May 2018

I’ve Got Gas!

Once upon a time, more than a decade ago, I had two aerosol containers to classify. The outer containers, contents and release valve were all exactly the same, but the classifications were very different. Inside the container, from the release valve down into the contents, there was a narrow tube. In one container the tube was very short. It only reached down into the gaseous portion of the “gas” inside. Below the end of the tube was the liquefied portion of the “gas” inside. The other container had a long tube, almost exactly the height of the container. The long tube passed through the gaseous portion, deep into the liquefied portion. What possible effect could the tube length have on the transport classification?

In the most rudimentary analysis, it didn’t have much effect at all. Both containers were classified with the name of the gas inside and the UN identification number that matched it. The exact names of the gas and UN identification number aren’t important here. What is important is that a cost-effective operation doesn’t always just stop at the root or intrinsic transport classification, but looks for potential exceptions that may simplify shipping or save money when shipping or both—and that’s where the tube length had its effect.

When the relief valve was pushed on the aerosol-style container with the short tube, the pressure in the container forced the gaseous material up the tube and out. This flow of gas blew stuff away and carried moisture with it. Although the product was sold to dry off moist electrophoresis gels, it would have worked just fine to blow the sandwich crumbs off of my computer keyboard. The latter is a use suitable for home, which means one of the Consumer Commodity exceptions is a possibility, and sure enough, we met the rest of the required conditions, and used the ORM-D exception.

However, when the relief valve was pushed on the container with the long tube, what came up the tube was liquefied gas. Whatever this liquid landed on was immediately frozen hard, including human tissue. While this was wonderful for the intended purpose—to freeze samples of moles, warts and skin growths hard enough that they could be cut into very thin slices before viewing under a microscope—it wasn’t suitable for household use. Which, unless someone was to start a “freeze your own warts off” business, precluded use of the money-saving ORM-D Consumer Commodity exception.

poop freezex

Then, a few years later came Poop Freeze. When I share this example in a presentation or in a training course, at first people think I’m joking. Poop Freeze is sold to dog owners who have to pick up their pets’ droppings. Usually, that odious task is not a problem but, once in while, a dog may have a bowel issue and the droppings aren’t very solid. Thorough spraying with Poop Freeze renders them hard as rocks and easy to pick up. People buy it and use it and that is therefore a household use. Even better, it’s the same gas and same container style as the long-tubed, tissue-freezing product I had difficulty classifying years previously. Therefore, when the Poop Freeze product showed me a household use, the ORM-D exception came back into play for the long-tubed product and my employer started saving money on its shipments, too.

The products both sold well and eventually the marketing people decided to sell it overseas. Arrangements were made to store product in local warehouses, sell in small numbers to individual customers and resupply in large numbers via ocean-crossing boats. In the minds of the marketers, shipping domestically versus shipping internationally was a simple matter of writing a different delivery address on the documentation. Many of us know, however, that’s a gross oversimplification, especially with these two products. For example, there are no Consumer Commodities in the international ocean transport regulations (IMDG Code), nor ORM-D nor Class 9, ID8000.

We had a new classifier starting with us and she showed me her work on the IMDG Code classifications, calling them UN1950, Aerosols, 2.2 (non-flammable, non-toxic gas). Unfortunately, that’s not allowable to, from or within the U.S. It was really a great learning opportunity for the new classifier, as we compared what the IMDG Code says about aerosols (gas “with or without” something else being pushed out) with what the U.S. 49CFR says about aerosols (gas for the “sole purpose” of ejecting something else). Normally, small differences between 49CFR and international regulations aren’t a big deal, as the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) usually allows us to “just use” the international regulations. However, for some unexplained reason, the DOT put in a special prohibition against the use of the “aerosol” classification for “lone gas” or “pure gas” aerosols any time any portion of a shipment involves the U.S. or U.S. territorial waters. While both of “aerosol-style” containers were ORM-D for U.S. domestic ground shipments, neither one could be UN1950 Aerosols for international ocean shipments starting or ending in the U.S.

I learned several things from the whole process, such as how minor variations in packaging can have major effects upon classifications and how upper management often thinks our work is much simpler than it is. However, the most important lesson I learned is that just because I have (a) gas doesn’t mean I have an aerosol. How about that? Regulatory Speak (or Bureaucratish or Legalese or whatever they wrote the regulations in) isn’t the same as plain English. Who knew? SPRAY