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A Primer on Paint Shipping

Smiling woman painting with a brush coated with bright yellow paint.

Editor's note: The following article is intended as general information only and is not legal advice. If you have questions concerning legal requirements for shipping paint or other matters, consult an attorney.

From buildings and appliances to vehicles big and small, paint is literally everywhere. For every surface to protect and decorate, there’s a paint for the job.

But shipping paint involves more than you may realize. Exactly what type of paint are you shipping? Does the paint contain hazardous materials and, if so, which regulations apply?

Whether it’s acrylic, vinyl, urethane, or another type of paint, here are seven key steps to understanding how to ship paint safely and compliantly.

1. Classify your Product

From ancient cave paintings to what is a multi-billion dollar industry today, the story of paint is as rich as it is colorful. But when it comes to shipping paint, the reality is more black and white.

The first thing to determine is exactly what you’re shipping, explains Lynn Reiman, UPS Corporate Regulated Goods.

Depending on the chemical compounds in the paint—from potentially flammable solvents to compressed gases—the product may be regulated as dangerous goods.

To find out whether your paint is considered hazardous, consult the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the product you plan to ship, Reiman says.

Most SDSs have a Transport section (usually Section 14) that details whether a commodity is regulated in transport. If your SDS does not have one, request a new one from the manufacturer.

Keep in mind the distinction between liquid paints and aerosols, which are applied wet then cured through evaporation, and powder coatings, which are applied dry and cured through heating.

Responsibility for the proper classification of goods is entirely the shipper’s and not the carrier’s (in this case UPS).

2. Access Dangerous Goods Training

Once you’ve classified your product, the question is what to do with this information.

For regulated paint products, shippers must undergo Dangerous Goods (DG) training. This requirement applies whether you expect to ship by air or by ground. It also applies regardless of the typical size of your shipment. 

Fortunately, there’s a wide range of Dangerous Goods training providers available. UPS offers its own Dangerous Goods seminar too. This option may prove convenient if you plan to ship paint with UPS.

3. Are you Eligible for Exceptions? 

As a paint shipper, you may be able to take advantage of exceptions in ground transportation regulations for certain quantities of paint or paint-related materials, says Reiman.

Many country-level regulations, including 49 CFR in the United States, have exceptions for ground shipments of certain paints or paint-related materials.  Air regulations will be much stricter.

Shipping paint in spray cans?

These are considered aerosols, and typically fall under the ‘Class 2 – Gases’ classification.  While most country-level regulations have some ground shipping exceptions, aerosols are always fully regulated in air transport.

4. Ensure Packaging Compliance

As with classification, the responsibility for ensuring compliance with packaging regulations for shipping paint rests with the shipper and not the carrier. 

To properly pack paint and paint-related materials, know your product and ensure you have a current Safety Data Sheet (SDS), says Reiman. The Dangerous Goods classification, specifically the packing group, dictates the packaging.

While packaging regulations will differ according to product classification and quantity, general principles when shipping paint include:

  • properly sealing the product to prevent leaking
  • protecting the product against puncturing and denting
  • properly securing the product inside the container to avoid sliding about in transit

Understanding the regulatory framework that governs packaging is a critical element of Dangerous Goods training.

5. Understand Communications

From markings to labels, getting the communications right on your shipment is key to shipping paint.

Paint shippers must be aware of a range of communications. Again, it’s essential to have a current Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to determine classification and required communications. Not all paint is classified as UN 1263 (Paint) Flammable Liquid.

6. Avoid Common Mistakes

Frequent errors when shipping paint include: 

  • Failure to declare the paint as a dangerous good (a serious offense)
  • Improper packaging resulting in leakage, particularly with paint cans
  • Inaccurate or incomplete markings

Take heed of the regulations and adhere to them carefully. Nowadays, regulators are paying closer attention to e-commerce and consumer commodity shipments, Reiman says.

Check out UPS resources on Dangerous Goods shipping, and consult industry groups such as the Council on Safe Transportation of Hazardous Articles (COSTHA) and the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council (DGAC) for additional support.

7. Remember the Essentials

Shipping paint needn’t be a headache. Here are five key takeaways to keep in mind when preparing to ship paint:

  1. As the shipper, it’s your responsibility (not the carrier’s) to properly classify the product for shipping.
  2. Consult the product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for classification and other essential information. Bear in mind that certain products, such as repair kits and machinery parts, may also contain liquid or aerosolized paint.
  3. You must follow all requirements for Dangerous Goods training and all other applicable regulations, such as those pertaining to packaging and communications.
  4. Compliance with the regulations applies equally whether you’re shipping paint domestically or internationally.

  5. It’s your responsibility to be aware of any changes to the regulatory landscape.

Once you’ve met any training requirements, consult with your UPS sales representative about establishing a UPS Dangerous Goods Account, which is required to ship hazardous materials.

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From art supplies for budding Picassos to automotive finishing, demand for paint shipping is high. Understand the regulations that apply to your product and get shipping paint now.

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