FAA to Slap HazMat Fine on Amazon

FAA Proposes $78,000 Civil Penalty Against Amazon Fulfillment Services

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accuses Amazon Fulfillment Services of North Las Vegas, NV., of violating USDOT Hazmat Regulations during a recent shipment of paint sent to one of their customers. If the proposed fine goes through, a single quart of high gloss enamel paint will wind up costing Amazon $78,000.

According to the press release the FAA just issued, Amazon shipped that quart of paint on August 29, 2013, from Lexington, Ky., to Corpus Christi, Texas, “where workers discovered that leaking paint had soaked through the shipping box.”  

The FAA say:

“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.

Paint is classified as a Hazard Class 3 Flammable Liquid. The same combustibility classification as gasoline. 

The shipment was sent via FedEx. Normally, FedEx require declarations forms and proper packaging and marking of packages for all Hazardous Materials. They refuse to accept shipments which are improperly marked and unaccompanied by the proper paperwork. So how did this happen?

On this occasion, the damage was limited to the leaky box, but it could have been more serious. Further, if shipments are being processed without the proper paperwork and markings, then it could be more than paint sent without proper marking.

Even as paint, it points to an interesting problem with Amazon’s reach and the variety of products they offer to customers.

As it happens, my husband is a painter. Hearing of this fine, he pointed out the curious situation of Michael Harding Cremnitz White paint. This lead paint is highly restricted due to the dangers associated with its use, yet is readily available for purchase at Amazon.co.uk.

Michael Harding's Artists Oil Colours

Responsible art suppliers clearly list the heavy restrictions placed on purchase of this product.

Michael Harding Oil Colour

Read the caveat from Jackson’s Art Supplies UK for this product:

“Please note that due to the ’REACH Enforcement Regulations’ lead based paints may only be purchased for the restoration or maintenance of fine or decorative works of art, historic buildings or their interiors, or scheduled monuments. The full text of the UK legislation is available from www.legislation.gov.uk

A declaration of use must be completed and then approved by the ‘competent body’ before we can provide you with these paints; this may take up to three weeks.”

Even Michael Harding themselves admit that there are a number of UK and EU restrictions which are making the production of this product increasingly difficult.

Yet, with a couple of clicks, Amazon will sell this product without any restrictions or limitations.

Am I getting off the topic of Aviation Safety by pointing this out? I don’t believe so. A proclivity to circumvent regulations, even ones as restrictive as those imposed on this specialised paint, demonstrates a general disregard which could lead to more troublesome shipments. After all, what is $78,000 to Amazon?  It’s hardly a deterrent.

The FAA states that Amazon Fulfillment Services has 30 days to respond to the fine.  

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