If you’re an ecommerce merchant that ships HazMat items to your customers, there are new USPS rules to be aware of. Here’s what you need to know to be prepared.

What are HazMat materials?

HazMat materials are items that pose a risk to safety, health, or even the environment during transportation. Examples of HazMat materials include explosives, flammable liquids and solids, compressed gasses, highly toxic substances like arsenic and chlorine gas, radioactive materials, and more.

However, you may be surprised by many of the items that meet the “HazMat” definition: common products such as many hair care and nail care items, paint, perfumes and colognes, and all products containing lithium batteries are all considered to be hazardous materials. Even if they don’t pose a health risk when used as properly intended, they can cause damage or negative health impacts if the product is broken or leaks during the shipping and transport process. Lithium batteries, in particular, have been responsible for causing fires, damaging physical property and causing danger to humans who come into contact with the packages.

As a result, the US Department of Transportation requires that merchants must be trained and certified in the proper shipping of HazMat materials, with requirements around packaging, labeling, and documentation. Businesses that fail to comply may be subject to fines or even legal action.

The new HazMat shipping requirements add additional protocols to the existing rules, and merchants must put these additional steps in place to ensure they’re not at risk of non-compliance.

What new requirements does USPS have for HazMat shipping?

The detailed summary of additions to the USPS’ Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail can be found here

Some of the key points include:

  • Merchants must label products with HazMat materials with one of six product-specific service type codes (STCs) for domestic mail. All HazMat shipping labels should include a service indicator “H” for identification purposes. For surface-only packages, add the words “HazMat – Surface Transportation Only” below the return address. Also, place the word “HazMat” after “USPS TRACKING #” above the tracking barcode.
  • HazMat materials may not be mailed in letter or flat-sized packaging, as they require additional protection.
  • Merchants are required to submit an electronic file (SSF) to the USPS to provide data about what’s inside the package to ensure proper shipping and handling based on its HazMat category.
  • HazMat items will not be available for refunds if they’ve been delivered or delivery was attempted within three days of mailing for domestic Priority Mail Express shipments. Such items may require additional packaging and handling needs to ensure a safe return, so you’ll need to find alternative carriers if you wish to offer refunds on such items – or simply provide a refund without requesting the original item back.
  • The USPS has limited the number of extra services available on HazMat packages to only adult signatures and USPS insurance.

If your ecommerce store ships HazMat materials directly, make sure that you’re in compliance with these new rules to ensure that your business isn’t susceptible to fines or legal liability. If you have integrated a shipping solution or a 3PL with your ecommerce platform, check in with them to ensure that they’ve updated their policies to meet the new rules to ensure seamless deliveries for all of your packages.

And when it comes to returning HazMat materials, you’ll also need a returns management solution that can provide customized return options based on the category of product. 

Get a demo of Loop to find out how we can help you set up hassle-free returns policies for your HazMat products. 

If you’re an existing Loop merchant looking to configure your labels as HazMat, check out this article in our Help Center.