Shipping Hazardous Materials With USPS 

Shipping hazardous materials through USPS requires that they are properly packaged and declared. A hazardous material is considered to be any substance that could harm the public, environment, handlers, or carriers during transportation. As the shipper, it is your responsibility to make sure that all hazardous materials are packaged, labeled, and shipped properly. Failing to properly package, label and ship hazardous materials can result in serious civil and/or criminal liability. 

USPS Proposed Changes to Publication 52

The USPS plans to amend Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail. Due to the expansion of eCommerce, more hazardous materials are being shipped. The proposed admendments are intended to reduce the instances of improper labeling and shipping of hazardous materials which according to the USPS have "increased risks to Postal Service employees, customers, and business suppliers, especially risks related to personal safety/property damag, and have resulted in millions of dollars of loss."

The proposed changes are designed to better inform mail carriers of shipments containing hazardous materials. This will allow postal carriers to properly assess and transport those packages. These changes include:

  • Require mailers to transmit a Shipping Service File (SSF) or a Shipping Partner Event File to the postal service before or concurrent with the shipment of hazardous materials. Mailers are also required to use USPS-generated labels and indicate the shipment includes hazardous materials at the time of requesting a label.
  • Require the use of unique Service Type Codes (STCs) for hazardous materials shipped or returned domestically.
  • Insurance and Adult Signature will be the only domestic Extra Services available for a package containing hazardous materials.
  • Encourage the adoption of 2 supplemental GS1-DataMatrix (2D) IMpbs to shipping labels to improve package visibility.
  • Used, damaged, or defective electronic devices (cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc.) must be mailed by surface transportation.
  • Certified new or refurbished electronic devices and certain new personal electronic devices (certain cell phones, glucose monitor devices, tablets, etc) in original packaging may be exempt from separation and marking requirements.

Currently, compliance with these new guidelines is optional, however the USPS intends to implement these rules in 2023 with mandatory compliance beginning April 30, 2023. As such, mailers should be aware of these upcoming changes and check regularly for updates. It is recommended that mailers familarize themselves with these proposed changes and prepare for the adoption of these proposed changes.

The USPS is accepting comments on these changes until December 30, 2022. Comments are to be mailed to the Director, Product Clasification, U.S. Postal Service, 475 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Room 4446 Washington DC 20260-5015. Emailed comments may be sent to PCFederalRegister@usps.gov, with a subject line of "Electronic Indicators". Faxed comments are not accepted.

How to Ship Hazardous Material with USPS

The USPS has strict guidelines on how to properly package and label hazardous materials. Proper packaging of hazardous materials is important for the health and safety of you, USPS handlers and carriers, the environment, and the person receiving the package. Read this page carefully before shipping any hazardous materials. This page covers the packaging of hazardous materials, the types of hazard classes, the product safety data sheet, and hazardous material labels

When creating a new product in Teapplix, you are able to list the dangerous good type. Navigate to the Inventory menu found on the left-hand sidebar. Select the first option "Products". On the products screen, select the "+ Add One" button on the top right-hand corner. Select the drop-down menu "DG Type" .

The options available are:

  • 0 Turn Off Dangerous Goods
    • The package does not contain hazardous materials or dangerous goods
  • 1 Lithium Metal Contained in Equipment
    • Mailable via Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, First-Class Mail, or First-Class Package Select
  • 2 Package contains Primary Lithium Batteries
    • If installed in the equipment they intend to operate or packed with the equipment they intend to operate, this is mailable via Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, First-Class Mail, or First-Class Package Select
  • 3 Lithium Metal Stand-Alone
    • Mailable via Standard Mail, USPS Retail Ground, Parcel Select, First-Class Mail, or First-Class Package Service
  • 4 Lithium-Ion Contained in Equipment
    • Mailable via Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, First-Class Mail, or First-Class Package Select
  • 5 Lithium-Ion Packed with Equipment
    • Mailable via Standard Mail, USPS Retail Ground, Parcel Select, First-Class Mail, or First-Class Package Service
  • 6 Lithium-Ion Stand-Alone
    • Mailable via Standard Mail, USPS Retail Ground, Parcel Select, First-Class Mail, or First-Class Package Service
  • 7 Lithium* Ground Only (*<=5) lbs
    • Mailable via Standard Mail, USPS Retail Ground, Parcel Select, First-Class Mail, or First-Class Package Service
  • 8 ORM-D
    • This is now referred to as HAZMAT Limited Quantity by the USPS. Depending on the hazardous material being shipped, the package may be eligible for ground only or for air and ground transport. More information regarding the packaging and shipping of this category is detailed below.
  • 9 Small Quantity Provision
    • The package contains an amount of hazardous material that is small enough that the package is not subject to DOT packaging, marking, and labeling requirements. This category is only eligible for domestic transport and can only be shipped via Standard Mail, USPS Retail Ground, Parcel Select, First-Class Mail, or First-Class Package Service.

Packaging Hazardous Materials

In addition to being clearly and properly labeled, hazardous materials must be packaged carefully. The USPS will not accept any package containing hazardous materials that are leaking, damaged or open. Considering using "performance packaging" or HAZMAT packaging. This type of packaging is more absorbent, cushioning, and protective than regular packaging. Hazardous materials must be labeled and packaged separately from all other items.

