An Amazon HazMat Review might be the most frightening notice that an Amazon FBA Seller receives aside from the one that terminates their association with Amazon itself. Horror story after horror story about the Amazon HazMat Review process are being shared in Seller forums by frustrated sellers who use FBA and are confused about how it all works – and when it will end.
What is an Amazon HazMat Review?
HazMat is short for hazardous materials. Amazon itself defines what these dangerous goods are:
“substances or materials that may pose a risk to health, safety, property, or the environment while storing, handling or transporting because they contain flammable, pressurized, corrosive, or otherwise harmful substances.”
These are the goods that may be harmless on a store shelf or a kitchen cabinet, but could become hazardous when subjected to the constant motion and fluctuations in temperature and/or pressure that typically happen during conveyance, storage, handling, and labeling process at FBA centers.
Amazon points out that it is important to identify which products are possibly hazardous so that they would not be putting their “employees, carriers, and customers to potential health and safety risks.”
What’s All the Fuss About?
All these precautionary measures were brought about by a 2014 incident where the FAA slapped a $350,000 fine on Amazon due to the injuries UPS personnel sustained in handling a leaking package from Amazon.
In an earlier incident, Amazon was also fined for shipping corrosive rust remover and a flammable gas without the proper labeling or accompanying documents.
Aside from the shipping issues, people in an Amazon warehouse had to move out due to a near-disastrous incident involving a compromised container full of butane cartridges.
Amazon also has to take steps to protect their connections with other institutions like the insurance that covers their warehouses, the safety of personnel from the diverse carrier services they engage to deliver their products, as well as government regulations.
As a result, Amazon has now reserved the right to subject any product to Amazon HazMat Review, even at the slightest suspicion that it might contain the slightest hint of hazardous materials. Amazon has been continuously updating its HazMat specifications and checking all sellers’ listings to ensure compliance.
The constant checking and aggressive policies are the reason why products that may have passed inspection in the past are now identified for HazMat review.
How is the Amazon HazMat Review Affecting FBA Sellers?
If you are going to introduce a new product for sale or are converting products from FBM to FBA, the product spontaneously undergoes a HazMat review.
Amazon requires the completion of an online form inquiring whether the product is a ‘Dangerous Good’. Even if a seller responds with a “No” on both questions, the Amazon HazMat Review process can be initiated and will last at least 3 business days. If your product is under Amazon HazMat Review and you don’t follow up with support, it could take weeks before your product is released for selling on the marketplace. If Amazon does not hold the product for review, it retains the right to unlist the product at any time in the future.
The Amazon HazMat Review process becomes more confusing and uncertain if the product in question is an existing item being sold on Amazon and has been recently identified as Hazmat. This usually happens because Amazon conducts random reviews on their large database of listings and identifies or marks products according to its HazMat specifications. As a result, you may have your previously approved product flagged, restricted and unavailable for sale at any time.
Amazon HazMat Review validation encompasses a wide array of goods that might be sold as either a private label product or FBA item on Amazon. The full list of products can be found here: Examples of Amazon products that may be regulated as dangerous goods.
When a Product is Under Review
In the first place, it is the responsibility of FBA Sellers to ensure that the products they ship to Amazon fulfillment centers adhere to any legal requirements regarding Hazmat.
If you are given a notice that your product is under HazMat review, do not panic. This simply means that Amazon doesn’t have enough facts about your product to properly classify it. Generally, they just need more details.
To prepare yourself for incidents like this, you need to be fully aware and knowledgeable of the following Amazon resources so that you will be able to reason with Amazon and be able to persuade them that your product is not hazardous:
2. Prior to ordering products, look into any FDA Recalls and Alerts.
3. If you are purchasing merchandise from a source aside from the manufacturer, you need to obtain a sample in order to review its ingredients and materials first hand. You should ask for that information from the manufacturer in advance. Remember that your product will most probably be accepted through human inspection upon being received at a fulfillment center.
4. Read USPS’s restricted items. According to USPS, “Many common household and consumer products cannot be mailed through the US Postal Service. These materials may not be dangerous on your shelf at home, but they may become a hazard when shaken or when exposed to temperature or pressure changes. Additional rules and restrictions apply for items being mailed internationally.”
5. Familiarize yourself with Amazon’s Material Safety Data Sheet(MSDS). Amazon may request that you get product information from the manufacturer (and if you have completed #3 above, then you will already have it on hand).
There are many different types of MSDS sheets depending on what Amazon has established as the reason why your product is under review. In the event you think your product should be exempt because it is a non-hazardous product, there is also an available Amazon MSDS that can be submitted just for that reason.
The HazMat Status Change
Your Seller Account includes a HazMat Status Change Report that you can check for automatic notifications that will appear when products are added to your shipping plan. Also, you will be notified via email regarding any merchandise already in fulfillment centers that is tagged as potentially hazardous. If the time frame stated in the email has already passed, you should contact Seller Support to let them know you have yet to receive a response.
If you take your status as an Amazon seller seriously, the best thing to do when confronted with an Amazon HazMat Review is to prepare for the worst. Most products held for review do pass once the required information is submitted, but know that any product containing dangerous materials can be rejected by Amazon at any time.
It can be a frustrating experience, but knowing why the HazMat policy is in place is at least some consolation. After all, the Amazon HazMat Review process exists to ensure the safety of employees handling these dangerous products.