Life’s easy when you know for sure …
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) definition is clear and decisive when you know for sure that your shipment contains pathogens.
In other words, if your shipment does contain pathogens, you don’t have a choice and you’ll evidently choose Classification Category A or B.
For your immediate reference, we’ve created a printable infographic. Click this link to open and download WHO 6.2 Infectious Biologicals Classification | Infographic.
And if you did not get to read our introductionary article about shipping biological substances, please check it out here Shipping infectious biological substances – Are you reckless or overcautious? (1/3)?
The “Boy who cried wolf” syndrome …
Unfortunately, many shipments are over-classified.
Consistently declaring biological materials as infectious when they are not, has at least two negative consequences:
- By continuously overstating your case, you decrease vigilence and, therefore, make shipping less safe than it could be.
- You inflate your company’s cost and induce longer delivery delays.
In fact, did you know that it is against the regulations to misclassify commodities, even as a precaution?
So, what IS the best way to classify? Let us take you for a quick tour.
The Tutorial – Shipping Biological substances.
Lesson 2. – The secret’s in the Classification.
Scenario 1: When nobody really knows …
You need to ship a human specimen, say blood, which has not been tested for pathogens, i.e. little is known of the medical condition of the person providing the sample.
The regulations allow for subjective medical judgment based on known facts and scientific or medical opinion.
Unfortunately, such a judgement is not always available, or people are reluctant to commit.
This leads – quite naturally – to shippers going for what they think is the road of caution: the UN3373 classification.
That’s fair enough, but be aware that UN3373 Classification comes at a cost!
1. Some airlines will not accept Category B shipments. Examples: Lufthansa and Air France.
With a restricted choice of airlines, rapid and direct transport to and from areas best served by those airlines is not possible.
2. All airlines take extra time and extra care when it comes to inspecting Category B UN3373 shipments. This results, more often than not, in longer transport times due to shipping and customs delays. In the worst case, delays can lead to the spoilage of the shipped commodities.
3. Classified shipments require time consuming preparation time by selected and trained staff – which results in higher shipping cost.
Scenario 2: The non-believers who pretend …
Another typical consequence of an over-classified shipment is inconsistency, because the staff involved doesn’t – in their heart of hearts – consider the shipment as Category B.
This leads, for example, to shippers labelling the package as Category B and quite amazingly, composing the invoice or airway bill by saying something like: “tissue sample, not infectious”.
Lack of consistency spells trouble with customs and airlines staff, creates delays and wastes everyone’s time.
An explicit wording for a correctly classified shipment (see the next chapter entitled “The Third Way”) could be:
“Human cornea, non-infectious, not restricted”
The Third (Smart) Way.
The third way is about being aware of and having a clear understanding of the rules & regulations in vigour.
Result: each shipment will yield the safest AND most cost effective solution.
According to IATA Exceptions 126.96.36.199.3 of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) manual, it’s perfectly acceptable to ship a biological commodity as non-infectious if it is known not to contain pathogens or is unlikely to contain them.
For your convenience and easy reference.
Run through our 4-step checklist before declaring your shipment as category B.
Get a medical judgement as to whether or not it is likely that the commodity contains an infectious substance.
There is no requirement to be totally sure. The regulations recognize that a clear “black and white” determination cannot always be made.
If the scientists/doctors think (based on accepted medical/scientific principles) that a DNA sample cannot reasonably contain such a pathogen, then it is not infectious.
For example, if the shipment is made up of a human cornea sent to a lab for initial compatibility testing (in view of transplantation), and if the donor is unlikely to have an infectious disease, then it is really OK to classify your shipment as non-infectious.
If the samples come from oncology patients who are not known to have an infectous disease, then it is not infectious.
If a given commodity contains infectious pathogens – for example human blood samples taken from patients with HIV, HPV, Hepatitis C, then infectious Category B, UN3373 applies.
And most importantly, there are many commodities that meet the Exceptions 188.8.131.52.3 section of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) manual, such as blood and blood products intended for transfusion, or substances which do not contain infectious pathogens, or which in any case will not cause disease in humans or animals.
Click on the image to download the 4-step checklist PDF file, ready for print.
In a nutshell …
Once a judgment has been made, or in the case of a lack of such judgment (for example if medical advice is not available), the regulations on how to proceed are fairly clear.
.You have 3 choices:
1. Apply the infectious category A
2. Apply the infectious category B
3. Go for the non-infectious Third (Smart) Way.
As previously mentioned, use consistent wording across all paperwork destined to the airline and government agencies. This avoids delays, cost and spoilage.
About the “Shipping Biological Substances” Tutorials
We give you 3 Lessons, spanning over 3 separate articles.
In Lesson 1, Article 1/3, we set the scene by providing a recap of essential labelling and packaging regulations.
In Lesson 2 (above), you discover easy to use action steps that guide you through smart Classification.
Lesson 3, Article 3/3 – “Smart Classification. A case study” (yet to be published), presents a concrete example which unveils the process we use at N/V Logistics to achieve optimal classification.
Whilst we strive to make our articles and tutorials as accurate as possible, NV Logistics SA cannot be held responsible for any changes in rules & regulations initiated by various worldwide organisations, including governments and others.
Surf picture above by the courtesy of John Harvey, Flickr