Hazmat packagings come in all shapes and sizes: from single bottles and fiberboard boxes to cylinders, bulk tanks, IBCs, and more. When exposed to the rigors of ground, air, or vessel transport, your shipment is only as safe as the packaging you select.
When it comes to non-bulk hazmat shipments, shippers typically must use one of three major packaging types, depending on the material and its hazards: a single packaging, a combination packaging, or a composite packaging. Below we discuss how shippers make decisions about hazmat packaging using the 49 CFR regulations.
But first, to simplify and understand the differences between these three distinct types of hazmat packaging, we can compare them to the popular ways alcohol is consumed. There’s no time like the dog days of summer for a party, so here’s your hazmat packaging party guide! DISCLAIMER:
Just like partying with alcohol, selecting hazmat packaging should be done only one way—responsibly
. The examples below are meant to illustrate basic packaging concepts; they are not recommendations regarding actual hazmat packaging.
Single Package—the Keg
Ah, the keg—that staple of college parties and backyard cookouts, spurting fresh, cool beer from its plastic nozzle.
Think of a keg as a “single packaging,” defined in 49 CFR 171 as “a non-bulk packaging other than a combination packaging.” A single packaging has a single
layer of containment between the material and the environment. Common single hazmat packagings include pails, jerricans, drums, and more.
Combination Packaging—the Case of Beer
Whether you need six beers, twelve, twenty-four, or thirty, there’s no more convenient way to pick up beer than a good, old fashioned case. These cases are “combination packagings.” US DOT defines combination packaging
as “a combination of packaging, for transport purposes, consisting of one or more inner packagings secured in a non-bulk outer packaging.”
The inner packaging in this example is the aluminum can or glass bottle that is filled with beer. To protect the cans or bottles—and make them easier to carry—the manufacturer packs them in a cardboard box as an outer packaging. While the 12 oz. size can or bottle is consistent every time, the cans or bottles can be combined into shipments of various size inside the outer packaging.
The same goes for shipping chemicals in bottles. You can’t ship a “naked” glass bottle of acetone with no protection—instead you place it inside of a box, creating a combination hazmat package.
Composite Packaging—the Box of Wine
composite hazmat package,” on the other hand, is more like a box of wine.
DOT defines composite packaging
as “a packaging consisting of an outer packaging and an inner
receptacle, so constructed that the inner receptacle and the outer packaging form an integral packaging."
If you’ve ever opened up a box of wine, you know that it is lined with a plastic bag that contains the wine. Once assembled, the outer box and the inner bag are kept together with adhesive, forming a single integrated unit that is “filled, stored, shipped, and emptied” as such.
it empties—well, that’s up to you.
How to Choose the Right Hazmat Package
Choosing the right package is an integral part of the hazmat shipping process. Without it, you risk leaks or damage in transit that can lead to rejection, unsatisfied customers, and US DOT fines higher than $78K per day, per violation.
Once you’ve classified your material and selected a Proper Shipping Name, you can find that shipping name on the Hazmat Table at 49 CFR 172.101. On this table, Column 8 holds the key to selecting the right hazmat packaging. Depending on the quantity of hazmat in your shipment—bulk, non-bulk, or excepted—the appropriate column in the table will direct you to a section of 49 CFR 173 that lists the accepted forms of packaging for that shipment.
Hazmat Package Selection Example
Let’s say we’re shipping benzene, in non-bulk quantities. Our shipment is not small enough to capitalize on the excepted packaging allowances, so instead we look to Column 8B (non-bulk), which directs us to 49 CFR 173.202, Non-bulk packagings for liquid hazardous materials in Packing Group II.
This section in turn lists a number of authorized combination packaging orientations and authorized single packagings. Once we choose an authorized hazmat packaging type of the appropriate UN rating from the list, we’re one step closer to getting the package out the door.
Just like drinking alcohol, choosing a hazmat package tends to go best when you take your time. So whether you’re partying around a keg this Labor Day, reaching in the cooler for a cold one, or tapping a box of wine, remember that each packaging type is designed to serve a specific purpose.
DOT Hazmat Training in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio
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