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Why HazMat Matters to Amazon and Online Sellers

The Federal Aviation Administration criticized Amazon this week, stating that the company has a history of violating Hazardous Materials (HazMat) regulations. The harsh words came in a press release announcing that the agency proposed a $350,000 civil penalty against the company.

The FAA alleges that on Oct. 15, 2014, Amazon offered to UPS a package containing a one-gallon container of “Amazing! LIQUID FIRE,” a corrosive drain cleaner for transportation by air from Louisville, Ky., to Boulder, Colo.

It said some of the solution leaked during transport, and said nine UPS employees had to be treated with a chemical wash after reporting feeling a burning sensation.

“The FAA alleges the shipment was not properly packaged, was not accompanied by a Shippers Declaration for Dangerous Goods and was not properly marked or labeled to indicate the hazardous nature of its contents. Furthermore, the FAA alleges Amazon failed to provide emergency response information with the package, and that Amazon employees who handled the package had not received required hazardous materials training.”

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Cheeseman told EcommerceBytes the company takes the safety of its air cargo delivery partners seriously. “We ship tens of millions of products every day and have developed sophisticated technologies to detect potential shipping hazards and use any defects as an opportunity for continuous improvement. We will continue to partner with the FAA in this area.”

Many online sellers who use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) have encountered Amazon HazMat policies and practices and have been surprised to learn that Amazon considers many common household items to be in the same class as dangerous chemicals or gasses.

As far back as 2012, Amazon was warning sellers. “Sometimes we take for granted how many household products can be hazardous to our health and safety. Any product that is or contains a liquid, powder, or paste could be a hazardous material. Hazardous materials can place the health and safety of our fulfillment center staff and customers at risk and can damage or contaminate other products in the fulfillment centers. For this reason, products containing hazardous materials (hazmat) cannot be shipped from or stored in our fulfillment centers.”

But in 2013, it launched a pilot program for FBA sellers, allowing participants to send some “hazmat” products to FBA fulfillment centers with certain restrictions.

It’s not an issue we hear as much about these days, but clearly it’s just as important for Amazon and its sellers to be careful in how they ship products containing potentially hazardous materials. The FAA wrote, “From February 2013 to September 2015 alone, Amazon was found to have violated the Hazardous Materials Regulations 24 other times.”


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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.