must provide accurate information to enable you to determine whether or not the item is hazardous.

Conducting Site Inspection

You can also choose to carry out the identification process of the HAZMAT on a particular site.

This is more practical if you are working with a knowledgeable team with a better understanding of different elements.

Check out the Packaging Marks and Labels

Look at the different warning words such as flammable, danger, reactive, and corrosive, among others.

Most products with such warnings are extremely hazardous hence the need to take appropriate measures.

How do you Ship HAZMAT?

Shipping dangerous goods is regarded as one of the most stressful businesses.

Many carriers can accommodate some types of dangerous materials but have particular policies and pricing.

There are a few but critical elements which guide a carrier on how to ship HAZMAT;

  • Ensure you have an SDS as a way to determine whether the products you are shipping are hazardous and to what extent.
  • If you determine the goods are dangerous, carry out a needs assignment analysis to figure-out the specific employees can handle them. The levels of employees to handle different HAZMAT varies from 1-4.
  • Consider having a trained employee to research the substance in a hazardous material table. It allows you to determine specifically approved quantities permissible for shipping, labeling needs, and proper packaging.
  • Find out the quantities and matching packaging requirements for the consignment.
  • Obtain all the necessary documents for the shipment where applicable.
  • Obtain the proper hazard communication once you have the correct packaging for the consignment. These include labels, marking, and declaration forms.
  • Mark and label the shipment
  • If you’re using a combination package, put the substance in its inner packaging according to the closure instructions.
  • Fill out the shipping paper and attach it to the outer part of the shipment in an unobstructed area and ship it.
  • Keep the shipper’s declaration on file for at least two years.

What are the Regulations for HAZMAT Shipping?

Shipping HAZMAT can pose risks to anyone who may come into contact with the consignment.

Hence it is vital to follow the rules and regulations to minimize or eliminate any unsafe condition.

Several rules and regulations guide the shipping of hazardous substances.

However, some of the core parts of these regulations include the following;

Packaging HAZMAT for shipping

Packaging HAZMAT for shipping

  • It is the responsibility of the shipper to include classification, packaging, marking, and labeling of HAZMAT.

All these should be under national and international governmental regulations.

  • The material must be packed appropriately after thorough assessment and determination of the danger it poses.
  • All dangerous products must be labeled properly for transportation. Every label defines the type of hazard the substance presents.

The labels are purchased from a reputable printing distributor and should correspond to the size, color, and shape.

  • The minimum markings on a hazardous consignment must incorporate the following elements;
  • Registered carrier’s name
  • Consignee’s name and address
  • Consignor’s name and address

There could as well be other types of markings such as Do Not Wet, Fragile, Biohazard or Do Not Tip, etc.

Are there Penalties for Non-compliance when Shipping Hazardous Material?


Just like any other shipping regulation, flouting of the same for hazardous materials can be costly.

It varies from one country to another.

In many countries, fines and jail-terms are the penalties one is likely to face from a knowing, willful, and reckless violation of HAZMAT regulations.

Even the tiniest error can result in a six-figure fine and, in other instances banning your entity from transporting HAZMAT goods.

The exact amount of fine varies depending on the gravity of the type of non-compliance.

Furthermore, if the violations of these regulations become persistent, each day of the non-compliance constitutes a separate offense.

Who are the Top China Courier for HAZMAT?

You can choose to use various HAZMAT shipping carriers in China since they are several and provide broad options for these services.

However, it is advisable always to consider using some of the highly regarded carriers such as the following;

FedEx–This carrier offers training and guidance on how to ship HAZMAT and how to be accredited to ship dangerous substances. They offer HAZMAT shipping services from China to different parts of the world.

UPS – It also offers HAZMAT shipping and training services for entities new in shipping these substances.

DHL – This is an established entity in matters surrounding shipping of HAZMAT. DHL conforms to all the regulations of IATA and other applicable national legislation hence an ideal option for these services.

USPS – This carrier ships HAZMAT, though with a few restrictions for some domestic and international hazardous product shipments.

Should you use a 3rd Party Agent when Shipping HAZMAT?


There is no restriction barring a 3rd party agent or broker from facilitating HAZMAT shipping.

Ideally, as long as the 3rd party agent complies with the necessary regulations as stipulated by relevant authorities, they are good to go.

Moreover, the broker must demonstrate a history and ability to safely and efficiently transport HAZMAT to the respective destinations.

However, the responsibility for HAZMAT transportation still lies with the 3rd party agent or broker.

Therefore, they remain liable for their actions.

What are the Labeling Requirements of HAZMAT Packages?

Ideally, the packaging and shipping of HAMAT are highly controlled across different sectors irrespective of mode of transport.

