Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Proper Labelling

A cargo shipment was rejected by Southwest Airlines last week in Little Rock because it didn't meet the labelling requirements. I'm not sure why they didn't just return the package to the shipper, or perhaps it was labelled as to the contents, just not according to the rules. It contained a few dozen human heads. I imagine someone opening the package, a bit of reflex shrieking, then a whole lot of people from all over the operation being summoned to come see. They called 'the authorities,' presumably that means the police, and the police brought the coroner. The heads were on their way to a research and educational facility, so here doesn't seem to be any reason to suspect foul play, but they are investigating to make sure the body parts had been legally obtained.

So there's two things I never thought about before. One, the existence of a black market in severed heads, and two the proper labelling procedure for a shipment of severed heads. I don't have any more information on the former, but an acquaintance in the airline business forwarded me information on the latter.

Your severed heads need to be properly packaged in an outer hardshell container, no particleboard or cardboard, with other packing requirements as outlined in the document linked above. Then you must clearly mark “Biological Substance, Category B” in 6-mm-high text on the outer package, adjacent to a properly sized UN 3373 diamond-shaped marking. It does not appear that the container must also bear the legend Contains Human Heads. So to be on the safe side, just assume all biological specimens are severed heads.

9 comments:

grant said...

Yup - you'd be surprised how many people don't know that. Along with so many other aspects of shipping hazardous materials. I once gave a course in Hazmat and the stories from industry "incidents" would curl your toenails. Like the guy who shipped his explosives in the regular baggage hold of an airliner, but then chartered a learjet for himself! He may be criminally negligent but he ain't stooopid?

Angus said...

So...the improper labeling fiasco has finally come to a head...

Flygirl said...

That's utterly horrifying...
Although I rather like that your response is to figure out how it SHOULD have been labeled. :)

Aviatrix said...

And Angus has a head start on what I expect will be quite the corpus of puns.

Angus said...

...and anyone who thinks they can head off the inevitable puns is just dead wrong...

Anonymous said...

I've heard of pilots deadheading ... I had no idea...

Anonymous said...

Actually, I don't believe the human heads would qualify as UN 3373. I took part in the UN discussions which created the distinction between Category A and Category B Infectious Substances, and the intent of Category B is quite different than human organs or specimens (HIV, hepatitis, etc. all qualify as Category B).

If you look in the ICAO Technical Instructions (Part 2, Classification), Chapter 6 (Infectious Substances), there are exceptions for certain items. I believe human heads would fall under the following:

6.3.2.3.6 Patient specimens for which there is minimal likelihood that pathogens are present are not subject to these Instructions if the specimen is transported in a packaging which will prevent any leakage and which is marked with the words “Exempt human specimen” or “Exempt animal specimen”, as appropriate.

There are some additional packaging requirements, but the requirements for UN 3373 do not apply.

Ward said...

Southwest must've been concerned about headwinds.

zb said...

A dear friend of mine did research on artificial hip joints while he was still studying. He told me that one would not really want to know where and how the research folks obtained the human body parts they used in their work. Long story short: There is a black market.