Recognizing Undeclared Hazardous Material

Dangers of transporting hazardous material.

In June of 2017, the FAA recommended a $1.1 million civil penalty against Braille Battery, Inc for allegedly violating Hazardous Materials Regulations. Braille Battery, Inc had shipped lithium batteries with FedEx that did not meet shipping standards for hazardous materials. One of the batteries caught fire while on a delivery truck after first being transported by air, and resulted in the destruction of the truck carrying the shipment. However, the company failed to take corrective action and continued to ship lithium batteries in the same manner.

When these dangerous situations occur, they can threaten the safety of the aircraft and those on board. While instances involving undeclared hazardous material are rare, they certainly should be taken very seriously. An investigation by U.S. Customs and the FAA, revealed that as much as 8% of cargo and 0.5% of checked baggage examined contained undeclared hazardous material.

Accepting cargo or baggage.

There are many obstacles that can make it difficult to thoroughly check every bag or cargo shipment. Equipment such as x-ray machines and explosive detection can be expensive and can’t detect all types of hazardous material. It is often not practical to take the time and manpower to manually search every box or bag that may be flying on your aircraft. Often it may seem the only option is to simply rely on the customer to be truthful about what they are shipping. However, there are steps you can take to help ensure you are not unknowingly transporting hazardous material.
Sometimes hazards can be hiding in ordinary items, and customers may not realize an item they are attempting to put on board an aircraft may be a problem. It is always a good idea to ask thorough questions about the contents of cargo or baggage before accepting it.

Be familiar with items that may contain hazardous materials. Often medical equipment, camping gear, or even parts for automobiles or airplanes can contain explosive or flammable hazards. Many household items may contain aerosols or flammable chemicals, and equipment used in photography or media may also contain hazardous chemicals or be fire hazards.

It is also important to ensure items are packed correctly. Items such as medical specimens, vaccines, or even fruits and vegetables may be packed with dry ice which requires special handling. Other items such as lithium batteries have very specific guidelines on how they must be packed to ensure safe transport.

HazMat Training

Make sure that all cargo and baggage is visually inspected. If there are any signs of leaks or indications that it may have been tampered with, do not accept the cargo. Another important indications to look for is labels that may indicate that hazardous material is inside. Sometimes the person shipping the item may not see or realize what the labels indicate.

What to do if undeclared hazardous material is discovered.

If you suspect that an item contains undeclared hazardous material, it is important to report it to the FAA. Discrepancies to report may include items that are different than described, quantities that exceed authorized limitations, or containers that are not closed or packed according to the FAA guidelines. You should not accept any cargo or baggage that contains undeclared or improperly packed hazardous materials.

Undeclared hazardous material can present dangers to anyone involved in its transport. It’s important to stay educated and knowledgeable about what to watch out for and how to report discrepancies. For more information on hazardous material and guidelines for how they should be transported, check out the FAA’s Office of Hazardous Materials Safety page.

Related Courses:
Hazardous Materials Will Carry
Hazardous Materials Will Not Carry
ICAO Dangerous Goods

Related Reading:
FAA Office of Hazardous Materials Safety