Is your business shipping dangerous goods?

What do products like perfume, dental bleaching strips and laptop computers all have in common? They are all classified dangerous goods during transport due to their potential to harm people, property, and the environment when handled without precaution.

As increasing numbers of Australian small businesses continue to grow their operations through export, it’s imperative that business owners understand not just the classification, but the impacts of mismanaging dangerous goods.

Failing to properly identify and manage dangerous goods can lead to penalties and might mean that your products don’t reach customers in a timely manner.

Here are five things that you probably didn’t know about shipping dangerous goods that are key to running cross-border trade, and ultimately protecting you and your business:

1. Everyday items are dangerous goods: You might be surprised to know that basic items, even those commonly found in Australian households, are considered dangerous goods when it comes to air transport. Items such as oil paints and lithium batteries are those that could catch you by surprise, and land you in trouble if not declared.

2. There are organisations helping businesses identify dangerous goods: It’s important to identify which of your goods is potentially classified as dangerous. But this can be difficult without an understanding of the classifications. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines help businesses with the correct identification, classification (including UN or ID number), Proper Shipping Name, hazard class and, if applicable, subsidiary risk and Packing Group of any items being transported.

3. When shipping dangerous goods, there are specific guidelines for packaging, labeling and marking: Always remember that some dangerous goods have specific packaging, labeling, and marking requirements. It’s important to follow these to make sure your products can be transported and reach your customers. Plan ahead and pack your shipments correctly with a Shipper’s Declaration for Dangerous Goods form which you can find on the IATA website, along with other useful resources.

4. If you do not prepare to ship your items according to the IATA and ICAO regulations, you may face penalties: The shipment of dangerous goods is a serious task, and requires people trained and certified to handle and prepare dangerous shipments. If you don’t meet the requirements of your shipment, you may, in fact, face penalties of up to thousands of dollars and potentially even face criminal prosecution and imprisonment .

5. You’re not alone – partnering with a third-party logistics provider can help to answer your questions and help you prepare for dangerous goods shipment: Shipping dangerous goods can be a daunting process. Use your third-party logistics provider to support your cross-border trade efforts. They should be able to answer any and all questions on how to safely prepare your shipments from how to pack boxes efficiently, identifying dangerous goods and packing lithium batteries.

Small businesses selling beauty products and art supplies internationally don’t need to be turned off by what can seem, at face-value, a daunting process.

Using the tips outlined above, the advantages of selling your products to a global audience far outweigh the extra steps necessary to properly ship dangerous goods and can provide your business with the boost it needs.

Kim Garner, Managing Director – International Operations, FedEx Express

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