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USPS Revises Publication 52 Hazmat Postal Regulations

Posted on 6/6/2022 by Roger Marks

The US Postal Service has revised the regulations for mailing hazardous materials, including some electronic devices containing or packed with lithium batteries.

Effective immediately, the USPS Publication 52 standards for Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail are revised as follows:
  • Shippers/mailers must separate hazardous materials requiring marks or labels from other mail.
  • The mailing of pre-owned, damaged, or defective electronic devices containing (or packed with) lithium batteries is restricted to surface transportation only.
  • Specific markings are required on mail containing lithium batteries in or with pre-owned, damaged, or defective electronic devices.
The Interim Final Rule appeared in the Federal Register on June 6. USPS will accept public comments until July 6, 2022.

Separation of Hazardous Mail

By requiring hazardous materials to be presented separately from other mail, USPS hopes to improve visibility of hazardous materials in the mail system.

The separation requirement applies to all hazardous materials. 
“A HAZMAT package can easily evade postal HAZMAT processing if it is nestled beneath non-HAZMAT packages in a bulk mail receptacle…

...it is also important that surface-only HAZMAT not be erroneously routed to air transportation due to commingling with non-HAZMAT.”

[USPS, 87 FR 34197]

New Lithium Battery Package Marking

In addition to hazardous materials markings and labels already required for hazardous materials sent by post, USPS now requires shippers to mark packages of pre-owned, damaged, or defective electronic devices containing or packaged with lithium batteries with the following two statements:
  • “Restricted Electronic Device”
  • “Surface Transportation Only”

Why New Rules for Mailing Hazardous Materials?

USPS cites a “consistent and alarming rise in incidents involving mailed packages of lithium batteries and other hazmat, including flammable liquids, aerosols, and strike-anywhere matches” as the reason for the rulemaking. 

USPS also points to incidents of unlabeled, improperly labeled, and air-ineligible hazardous materials being improperly accepted onto aircraft. By adding new requirements for separating all hazmat mail and for marking packages containing electronic devices, USPS hopes to prevent hazardous materials from being mishandled or erroneously loaded onto an aircraft.  

How to Ship Hazmat by USPS

Businesses that ship small quantities of hazardous materials must have the knowledge and procedures in place to ensure safe delivery—both USPS and US DOT have the authority to issue hefty penalties for violations of hazmat regulations.

Improper packaging, markings, labels, or shipping papers can all result in rejection, lost time, missed deadlines, and upset customers.

The Hazmat Postal Shipper Online Course guides shippers through the must-know USPS requirements from Publication 52 for mailing hazardous materials.

Tags: hazardous materials, hazmat by mail, hazmat shipping, lithium batteries, USPS

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