The Inspection Process

We understand that having a Federal Inspector show up at your door can be quite daunting. The inspector's goal is not to issue fines or to get in the way of your operations. Their aim is to work with you to ensure compliance with the regulations, minimize risk, and ensure safety associated with the transportation of hazardous materials or dangerous goods by air.

The Office of Hazardous Materials Safety's objective is to correctly identify and work with you to fix the root causes of noncompliance permanently, such as a lack of understanding or flawed procedures. Generally, we are willing to collaborate if you are willing and able to cooperate and do not have an egregious violation history. We normally issue civil penalties as a last resort reserved for when a regulated party is unwilling or unable to comply; evidence supports an intentional deviation, reckless, or criminal behavior; or we discover a significant safety risk.

Here is a basic breakdown of what to expect during a shipper, freight forwarder, or repair station inspection:

Document Review

Laboratory inspection

  • Has the individual who selected the HAZMAT packaging received HAZMAT training?
  • Has the individual who is securing a closure on a hazardous materials package or container received Hazmat training?
  • Has the individual who is responsible for filling inner or single packagings received training?
  • Classification when executed through laboratory testing.

Warehouse inspection

  • Warehouse storage and segregation of HAZMAT
    • Was the material properly segregated in the warehouse?
  • Marking
    • Was the package correctly marked and unobscured?
    • Were the proper markings on hand?
  • Labeling
  • Emergency Response Information
    • Was it monitored at all times the hazardous material was in transportation?
    • Was the person who answered knowledgeable of the HAZMAT being shipped?
    • Was he or she able to provide comprehensive response and incident mitigation information for the material?
  • Packaging
    • View information on packaging your HazMat
    • Is UN Specification packaging required?
    • If so, did the shipper follow the closure instructions?
    • Is packing group1 of the material compliant with the UN Specification markings?
    • Does the weight of the inner packaging exceed the rated capacity of the package?
    • Proper Packing Materials
      • Does the shipper have the proper tools on hand for securing lids, i.e., torque wrenches and calibration equipment?
      • Does the shipper have the proper supplies, such as tape, absorbent material, cushioning, etc., as specified in the package closure instructions?

Does the shipper have the proper supplies, such as tape, absorbent material, cushioning, etc., as specified in the package closure instructions?

Common inspection findings

  • Misclassification
    • Packing group for flammable liquids
    • Errors when materials present more than one hazard
  • Packaging and closing procedures
    • Non-specification packaging used when required
    • Inner containers not authorized
    • Improper final closing of specification packages
    • Gross mass of package not authorized (over stuffing)
  • Shipping paper errors
    • Improper shipping name
    • Improper UN number
    • Additional description requirements are missing
    • Hazardous Substances (RQ)
    • Improper technical name for NOS material
    • The shippers declaration was signed by someone other than the person who prepared the package
  • Invalid emergency response information
    • Telephone not monitored2 while in transportation
    • Company is not registered with third party provider
    • Person is not knowledgeable about the material
    • Requires call-back
  • Training Violations
  • Marking and Labeling Violations
    • The markings or labels were obscured
    • Missing subsidiary hazard labels
    • Out-of-date markings or labels

1 Packing Groups I, II and III indicate the degree of danger presented by the material is great, medium or minor, respectively.

2 Emergency Telephone Number staffed 24 hours per day while shipment is in transit.

Post Inspection Expectations

The inspector should provide an out briefing to notify you of any concerns or discrepancies found during the inspection. If there were findings, you will likely receive a Letter of Investigation within 10 days of the inspection. A Letter of Investigation is an investigative tool that serves the dual purposes of notifying an alleged violator they are under investigation and provides them an opportunity to respond to allegations.

For more information, refer to compliance and enforcement section of Safe Cargo.

Last updated: Friday, February 10, 2023