Shipping Hazardous Materials: The Ultimate Guide

When thinking of “hazardous materials” or “dangerous goods”, most think of items like fireworks or chemicals. But did you know that nail polish, hair spray and bleach are all hazardous materials? There are a lot more dangerous goods out there than most know.

The shipping of different dangerous materials involves serious risks. These risks need to be handled and shipped by an expert, who knows how to properly package and ship such goods. Failure to follow these regulations can lead to dangerous conditions and even hefty fines!

This Ultimate Guide includes frequently asked questions like:

  • What is HAZMAT shipping?
  • How are hazardous materials classified?
  • How to ship HAZMAT products?
  • How to ship HAZMAT products with DGM Boston?

What is HAZMAT shipping?

HAZMAT shipping is the shipping of dangerous goods like liquids, solids, and gases that are harmful to people or the environment when not properly stored or shipped incorrectly. These dangerous goods require special hazardous material shipping and handling to decrease the risk of danger. These goods can include household items that one would never think of being dangerous like nail polish, bleach or hand sanitizer.

Hazardous materials are also classified into different classes for HAZMAT shipping.


How are hazardous materials classified?

Hazardous materials are split into classification numbers. Each number corresponds with a different class depending on the risk, there are 9 classes total used by DOT.


Classes of Hazardous Materials


Class 1: Explosives

This hazardous materials class is divided up into 6 different divisions:

Division 1.1

This division contains explosives that have a mass explosion hazard. An example of a division 1.1 is dynamite or mercury fulminate.

Division 1.2

This division contains explosives that have a projection hazard but not a mass explosion hazard. An example of division 1.2 are certain types of fireworks or types of ammunition.

Division 1.3

This division contains explosives that have a fire hazard and a minor blast hazard OR a minor projection hazard OR both, but these explosives do not have a mass explosion hazard. Some examples of division 1.3 include liquid and solid propellants or sodium picramate which can be found in certain hair dyes and henna.

Division 1.4

This division contains explosives that have a minor blast hazard. Some examples of division 1.4 include common fireworks or toy caps.

Division 1.5

This division contains explosives that are insensitive with a mass explosion hazard. Some examples of division 1.4 include both type E and type B blasting agents.

Division 1.6

This division contains explosives that are extremely insensitive, that do not have a mass explosion hazard.

Class 2: Gases

This hazardous materials class is divided up into 3 different divisions:

Division 2.1

This division contains flammable gases. A material that is gas must be 68° F or less and  14.7 psi of pressure. These gases will burn when in air and are in a state of gas at 68° F. Some examples of a division 2.1 goods are propane or spray paints.

Division 2.2

This division contains non-flammable nontoxic gases. A material that reaches a pressure of 40.6 psia or greater at 68° F falls under this division. Some examples of division 2.2 goods are helium and asthma inhalers.

Division 2.3

This division contains toxic gases. Any gas that is poisonous by inhalation and is a gas at 68° F or less with the pressure of 14.7 psi falls under this division. An example of division 2.3 is carbon monoxide.

Class 3: Flammable liquids and combustible liquids

Class 3 hazardous materials cover both flammable liquids and combustible liquids. Flammable liquids can ignite at 140° F or less. Combustible liquids can combust at a temperature above 140° F and below 200° F. Some examples are gasoline and acetone.

Class 4: Flammable solids

This hazardous materials class is divided up into 3 different divisions:

Division 4.1

This division covers any flammable solid that is not covered under Class 1 Explosives. These solids are ones that usually cause fires through the transportation process when retaining heat. An example of division 4.1 are matches.

Division 4.2

This division covers spontaneously combustible solids. These liquids or solids are materials that come into contact with air or heat can ignite within 5 minutes of exposure. An example of division 4.2 are oily rags.

Division 4.3

The division covers dangerous when wet flammable solids. This means when a material comes in contact with water it can be flammable or it can give off flammable gases. An example of division 4.3 is aluminum phosphide which is a common pesticide.

Class 5: Oxidizer and organic peroxides

This hazardous materials class is divided up into 2 different divisions:

Division 5.1

This division covers oxidizers that can cause combustion of other materials. An example of division 5.1 is hydrogen peroxide.

Division 5.2

This division covers organic peroxides which means they have both an oxidizer and organic fuel making them dangerous with heat. An example of division 5.2 is benzoyl peroxide.

Class 6: Poison and toxic substances

This hazardous materials class is divided up into 2 different divisions:

Division 6.1

This division covers toxic substances. This is any material in liquid or solid form that is toxic to humans. An example of division 6.1 is tear gas.

Division 6.2

This division covers infectious substances. Some examples of this are medical waste and used health care products.

Class 7: Radioactive materials

This class covers materials like exit signs or x-ray machines.

Class 8: Corrosive substances

This class covers any solid or liquid that can eat away at human skin or a liquid that corrodes steel. An example of a corrosive substance are batteries.

Class 9: Miscellaneous hazardous materials

This class covers any hazardous material that is a hazard during transportation but does not fall under any of the above classes. Any example of this class is a lithium battery.


How to ship HAZMAT products?

After determining a material is hazardous, you need to determine what class the good is using the guide above. This must be done correctly because each class is packaged differently and determines what shipping methods can and can not be used. For example, class 1 hazardous materials are not permitted to travel on air or international transportation. All dangerous goods shipments have special requirements to be safely transported, including very specific labeling which clearly identifies the material being shipped.  Most, except those in Excepted and Limited Quantities, require special packaging.

The next step is to use the Material Safety Data Sheet (SDS) this describes the physical and chemical makeup of a material and guidance & procedures for hazardous materials. By law, these are required to be with any hazardous material or substance.

After classification, a HAZMAT shipping certification is needed. It is required by DOT to have certain training in order to ship HAZMAT.  If you choose to outsource your hazardous packaging and shipping to an expert, you can avoid having to do the training.

After receiving a HAZMAT shipping certification, you need to determine the packaging that is needed.

These special packages are specified by the United Nations.  They are manufactured and tested under strict quality assurance programs and are designed for the safe transport of your dangerous goods. They may be drums, jerricans, boxes, bags or composite packages, composed of a number of different materials.

UN-specified packaging can always be identified by a special code imprinted on every package.  This code begins with the stylized letters “UN” within a circle and continue with classification information which indicates the type of package, the danger level of product that it can contain, the maximum weight of the material allowed in the package, among other items.


Under Title 49, there are 3 types of packing groups:

Packing Group I: Great Danger

Packing Group II: Medium Danger

Packing Group III: Minor Danger


After determining the packaging needed, it is time to label and mark the package. Labeling the package must be done correctly to prevent a carrier refusing to ship a mislabeled package.

DOT Hazardous Materials Labels

Lastly, a shipper’s declaration must be prepared. A shippers declaration includes:

  • UN identification number
  • Proper shipping name
  • Hazard class
  • Packing group
  • Quantity, number, and type of packages
  • Emergency response information
  • Shipper’s certification
  • Any other information under Title 49

More information can be found about Hazardous Shipping Papers here.


How to ship HAZMAT products with DGM Boston?

Reach out to a dangerous goods company, to help you with the packaging and shipping of a hazmat product!

At DGM Boston, we understand that hazardous materials require special handling and packaging to ensure the safety of everyone involved. That’s why we specialize in providing hazmat packaging services that meet or exceed all regulatory requirements. Our team of experts has the knowledge and experience to handle a wide range of hazardous materials, including chemicals, batteries, and medical waste.

Contact us today to let us help you package and ship your dangerous goods!