6 Picky Parts of Hazmat Shipper Papers

Posted on 9/15/2020 by Flip De Rea

To ship a hazardous materials by ground, air or vessel, shippers must prepare a shipping paper that contains specific information about each material in the shipment. The shipping paper provides critical information for supply chain personnel and ensure proper handling and emergency response.

An improperly completed or incomplete shipping paper will delay or prevent the transportation of your materials. Because the shipping paper is so important to safe hazmat transportation, the requirements for this document are detailed and specific. Let's pick apart the six most picky parts of hazmat shipping papers.

First, it’s important to note that the ground and vessel regulations do not require the use of a specific form. Any document, such as an invoice or Bill of Lading (BOL), can be your shipping paper if it contains all the necessary information. That said, your carrier may still require the use of a specific form.

When shipping hazardous materials (i.e. dangerous goods or DG) by air, offerors are required to complete a specific form called the Shippers Declaration. If you ship a hazardous waste and the EPA requires the use of a uniform hazardous waste manifest for the shipment, a printed copy will fulfill your shipping paper obligation for the materials included on it. 

So, what information is needed to make a hazardous materials shipping paper complete? Essentially, these six things: A “Basic Description” of each material, a total quantity for each material, the number & type of packages used, a signed certification of accuracy, the date transportation began, and a phone number to call in the case of emergencies.

1. The Basic Description 

Each hazardous material is required to have a “Basic Description”, which consists of the following components in the following order: The Identification Number; the Proper Shipping Name (PSN); the Hazard(s); and the Packing Group (PG) (if it has one). NOTE: Item 9b of the uniform hazardous waste manifest does not describe this information in this order, but does require this information in this order.

Common errors in the Basic Description include: missing components, putting the required components in the wrong order, not putting UN, NA or ID (as appropriate) in front of the identification number, using an invalid PSN, using abbreviations and/or chemical symbols in the PSN, improper placement of technical names (when needed), and not using roman numerals for the PG,

2. Units 

Shipping papers are required to show how much hazmat is being shipped and how it’s packaged. Ground and vessel shipping require a “total-total” which is hard to mess up as the regulations allow for mass or volume, gross or net. It’s likely though, that your carrier will have a preference. Air transport requires a much more nuanced “unit total” (per package or overpack) and care should be taken.

While abbreviations may be used to express units of measurement and types of packaging, they must be “commonly accepted and recognizable”. Other common errors include using non-metric units on air or vessel shipments and using the UN spec code in place of the packaging type. NOTE: The Hazardous Waste Manifest requires the use of form-specific abbreviations for units of measure and packaging.

3. Certification and hazmat training  

Shipping papers require a signature certifying that every part of the pre-transportation process has been completed according to the applicable regulations. In order to sign shipping papers for the transport of hazardous material to, from or within the US, the signer must have comprehensive training on the requirements of US DOT PHMSA's Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR).

In almost all cases signing shipping papers for dangerous goods transport by air or vessel requires training in those regulations in addition to the required DOT training (see IATA DGR 1.5 and IMDG Code 1.3.1).

The big mistake here is allowing someone to sign a shipping paper who has not been properly trained. And while the DOT allows for the use of mechanical and electronic signatures, some national authorities and some carriers/transporters do not. It’s best to check beforehand.

Earlier this year, PHMSA provided guidance for signing hazmat shipping papers during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

4. Date

Each shipping paper must include the date of acceptance by the initial carrier. For rail, vessel, or air shipments, the date on the waybill or bill of lading may be used as the date of acceptance.

5. Emergency Response Information 

The first page of all shipping papers must have an Emergency Response Telephone Number visible which will connect the caller with someone knowledgeable at any time during transportation.

Common errors include using numbers that don’t connect to someone knowledgeable about the material’s hazards and their mitigation (Security, call-back services, voicemail, etc.); using a third-party for this service, but not including the account number with the phone number, especially when the original shipper isn’t clearly indicated elsewhere on the page; and using a toll free (800, 888) number that cannot be called from areas your material will be traveling through and to.

6. Modal differences  

The air (IATA DGR) and vessel (IMDG Code) regulations specifically require that the shipper’s and receiver’s name and address be indicated on the first page of a shipping paper.

If your shipping paper is more than one page, be sure to mark the first page as “1 of N”, where N is the total number of pages. If the shipping paper contains both hazmat and non-hazmat, the hazmat must be distinctly identified.

Live, Instructor-led Hazmat Training - September/October 2020

Join Lion instructors for live 49 CFR, IATA DGR, and IMDG Code hazmat training throughout Fall 2020. Lion presents these webinars regularly so that you can find a training date that fits your schedule. 

US DOT requires hazmat training once every three years for all "hazmat employees." Save your seat now for expert-led training to help satisfy 49 CFR, IATA DGR, and IMDG Code hazmat training mandates. 

Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification (49 CFR) 
Recurrent Hazmat Ground Shipper Certification (49 CFR)
IATA Hazmat Air Shipper Certification 
IMDG Hazmat Vessel Shipper Certification 

Or train at your own pace with a wide selection of hazmat online courses. 

Tags: hazardous materials, hazardous materials regulations, hazmat, shipping papers

Find a Post

Compliance Archives

Lion - Quotes

The price was reasonable, the time to complete the course was manageable, and the flexibility the online training allowed made it easy to complete.

Felicia Rutledge

Hazmat Shipping Professional

Course instructor was better prepared and presented better than other trainers. Course manual and references were easier to use as well.

Marty Brownfield

Hazardous Waste Professional

The instructor took a rather drab set of topics and brought them to life with realistic real-life examples.

Tom Berndt

HSE Coordinator

These are the best commercial course references I have seen (10+ years). Great job!

Ed Grzybowski

EHS & Facility Engineer

Given the choice, I would do all coursework this way. In-person courses go very fast without the opportunity to pause or repeat anything.

Ellen Pelton

Chemical Laboratory Manager

The course is well thought out and organized in a way that leads to a clearer understanding of the total training.

David Baily

Hazmat Shipping Professional

Excellent course. Very interactive. Explanations are great whether you get the questions wrong or right.

Gregory Thompson

Environmental, Health & Safety Regional Manager

Lion's information is very thorough and accurate. Presenter was very good.

Melissa Little

Regulatory Manager

The instructor was energetic and made learning fun compared to dry instructors from other training providers.

Andy D’Amato

International Trade Compliance Manager

Lion does a great job summarizing and communicating complicated EH&S-related regulations.

Michele Irmen

Sr. Environmental Engineer

Download Our Latest Whitepaper

Look beyond the annual "Top 10 List" to see specifics about the most cited OSHA health & safety Standards and the individual regulations that tripped up employers the most last year. 

Latest Whitepaper

By submitting your phone number, you agree to receive recurring marketing and training text messages. Consent to receive text messages is not required for any purchases. Text STOP at any time to cancel. Message and data rates may apply. View our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.