E-commerce News and Insights
Jul 6, 2023

USPS HAZMAT Shipping Changes: How it Affects Your E-commerce Business

When you’re running an e-commerce business, carrier compliance may not be the first thing on your mind. There are plenty of other obstacles to conquer on a daily basis. However, not abiding by the regulations carriers set could have detrimental effects on your ability to ship in a timely and cost-effective manner. This is especially true when you’re trying to ship hazardous materials (HAZMAT).

When shipping hazardous materials, there are certain guidelines you have to follow that are different from your average package. These vary by carrier, but the United States Postal Service (USPS), in particular, is adopting new rules that will affect shippers across the board.

Starting July 9, 2023, merchants are required to declare if they’re shipping a product that contains hazardous (HAZMAT) materials when creating a shipping label. This can easily be done within Shippo.

At Shippo, we empower our merchants with the latest information so that they can take action and avoid any delays or penalties that come from not complying with the latest requirements.

USPS HAZMAT Shipping Changes

The rules for shipping HAZMAT items through the USPS have changed multiple times in the past year.

Last year, the USPS announced two key changes that HAZMAT shippers need to abide by. First, the Postal Service required a clear separation of Hazmat and non-Hazmat items into separate and identifiable packages or mail receptacles. Parcels containing hazardous materials would need to be marked as hazardous.

Additionally, the Postal Service began limiting any used, damaged, or defective electronic devices containing lithium batteries to ground shipping services only. This meant products containing these batteries could not be sent via international service or expedited domestic service via airfrieght. Those packages now have to be labeled “Restricted Electronic Device” and Surface Transportation Only”.

In addition to those requirements, the latest USPS HAZMAT shipping changes now require shippers using USPS to formally declare when their parcel contains a hazardous item. Shippers must do so at the time they purchase USPS shipping labels.

It will be crucial for you to know whether or not your item is considered hazardous since many products fall into that category that you may not realize.

What is Considered HAZMAT?

Hazardous materials are any items assigned by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) as being capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property during transportation. For international shipping, these items are often referred to as “dangerous goods” and will require you to fill out a dangerous goods declaration (DGD).

The most common types of items that fall into this category include:

  • Articles containing liquid mercury (such as thermometers, barometers, and blood pressure equipment)
  • Lithium batteries (or any electronics that include lithium batteries such as cell phones and laptops)
  • Aerosols (such as hairspray, disinfectants, and spray paint)
  • Fragrances (such as colognes, perfumes, and body sprays)
  • Dry Ice (which can be used to preserve temperature-sensitive items such as food and medicines)
  • Paint, Paint Thinners, and Removers (wood stains and adhesives would also fall into this category)
  • Nail polishes and nail polish removers
  • Fuel or fuel-powered machinery (this could include gas lanterns, camp stoves, model cars, or even lawn equipment.)

In addition to these examples, there are thousands of other items that could fall under the umbrella of HAZMAT. In order to find out if your product falls in this category, you’ll want to check the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) prepared by your manufacturer.

Why The Postal Service Is Implementing These Changes

These changes are being put into place for multiple reasons. The first is the safety of USPS employees, other packages, and receivers of shipments. Incidents could involve contamination or, worse, a package catching fire during transit.

Incidents involving HAZMAT items happen more than you may think. In fact, 10,000 HAZMAT incidents were reported in the first nine months of the 2020 fiscal year.

After a HAZMAT incident, packages are delayed by an average of two weeks. As a result, these changes are also being implemented to ensure that packages are delivered on time.

The third reason for the latest change is so that the USPS can better identify and track hazardous materials that are being delivered throughout their network.

How Shipping Hazardous Materials with USPS Works

In order to safely ship hazardous materials with USPS, you’ll need to follow four steps.

Step 1: Find the Safety Data Sheet (SDS)

A safety data sheet is a standardized document that contains information on your product such as the chemical composition, health and environmental hazards, protective measures, and safety precautions for storing, handling, and transporting the product.

In order to obtain the SDS, you’ll need to visit the product manufacturer’s website or contact them directly. Once you’ve obtained the SDS, you’ll want to save the information provided for transporting the product.

Step 2: Find Shipping Instructions

Using tools such as Publication 52 and the USPS’s HAZMAT Tool can help you identify if a product is allowed to be shipped via USPS, what service levels it is restricted to, and how to properly package the product and label the parcel. You’ll need information that is found in the SDS in order to ensure you’re looking at the right instructions.

Step 3: Follow Marking and Labeling Requirements

Not every Hazmat item uses the same warning label. There are dozens of USPS HAZMAT markings so be sure you’re using the correct one before handing off the parcel to them.

Step 4: Package, Label, and Ship Product

You’ll need to be sure that your item is sealed in accordance with Appendix C of Publication 52. For example, this may include sealing any liquids in multiple containers to avoid any leakage.

You’ll then need to then ensure DOT HAZMAT labels are the proper size and attach that on the same side of the box as where you decide to place your shipping label.

When you’re ready to make your shipping label, you must select “Shipment contains hazardous materials” within the Shippo web app before you purchase a USPS label. You’ll find it under the “options” drop-down within the side panel of your Orders page.

If you know your item is considered hazardous, simply click on the button then hit save. This ensures that your shipping label reflects that you’re shipping a HAZMAT good, and will allow the Postal Service to automatically identify the item and handle the package accordingly throughout its journey.

Keep in mind that if HAZMAT is indicated for the package, returned services will be restricted. For both web-app and API users, only Ground transportation would be available (Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express would not be). Also, once this option has been selected, international USPS services will not show up as an option and neither will domestic services that may involve planes such as Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express. This is to ensure that you’re complying with USPS HAZMAT requirements.

With this new feature, merchants can now save time and ship their items safer than ever. To learn more about this feature and shipping Hazardous items with the USPS via Shippo, click here.

Share to:
Hasan Nabulsi
is the Content Marketing Manager at Shippo.

Sign up for the Shippo newsletter


Recommended Articles

Most Popular

Get Started Today

Everything you need for professional-grade shipping + deep discounts from top carriers.

Get started