Hazard Classes

All hazardous materials belong to one of nine hazard classes. The Hazard Classes are as follows:

  • Class 1: Explosives - Prohibited for all Domestic and International Mail
  • Class 2: Gases - Only Limited Quantity Surface Transport
  • Class 3: Flammable and Combustible Liquids - Only Limited Quantity Surface Transport
  • Class 4: Flammable Solids - Only Limited Quantity Surface Transport
  • Class 5: Oxidizing Substances, Organic Peroxides - Limited Quantity Air and Surface Eligible
  • Class 6: Toxic Substances and Infectious Substances - Mostly Prohibited
  • Class 7: Radioactive Materials - Mostly Prohibited
  • Class 8: Corrosives - Limited Quantity Air and Surface Eligible
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials - Limited Quantity Air and Surface Eligible

The USPS has strict guidelines for all hazardous materials in each of the nine classes. Certain classes, like Class 1, are prohibited from all USPS shipping options and others, like Class 6 and 7, have strict guidelines regarding which substances can be shipped and how. This is why it's very important that you are familiar with your product's Safety Data Sheet.

Safety Data Sheet

The first step to shipping any hazardous material is finding your product's Safety Data Sheet. This sheet is a standardized document that contains all occupational safety and health data of a substance or product. You will use this document to find the transport instructions for your product. You can find your product's safety data sheet by doing a web search of [Manufacturer + Name of Product + "SDS"]

Hazardous Material Labels

When shipping any type of hazardous material, you need to ensure that the package contains the proper labeling. The proper labeling for your package depends on what type of hazardous material you intend to ship. Hazardous material labels diamond shape with the number indicating which class the material belongs to at the bottom of the diamond. Remember that certain Hazard Classes are non-mailable and that many have specific transport options.

Non-Mailable Hazardous Materials

Certain items are always prohibited from being shipped by USPS. If your package requires one of the labels shown below, it cannot be sent through USPS mail.

Packages containing these labels will not be accepted by USPS Mail Carriers

The exception to this list are items belonging to:

  • Category 5 (Oxidizing Agents and Organic Peroxides)
  • Category 8 (Corrosives- liquids and solids),
  • Category 9 (Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials)

This packages can be mailed so long as the have the proper DOT HAZMAT Limited Quantity Label.

DOT HAZMAT Limited Quantity Labels

Please note that the USPS has made a change to its hazardous materials labels. The DOT HAZMAT Limited Quantity Labels replaced the Consumer Commodity ORM-D Label on January 1, 2021. These DOT HAZMAT Limited Quantity labels alert the mail carrier that your package contains hazardous materials within the legally allowed quantity.

The USPS no longer uses the ORM-D Consumer Commodity label

Hazardous materials are now to be packaged with the DOT HAZMAT Limited Quantity Labels. Marks. There is one label for Ground/Surface transport and one for Air and Ground Eligible transport. See below.

USPS Limited Quantity Labels. The correct label must be used for your shipping method.

Your package must display the correct Limited Quantity Label. Please note that packages with DOT HAZMAT Limited Quantity labels are not eligible for international transport.

If you are entering a new product into Teapplix and it belongs to DG Types 1-8 follow the instructions for Air and Ground Eligible or Ground/Surface Only

Air and Ground Eligible

DG Types 1, 2, 4, 8 can be shipped via air or ground transport. Follow these instructions:

Packages with the Air and Ground Eligible label can be mailed through USPS air and surface transportation.

When using this label it is required that the package also be marked with the proper shipping name and identification number. The package must also display the appropriate DOT-associated marking.

A package with this label can be shipped:

  • Priority Mail Express
  • Priority Mail
  • First-Class Mail
  • First-Class Package Service
  • Standard Mail
  • USPS Retail Ground
  • Parcel Select
  • Package Services

Remember that hazardous materials belonging to Hazard Classes 5, 8, and 9 must be shipped with the proper DOT HAZMAT Limited Quantity label.

This means that the labels shown below can NOT be shipped without the proper DOT HAZMAT Limited Quantity Label.

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DOT Hazard Class Labels

This is an example of a package that is marked with the proper Limited Quantity Air and Ground Eligible label and the proper Class 8 (Corrosives- Liquid and Solid) Hazard label.

In the top right corner, you can see a Shipping Paper attached. This paper contains a description of the hazmat and includes the UN identification number, proper shipping name, and other information as required. Remember that this additional information is required when shipping a package with the Air and Ground Limited Quantity Label.

When creating a product in Teapplix that contains or is a hazardous material, make sure that you fill out this page. This information will allow you to create an accurate label for your package.

Ground and Surface Only Limited Quantity Label

DG Types 3, 5, 6, 7 can only be shipped via ground transport and only require the Ground/Surface Only label.

Packages with this label can only be shipped through USPS ground transportation. These shipping options include:

  • Standard Mail
  • USPS Retail Ground
  • Parcel Select
  • Package Services

Limited Quantity Ground/Surface labeled packages can NOT be shipped through

  • Priority
  • Priority Mail Express
  • First-Class Packages Service

Properly Ground/Surface Only Labeled Package

This is properly labeled for ground transport. This package is for Parcel Select Ground.

Packages with the Ground/Surface Limited Quantity label are not required to have a shipping paper with the proper shipping name and identification number.

Final Notes

Both Ground/Surface Limited Quantity and Air and Ground Limited Quantity labels must be clearly visible on the side with the shipping address. The labels must be durable, legible, and readily visible. USPS will not accept packages with damaged, missing, or unreadable labels. Your package must also be free from damage and leaks. USPS will not accept damaged, leaking, or opened packages.

Remember that it is your responsibility as a shipper to ensure all hazardous materials are properly packaged and labeled. Review your specific product's safety data sheet and make sure it is securely packaged with clear and proper labels.

Any questions or comments contact your local Homeland Security Coordinator or send an email to HAZMAT@uspis.gov.

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