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Hazardous Materials Packaging Regulations

Regulations require packaging for any hazardous material to be sufficient to ensure containment of the material throughout the entire transportation cycle. See, for example, 49 CFR 173.24 or IATA 5.0.2.4.

Packaging hazardous materials for transport by aircraft is usually more restrictive than for transport on the ground. For either ground or air shipment, UPS may also require a higher level of packaging safety than that required by the DOT or IATA due to UPS’s unique system of moving packages. In addition to DOT or IATA requirements, all packages submitted to UPS for shipment must be capable of meeting the requirements of the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) Procedure 3A test protocol.

In most cases, hazardous materials must be packaged in "performance packaging." This consists of inner receptacles, cushioning and absorbent materials, and an outer packaging that has been designed, manufactured, tested and certified for the containment of specific hazardous material classes and packing groups. These packaging systems must be tested as designed and shipped as tested. The regulations refer to these as "specification" or "performance" packages. Such packages have distinct United Nations (UN) markings on the packaging components.

Each hazardous material listed in the U.S. chemical table based on 49 CFR 172.101 has an associated packaging authorization reference (the last column). This reference number relates to the specific section of 49 CFR 173 that lists the authorized inner and outer components of performance packaging. For domestic U.S. air shipments conducted in accordance with IATA, the UPS IATA Table includes the applicable IATA Packing Instructions for each allowed entry.

Special care must be taken to comply with DOT’s or IATA's general packaging requirements for air shipments, shown in 49 CFR 173.27. These provisions include general performance requirements for Classes 4, 5 and 8, quantity limitations, pressure differential testing for packaging designed to contain liquids, specifications for closures and absorbent materials, quantity restrictions for inner packaging, and general provisions for handling cylinders.

Additional UPS requirements for packaging include the following:

  • Always use new or like-new packaging.
  • Never mix regulated items of different hazard classes or divisions in the same outside container unless specifically permitted by the regulations.
  • UPS allows a maximum of three compatible hazardous materials in one package (N/A for Excepted Quantities shipments).
  • Some hazardous materials are required to be in DOT Special Permit Packagings for acceptance by UPS (see DOT Special Permit Packagings). 
  • Highly reactive chemicals must always be packaged alone and not mixed with any other product, whether regulated or unregulated.

Hazardous materials shipments authorized for non-specification packaging that require a shipping paper must be in outer packages at the following minimum levels (overpacks are excluded from this requirement).

  • Packages must be in a minimum 200 lbs. Burst Strength or 32 Edge Crush Test (ECT) certified box. The box must also be of sufficient strength to protect the contents while in transit.
  • Any non-specification package that displays the ISTA seal indicating the package has been tested and certified to ISTA Procedure 3A is not subject to the minimum ECT or burst strength requirements listed above.

If you have any questions about shipping hazardous materials with UPS, please call the UPS Hazardous Materials Support Center 1-800-554-9964.