Identifying Non-hazardous Materials Effectively for Transport


Transporting containerized products like those aboard this BNSF train westbound at the summit of Edelstein Hill in central Illinois may require clearly identifying both hazardous and non-hazardous materials in the same shipment. (©October 2014 Paul Burgess used with permission)

The United States Department of Labor’s (USDOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a major revision to the regulations governing hazard communication in the US 29 CFR 1910.1200 in May of 2012.  The revision, which in large measure conformed US hazard communication standards, or the HCS, to those of the United Nations Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, or GHS, is becoming effective over a three year time span from December 2013 to December 2016.  As the regulation begins to mature, a variety of issues have begun to become of interest to shippers attempting to comply.

Find out more about the 2012 Hazard Communication Standard in this white paper about the subject available on Labelmaster’s HCS/GHS website, located here:



Also, don’t forget to register for our upcoming webinar staying ahead of the revised HCS, November 19!

One major difference between older (i.e. pre-2012 rule) hazard communication systems and the system that is mandated in the revised regulation is that hazard communication labeling affixed to shipped containers under the new system will bear pictograms, or images, which in many cases bear a striking resemblance to those pictographic images already used in the regulated transport of hazardous materials (or, as they are known outside the United States, dangerous goods).  Based on feedback from our customer base, this has caused a certain level of concern among shippers who may have materials such that while they may not be regulated as hazardous materials under transport regulations (i.e., the 49 CFR, ICAO, or IMO regulations) they nevertheless require labeling under the hazard communications standard.  While seemingly not a common circumstance, it is hardly an improbable one either, especially amongst shippers of products intended mainly for the consumer market.  The main point of angst seems to be a question of whether or not the presence of hazard communication labels on the exterior of an otherwise unregulated package in commerce will cause the package to be confused with a package that is or should be regulated for transport in commerce as a hazardous material.

At the time of this writing in October of 2014, the regulation is still so new and the compliance deadline dates are still sufficiently distant that not enough packages of this type have entered commerce to be able to make any sort of rational guess as to how much of this concern may be justified; however, one can say as a general rule that it is often the case that the impact of regulations “on the ground” is often less negative than initial fear makes them.  That being said, it is still of value to consider ways in which one could help clarify the status of a package in transport that is not regulated under the transport in commerce regulations but does or may bear markings under the hazard communication regulations that are similar enough to transport markings such that they may confuse a carrier or an inspector—at least until the practice becomes much more common than it presently is, and the learning curve across the transport chain improves.

Labelmaster offers a variety of products that may help address this situation.  Two primary items are a “Shipper’s Declaration for Articles Not Regulated as Dangerous Goods” and a label which declares the item to be non-hazardous.

The “Not Regulated” declaration is shown below:


It is designed to be an easy to use and easy to identify form that will allow carriers, consignees, and any potential inspector to quickly match the non-hazardous product in the package with the appropriate entry on the form.  This will also clearly differentiate these items from any goods in the same shipment (though not the same outer package!) which may appear on a Dangerous Goods Declaration.  This may assist such individuals in understanding the difference between hazardous materials and non-hazardous materials in a package or packages which they are handling.

The non-hazardous label appears below:


This 3” x 3” label could be applied to outer packages which contain “shipped containers” as defined under the HCS and that are not regulated for the purposes of transport in commerce, but even so may be defined as regulated shipped containers under the hazard communication standard and as a result may feature an outer package which bears HCS labeling displaying pictograms which could be confused with or misinterpreted as transport related labeling.  One would have to bear in mind the requirement, however, not to add markings that may confuse or obscure the meaning of any hazard communication information provided on or with the package.

This is not the least complex exercise in shipping one’s goods, made the more so due to its newness.  The real “fix” to all of this will be time; that, and the accrual of actual experience by shippers, carriers, and inspectors with this scenario.  However, the two products featured here may help dispel some of the initial confusion, and assist shippers in encountering less trouble when shipping products that may fall into this unique niche in transport.

Labelmaster is a full service provider of goods and services for the Hazardous Materials and Dangerous Goods professional, shippers, transport operators, and EH&S providers. See our full line of solutions at



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  1. Desmond Waight said:

    Would prefer to see the label state “NOT dangerous good for transport” (as is used in UN Orange Book, IMDG Code, ADR but not [yet] CFR49!!) rather than “non-hazardous materials” as HazCom2012 uses the terms “hazard” and “hazardous chemical”