Long gone are the days of simply packaging goods and shipping them to distributors. As the world has changed, so too has the world of packaging and shipping requirements. The list of “must have’s” and “must do” has grown exponentially.
One example is the transportation of hazardous materials. Back in 1866 a nitroglycerin explosion in San Francisco killed 14 people, ultimately leading to the passage of a new law that forbade the shipment of explosives on passenger vessels (source). Since that time, the list of what is considered a hazardous material has grown considerably, and so too have the regulations.
The Origins of Hazardous Materials Regulations
The Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) enacted in 1975 by the United States was an early law written to regulate the transportation of hazardous materials. Its purpose was to “protect against the risks to life, property, and the environment that are inherent in the transportation of hazardous material in intrastate, interstate, and foreign commerce” under the authority of the United States Secretary of Transportation (source).
Since that time, these regulations have evolved. One of the biggest changes is how hazardous materials are handled, packaged and shipped. Everything from batteries to hazardous liquids, and how they are handled within the supply chain through distribution points. At a minimum, Owner / Operators / Corporate entities are now responsible to provide the following:
- Shipping Paper
- Placard and mark vehicle
- Loading and unloading (instructions)
- Blocking and bracing
- Incident reporting
- Security plan
- Employee training
Regulations have become very stringent with not only on HOW to ship, store and package items, but on WHAT are considered a hazardous material. Any gas, flammable liquid, marine hazard, oxidizing substance, elevated temperature material, hazardous waste and other “generalized” categories is subject to regulations on how to transport.
A Global Transformation
Of course, today’s global supply chains mean that global regulations must now be adhered to. Almost every country now has their own requirements when it comes to shipping, storing and packaging these goods. Clear marking and labeling is required; labeling must include the type and the class of substance.
If you are engaging in international exports, then it is important you are up to date on what the gaining country’s requirements are. You could wind up with a shipment sitting in port somewhere because it is not labeled correctly.
Labeling materials for many industries have to be updated to meet the new requirements, even in cases of limited weight scenarios. For example, these guidelines are adhered to by FedEx: “Limited Quantity packages can be shipped with a Hazardous Shipping Paper (OP-900) and Hazardous Material Certification OP-950). UN Performance Oriented Packaging (UNPOP) is not required. In this case, a diamond label indicating hazard class is not required. However, the shipper may use a diamond label with the UN or NA identification number inside.”
In the end, the goal is to transport risky goods safely from one location to the next. Some goods that will likely have to be handled differently in the very near future for import and export include:
- Aerosol sprays
- Nail polish
Labeling and classifications have become more onerous. But these changes extend beyond the communication of what is being shipped – pallets and other wooden crates must also now meet tough specifications in many countries.
The ISPM 15 (international standard for phytosanitary measures) includes standard requirements on how wood pallets, wood pallet collars, wood shipping crates and other wooden packaging must be constructed. While the rules have been in place for a few years now, the adoption of the rules by more and more countries has made this a wide spread rule that is now being adopted globally. The rule speaks to the treatment of the wood before it can be stamped as approved.
The rules were devised to help curtail the spread of plant diseases and wood pests. This regulation may keep down the spread of pests but for small businesses that are only shipping internationally 1 or 2 times a year the process can prove to be quite the burden.
What should now be clear is the packaging and shipment of materials is yet another set of data that must be tracked and tied to production and warehouse processes. Product traceability (or other) solutions need to record what materials are consumed as part of the shipping and packaging process. And, this includes recording what labels were used should a future audit occur.
Nearly every country has their own set of regulations for shipping AND nearly every country also has a set of requirements for imports. Considerable complexity can result when regulations differ between the host country and gaining country. If regulations are not aligned, it is always best to err on the side of caution and go with the more stringent of the two.
When drastic changes come out, it can be a costly endeavor for an organization to get up to speed on the rules. It is always best to act quickly and start implementing the changes long before the deadline so that the changes can be made little by little and some of the cost can be spread out.
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