Materials deemed hazardous by the U.S. Department of Transportation must meet stringent guidelines for transportation within the United States and internationally. The performance characteristics of the packaging used to ship these materials are established by and governed by the United States Department of Transportation and must be designed and tested in accordance with these regulations. The danger level of the hazard and the mode of transportation require specific configurations of markings and protection during transit.
The wide range of hazardous materials, each subject to its own set of regulations, results in a wide range of required hazmat packaging supplies and solutions. The proper package is determined by the hazardous material, the level of hazard and the mode of transportation.
Types of Hazmat Packaging
Three of the more common categories of hazmat packaging are:
- Combination Packaging – This is a type of packaging consisting of one or more inner packaging secured in an outer packaging. Inner components protect the primary container while the outer U.N. marked container protects the inner packaging during transit.
- Single Packaging – This type of packaging consists of one container that holds the hazardous material, such as drums and pails.
- Composite Packaging – This type of packaging consists of an outer packaging and inner receptacle, joined together to form a single package. It is considered “single packaging” because two or more components are joined together and but act like a combination package.
Some additional supplies used as part of a hazmat packaging system are an overpack and cushioning. An overpack could be a corrugated box used to provide protection or convenience in the handling of a package to consolidate two or more packages. Cushioning, such as vermiculite or Kimpack, refers to materials used to provide an extra layer of protection for fragile or delicate goods. Cushioning may also provide the ability to absorb liquids that may leak from the primary packaging should an accident occur.
Breakdown of Hazmat Packaging Supplies
Non-bulk combination packages are used to ship via parcel carriers such as UPS and FedEx. They are designed around a specific primary container to hold the hazardous material. A very strong outer package is required to protect the inner container, and the specially designed inner components are used to cushion and stabilize the primary container inside the outer carton. They are tested in labs for ground, air, domestic and international transportation. After the tests are passed, the packages are printed with specific labels to denote a successfully tested package.
Some types of combination packages include foam cap paint can shippers, paint can shippers, F-style can shipping packaging, high-density polyethylene bottles and DOT-8249 exemption packaging systems. Foam cap paint can shippers and paint can shippers are required for shipping paint cans because they are deemed hazardous due to the composition of the paint. High-density polyethylene bottles are useful for hazardous liquids, such as solvents and cleaning supplies. F-style can shippers are metal cans that are used to ship liquids that cannot be contained by plastic packages. DOT-8249 exempted packages allow for shipment of dangerous goods and chemicals (listed below) not exceeding one liter of liquid or 2.85 kg for solids.
DOT-8249-exempted chemicals include:
- Flammable liquids
- Organic Peroxides
- Pyrophoric materials
- Toxic materials
- Corrosive materials
- “Dangerous-when-wet” materials
Single packaging refers to pails or drums made of stainless steel, steel or plastic that range in size from one gallon up to 55 gallons. They are available in closed-head and open-head constructions. These are typically used for larger quantities of hazardous liquids in volumes that range from household to industrial use.
Composite packaging is essentially a combination packaging that has been put together as one piece. The shipper has the decision to use either composite or combination packaging if required for the specific hazardous material they are shipping.
A common type of overpack is a package made of expanded polystyrene (EPS). It is designed for standard sizes of glass bottles and fit snugly over top. The expanded polystyrene is a hard foam that provides primary containment of the glass bottle, typically carrying liquid, which is then placed into a DOT-approved secondary package, such as a cardboard box. This system provides excellent protection due to the tight fit of the bottle within the overpack. Another common type of overpack is a corrugated box used to provide protection or convenience in the handling of a package to consolidate two or more packages.
Depending on the type of package used, cushioning may be necessary to ensure the primary container inside does not break or become damaged in transit. One of the keys to developing any type of hazmat packaging is protection from unknown conditions, including temperature, precipitation or rough handling. Materials such as vermiculite and Kimpak can be used to provide an extra level of protection. Vermiculite is lightweight, absorbent and nonabrasive. It is great for flammable liquids, especially when potential leakage is a concern. Kimpak is used to protect fragile or sensitive items and is usually supplied in sheets. The sheets are highly absorbent, conform to the item and will not scratch delicate surfaces.
Packaging and transporting hazardous materials is highly regulated and many new items subject to these regulations are being added to the lists on a regular basis. Due to this, many different types of hazmat packaging supplies are used, which have their specific niches within this sector.