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2nd February, 2020

4 things to do before shipping dangerous goods

Stay on the right side of the law and improve your logistics processes with these simple tips for shipping dangerous goods.

Whether you run a logistics or manufacturing business, sell goods online, buy spare parts often, or ship items for any reason, you may have to handle dangerous goods at some point.

Nobody wants to be caught out by unintentionally putting the health of customers, staff or delivery services at risk, and that’s why the right knowledge is critical for yourself and your team.

The following tips provide a basis for understanding how to reduce the risks of getting it wrong, making it a great starting point for coming to terms with this important element of shipping and logistics for small business owners.


1. Stay classy: understand classifications


You’ll first want to know which materials and goods get classified as hazardous, so you know what you need to take special care with.

Many business people think this will be obvious, but are surprised when they learn some of the items that come under dangerous goods classifications.

According to the rules and regulations of many governments and other bodies, hazardous goods are those with some inherent property that, if not controlled appropriately, could pose a risk to living organisms or the environment.

Dangerous items can be cold or hot, and come under categories such as flammable, explosive, poisonous, or other.

They can also be gases, liquids or solids; they may be completely odourless, or have a strong smell.

READ: 5 tips for getting export packaging right from the start

Plus, dangerous goods don’t only need to pose the threat of grievous harm. To be classified this way they can have minimal negative effects, as well as catastrophic ones.

Hazardous materials have to be handled and transported according to the category they fall under, so be clear on what types of goods come into your care.

Different countries and sometimes even different states or principalities can have varying rules regarding dangerous items, too.

So, check regulations at a package’s destination to make sure you follow all necessary precautions.

Also, keep in mind there are probably many things on hazardous goods lists that you wouldn’t ever think of as something to be concerned about.

For instance, items that often end up classified as dangerous include perfume, nail polish, paint, and batteries.


2. Secure parcels with safe packaging


When shipping dangerous goods, you’ll want to package materials the right way.

Use the most suitable containers with enough cushioning and secure closures to make certain hazardous things stay safely enclosed.

Make sure dangerous substances won’t explode or come loose in transit and use plenty of absorbent materials to contain potential leaks.

Don’t forget! Hazardous items must be handled with care in warehouses, offices, and other locations when moved by company personnel and external contractors, not just when they’re onboard trucks, trains, ships and the like, en route to their destinations.

READ: How tech is making logistics better for your business

You can help warn logistics workers about potentially dangerous parcels by making use of handy signs and stickers.

Purchase shock indicators to add to the outside of packages. These change colour or otherwise alert people to situations where hazardous materials have become more dangerous in transit.


3. Investing in employees always pays off


Another way to reduce risk and ensure your company isn’t liable for non-compliance issues is to invest in employee training.

Teach every staff member who has to deal with dangerous parcels at some point in the process the correct ways to handle goods, and to create proper paperwork for such parcels.

Your team should know how to stay safe and protect those around them, and the specific tasks they have to do to avoid problems, or in situations where they’re alerted to potential danger.

It’s also wise to explain to employees the consequences to your business if they don’t follow the rules and take threats seriously.

Impress on workers that the company can face significant fines and various other negative consequences if governing bodies determine that non-compliance has caused harm or increased the risk of it.


4. Create practical protocols for packaging processes


A good way to simplify the subject of shipping dangerous goods within your firm is to create set processes for personnel to follow, so there’s no guesswork involved.

Come up with detailed protocols and then share them with the team. For instance, checklists are very helpful.

Design lists for your employees to follow at all key touchpoints of your shipping process. Also, set up some checks and balances.

For example, you might create a requirement for a staff member who creates a shipping label for a dangerous item to have a second employee read that label to check for errors on the label itself, and whether or not it has been affixed to the correct package.

READ: 10 commandments of a stress-free stocktake

You might also require your teams to take photographs of all parcels containing hazardous materials. This way, the photos act as proof of the quality and level of packaging used, if ever needed.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll take the shipping of dangerous goods seriously if you want to protect your business as well as people, animals, and the environment at large.

While this article isn’t designed to cover off all the detail you may require for your specific situation, you should use it as a starting point for further investigation.

In Australia, the responsibility of road and rail transport of dangerous goods lies with the states and territories. You can find information specific to your state or territory by contacting the Competent Authority for that area.

In New Zealand, responsibility lies with the NZ Transport Agency. You can find specific information on the transportation of dangerous goods on its website.

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