When it comes to shipping, there are certain hazardous freights and products that present certain dangers to all those involved in the process. Not only could they cause harm to those handling the containers and shipments, they could also cause damage with leaks in the sea. In the US, this has led to the use of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) which need to be made available for all employees according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Just as firehouses and other emergency services requires these forms for employees, there’s a similar protocol for shipping. Nowadays, you’ll find two types of safety sheets; MSDS as well as SDS (Safety Data Sheets). In line with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), systems are in place to protect employees from all dangerous chemicals.

How Does it Work? – Whenever contacting a shipping line for hazardous cargo, they’ll generally ask if you have an MSDS so you’ll already need this in place. With the forms, information will include the properties within the shipment, important data (such as boiling and melting points), health effects, toxicity, disposal methods, first aid after exposure, storage methods, and more.

Essentially, the data sheet will act as an all-encompassing guide to the chemicals inside the cargo. For shipping lines, they need to assess this data to check whether they’re qualified and able to handle the goods. Since they have all the information required, the manufacturer will normally produce the document. With this in mind, the manufacturer is responsible and the documents will pass hands as the cargo does the same.


Lithium Batteries – In the past, lithium batteries have proved to be one of the most dangerous products you could possibly ship. For example, 2009 saw the Massachusetts Institute of Technology fined $175,000 after a box containing 33 devices (powered by lithium batteries) was found on fire. Eventually, the resulting investigation found the box to be improperly labeled.

As a result of this, and many other close incidents, new regulations have been introduced and updated to ensure the safe shipment of all lithium batteries and lithium battery-powered devices. At the beginning of 2017, the UN designated lithium batteries as ‘Dangerous Goods’; this applies regardless of whether the products travel via air, road, sea, or rail. As a result, the regulations guarding the product are now stricter than ever before.

Dangers of Lithium Batteries – If you were unaware, there are two main types of lithium battery; ion and metal. Used in hearing aids, watches, and many cameras, they boast a higher energy density than most other batteries available on the market. Unfortunately these hazardous freights can provide danger when the circuit is damaged inside. As one or several of the cells start to overheat, hot gasses are released leading to a fire. Therefore, mismanagement of cargo containing lithium batteries can be incredibly dangerous and, ultimately, fatal.

Summary – Over the coming years, we’re almost guaranteed to see stricter regulations come into place in other corners of the dangerous chemicals niche. While many will say this change to lithium batteries is long overdue, there are still other hazardous freights that require careful treatment. If you need help with MSDS along the way, don’t hesitate to contact a professional who has experience in this section of the market. Not only could you put others in danger by following the process incorrectly, you could actually cost your business a significant amount of money and possibly your livelihood.





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