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Hazardous Materials Shipping

Hazardous material shipping is regulated by the Department of Transportation. Research Safety provides assistance and training to help University faculty, staff, and students comply with these regulations.

Contact Sponsored Research when proprietary materials are transferred in or out of Northwestern.

Consult the Export Controls Compliance site if you will be shipping to an international destination.

The following agencies or regulations govern the shipment of hazardous materials:

Department of Transportation (USDOT)5

  • The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration under the USDOT establish the Hazardous Materials Regulations which govern transport of hazardous materials via highway, rail, vessel, or air. These regulations cover the classification, packaging, hazard communication, emergency response, and training requirements for hazardous materials shipments.

International Air Transport Association (IATA)

  • ​IATA established the Dangerous Goods Regulations for safe shipment of dangerous goods by air.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

  • ICAO is a United Nations body, which maintains the Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air.

Public Health Service (USPHS)

  • The import of etiologic agents is governed by the USPHS 42 Code of Federal Regulations – Part 71 Foreign Quarantine. Part 71.54 Etiologic agents, hosts, and vectors. For information about import permits, please visit the Import Permit Program (IPP) on the Center for Disease Control website.

U.S. Customs

  • If a package contains undeclared dangerous goods, U.S. Customs may initiate an investigation. For more information on the customs process, visit this page.

Shipping biological materials:

  • Only certified hazardous materials shippers may ship biological materials from the University. Research Safety does NOT ship biological materials. We do advise laboratory workers who have been trained.
  • Laboratory workers who wish to be trained may register for Safe Shipping of Biological Materials and Dry Ice Certification in myHR Learn.

Shipping Fixed Tissue:

  • Human or animal tissue fixed in formaldehyde or other preservatives must be shipped as a chemical. Please see the “Chemicals” tab to learn how to ship this material.
  • Import Permit Program (Center for Disease Control)

Chemical shipments must be prepared by the Research Safety staff.  Research Safety will package, mark, and label each container and certify that each container is in compliance with applicable regulations.

In order to ship a chemical, please complete an Intent to Ship form in Lumen.  Research Safety will contact you with instructions for purchasing or obtaining appropriate packaging for your shipment.

After you have obtained packaging, contact Research Safety to schedule a time to complete the shipment.

  • Research Safety staff will schedule time to package, mark and label the shipment.
  • Arrangements will be made with an appropriate courier, depending on whether the shipment is domestic or international.
  • Domestic shipments are sent via FedEx.
  • International shipments are sent via a variety of carriers depending on the type of material.
  • A tracking number will be emailed to you once the package has shipped.
  • The lab must provide a chart string suitable for shipping, either via FedEx or another carrier.
  • Please note that it may take up to five business days for the chemical shipment to be processed.

If you have any questions about the shipping process or the Intent to Ship form, please email or contact Research Safety.

Shipments of radioactive materials must be done through Health Physics Services (HPS). For all shipments (foreign or domestic), Research Safety will package, mark, and label each container and certify on a dangerous goods declaration (if required) that each container is in compliance with applicable regulations.

In order to ship radioactive materials, please complete an Intent to Ship form in Lumen.

  • A member of the Research Safety radiation safety staff will contact you to schedule a time to bring the materials to be shipped to the Research Safety office.
  • The requestor must bring all packaging to be used (including a strong fiberboard box and packing materials).
  • A tracking number will be provided to you once the package has been prepared and offered to the carrier.

PLEASE NOTE: All domestic shipments containing radioactive materials are shipped via FedEx; the lab must provide a chart string that is suitable for FedEx shipments.