FAA Proposes Fine Against Amazon
If you’re like me, you may have jumped to the same assumption that this had something to do with the proposed Amazon Prime Air (delivery drones) which, according to Amazon, the FAA is “actively working on rules and an approach for unmanned aerial vehicles that will prioritize public safety.” But alas, the violation described in the FAA Press Release below is for an Amazon fail for a paint shipping.

FORT WORTH, Texas – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a $78,000 civil penalty against Amazon Fulfillment Services of North Las Vegas, Nev., for allegedly violating U.S. Department of Transportation Hazardous Materials Regulations.

The FAA alleges that on August 29, 2013, Amazon Fulfillment Services shipped a quart of high gloss enamel paint on a FedEx Corp. aircraft from Lexington, Ky., to Corpus Christi, Texas, where workers discovered that leaking paint had soaked through the shipping box. Paint is considered to be a Hazard Class 3 Flammable Liquid.

Flammable liquids, including paint, are among the hazardous materials not allowed to be sold by Fulfillment By Amazon... and for good reason.

Flammable liquids, including paint, are among the hazardous materials not allowed to be sold by Fulfillment By Amazon… and for good reason.

Investigators determined the shipment was not accompanied by shipping papers to indicate the hazardous nature of its contents and it was not marked, labeled or packed in accordance with the Hazardous Materials Regulations. The box also contained no hazardous material inner packing, such as inserts or absorbent materials. Finally, the package failed to protect against a release of hazardous material into the environment under normal transportation conditions.

Amazon Fulfillment Services has 30 days from the receipt of the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

Who Is To Blame?
While the FAA is pointing its finger at Amazon Fulfillment Services, is IT really the one to blame for this mishap? In other words, could the product have been allegedly packaged by a third-party, but later shipped by Amazon?

In case you didn’t know, Amazon provides a service which allows you to sell on Amazon and ship the sold items to the buyers yourself, or send all your widgets to Amazon and it will store and ship them for you (for a little bigger bite of the profits, of course). Let’s look at the Amazon polices under “Fulfillment By Amazon” (FBA) (my emphasis):

Hazardous Materials

In addition, materials that pose a health risk due to toxic chemicals or volatile substances are not permitted. For a complete list of products restricted in our fulfillment center, see our Product Restrictions and Packaging Requirements page.

Under the FBA page on Hazardous Materials, Dangerous Units, and FBA Prohibited Products page, it includes product not permitted (my emphasis):

Products that are regulated as a hazardous material by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). This includes, but is not limited to, explosives, compressed gases or aerosols, flammable liquids or solids, oxidizers, poisons and corrosive materials. Please refer to the Hazardous Materials Identification Guide for additional information on Amazon policy regarding Hazardous Materials.

The Guide includes “paints” and “spray paints” as products that cannot be processed by FBA.

Leave the HazMat shipping to the pros... or your package might end up on the news!

Leave the HazMat shipping to the pros… or your package might end up on the news!

Further Thoughts
So, must the leaky paint have come from (i.e. was (improperly) packaged by) Amazon itself?

Does this happen often? That is, does the occurrence of the combination of (1) a failed or defective packing job + (2) improper labeling/marking/papers to give proper warning, resulting in a dangerous situation of some degree occur more often than we might think?


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