The labeling regulations and shipping marks for these products are extensive, and the core ones include the following aspects;

Labeling hazmar for shipping

Labeling HAZMAT for shipping

  • Durability
  • The labels for HAZMAT must be durable and resistant to any prevailing weather condition.
  • The labels must withstand all the conditions they could be exposed to without deterioration or color change for at least 30 days.
  • Manufacturer Identification
  • The manufacturer’s name or identity may be printed on other outer parts of the label solid line inner border. But it should never be larger than 10pt type.
  • Size
  • The labels must be oriented as a diamond shape, i.e., square-on-point. The labels must also be 3.9 inches on each side.
  • The labels must have a solid line inner border ranging from 0.2-0.25 inches from the edge. The label for CARGO AIRCRAFT ONLY must be rectangular and be 4.3 in height and 4.7 inches wide.
  • The class or division number of the hazardous material must be at least 0.25 inches in height and not more than 0.5 inches.
  • When displaying the hazard, the height of lettering must be at least 0.3 inches.
  • Color
  • The coloring scheme of the labels must conform to the prescribed regulations.
  • All texts, numbers, symbols, and borders must be black except for the following;
    • You can use white where the background is green, red, or blue
    • You must use white for class and a class number denoting corrosive
    • You may use white for the organic peroxide symbol
  • All colors used must withstand a 72-hour fadeometer test without substantive change.
  • You must use colors that fall within color tolerances, as defined in Appendix A of 49 CFR 172.407.
  • The label color must stretch to the edge of the label, with the exception for CORROSIVE RADIOACTIVE YELLOW-II/III. For these two, the color must extend to the inner border.
  • Exceptions
  • Except for substances that are poisonous by inhalation, a label conforming to UN recommendations may be used.

Can you Track a HAZMAT Shipment?

Absolutely correct!

This is one of the ancillary services offered by a wide range of carriers.

Every customer has an interest in knowing their HAZMAT status when in transit.

Therefore, you can check with your preferred carrier, who, by extent, provides a tracking number for the particular shipment.

Alternatively, you can seek the services of a third-party tracking company to determine the status of your HAZMAT consignment.

In this case, you need to obtain a tracking number and other relevant details from the carrier and use it on the 3rd party’s tracking platform.

Is HAZMAT Shipment Insurable?


HAZMAT consignments are risky and also exposed to more danger when in transit.

Most insurance companies have designed a special type of policy, which covers HAZMAT shipments.

The insurance policies often range depending on the type of cargo you are hauling, which determines the required insurance liability.

Most of the HAZMAT shipment insurance policies cover loading and unloading of the material and in-transit coverage.

It may also cover on-going contamination and site pollution clean-up operations among others.

How can you Maximize Safety, Security, and Compliance when Shipping HAZMAT?

There are several interventions that you can put in place to achieve safety, security, and compliance in shipping HAZMAT.

However, one of the most effective approaches is making sure you work with a reputable and professional HAZMAT carrier.

Most of the top carriers have instituted relevant measures to ensure they comply with transportation of hazardous material safely.

They have financial stability, experienced and knowledgeable personnel in matters surrounding HAZMAT shipping.

Moreover, such carriers also have higher safety ratings, permits, and accreditation from all the relevant bodies involved in HAZMAT shipping.

Highly rated carriers have HAZMAT departments’ hence guaranteeing safety and compliance standards.

When you go this direction, you can be confident of attaining maximum safety, security, and compliance when transporting HAZMAT.

What is Performance Packaging in HAZMAT?

It refers to a type of packaging, which must pass a wide range of several tests hence ensuring the package meet required standards.

Ideally, the essence here is to make sure the packages are strong enough to endure various aspects during handling.

These may include shocks and atmospheric pressure changes often apparent during shipping.

Can you Ship HAZMAT with other Materials?


It is possible, but many carriers often try to avoid this kind of undertaking.

However, the correct interventions must put in place, including packaging, marking, and labeling.

This helps in guaranteeing safety, security, and compliance.

What documentation do you need when Shipping HAZMAT?

They are quite several, and in many instances, they also vary from one country to another.

Some of the common documentation, however, include the following;

  • Straight Bill of Lading
  • Shipper’s declaration for HAZMAT
  • HAZMAT shipping form flags
  • IMO dangerous goods declaration
  • Multi-modal HAZMAT forms
  • HAZMAT shipping form sheets
  • Uniform Hazardous waste manifest
  • Import license
  • Insurance certificates

Are HAZMAT Packages Dutiable?


But it depends on the specific country since different countries often charge import duty based on varied factors.

For instance, any HAZMAT packages imported to the US worth $10,000 and above are dutiable.

The value may vary in different countries, depending on their specific policies.

There are a few types of HAZMAT consignments, which are exempted from import duty in different countries.

Thus you need to figure out from the respective country of destination whether the goods are dutiable and, if so, determine the rates too.

How do you choose a Carrier for HAZMAT?

When choosing an ideal HAZMAT carrier, it’s necessary to select one offering the best interests by verifying shipments and compliant.

Some of the best strategies of finding a suitable carrier for HAZMAT include the following;

  • Thorough vetting of the carrier determines their capacity, financial stability, certifications, and reliability, among others.
  • Inquire about the carrier’s processes for checking shipments. This will enable you to determine potential risk and liability non-compliance before obtaining their services.
  • Go for carriers with HAZMAT department. It is an ideal way of getting one, which meets or exceeds safety and compliance requirements.
  • Choose HAZMAT carrier with HAZMAT certified professionals. This makes the facilitation of shipping these items become easy, fast, and efficient.

BanSar is your trusted freight forwarder with years of experience in handling HAMAT shipping.

Our team handles the paperwork, labeling and handling HAZMAT.

Contact us now for all your shipping needs.

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