How to Ship Hazardous Materials in Corrugated Boxes

While conducting research for An In-Depth Guide to Box Maker’s Certificates, a November 2017 Packsize post, we came across additional information about how to ship hazardous materials in fiberboard boxes. Here, we will explain required testing and the associated markings that you will need to include on your packaging. This information can also be found on the U.S. Electronic Code of Federal Regulation Title 49.

Standards for Fiberboard Corrugated Boxes

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that the box used to ship hazardous materials meet specific minimum standards. These must include:

  • The use of strong, solid, and/or double-faced corrugated fiberboard (single or multi-wall) must be used.
  • Must be able to pass the Cobb test (a test that checks water absorption rate) 178.516 Standards for fiberboard boxes.
  • Fiberboard must be cut and slotted to permit assembly without cracking, surface breaks, or undue bending.
  • The use of water-resistant adhesive (glue or taping) must be used.
  • A box must be designed to fit the contents.

Fiberboard Corrugated Box Testing

Before shipping hazardous materials, the intended box must pass the Stacking, Leakproofness, Hydrostatic Pressure, Drop, and Vibration Standard test.  After a package has passed these tests, the design will need to be retested once every 12 months. When testing, each package needs to be prepared as it would for a final shipment— including inner packaging. The product that would be shipped may be replaced by non-hazardous materials. For example, you can use water for a liquid drop test. The replacement for the hazardous material must be of the same or higher properties in grain, size, and viscosity.

Package Markings

After your fiberboard corrugated box has passed the tests, the last thing to do is mark the package with the United Nations symbol. The UN symbol must be durable, legible, sized appropriately, and placed in a specific location on the box.  In addition to the UN symbol, you need to include the country in which the package originated from, the last two years of manufacture, the weight of the package in kilograms, and the packing group type. If you are shipping liquids, the weight needs to be marked in liters, and if it successfully passed the Leakproofness Test, it should show the letter “L.”

UN Symbols

In Review

When preparing a package to ship hazardous materials, there are a few things to remember. First that the corrugated fiberboard must be durable and water resistant. The package design must keep the products safe from damage during shipment and must pass several tests. Lastly, once the design and material are approved, the corrugated box needs to have the proper UN markings for shipping.

Part 2 of this blog post will include details about each of the required tests for hazardous material shipping containers.

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