In the [recent], there have been two incidents at U-M where principal investigators have shipped materials inappropriately and pulled the attention of the inspectors from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
In one case, a package was caught on inspection at the Detroit Metro Airport leaking water - from ice that was used inappropriately as a refrigerant. The researcher was untrained and unaware of the proper methods of purchasing and using refrigerative overpacks to protect their specimens in transit.
In another case, a shipment of hazardous materials that was properly prepared for shipment was caught on random inspection and the investigation revealed that the shipper (U-M research employee) had not been properly trained as required by the regulations.
In both cases, what could have been a citation and fine structure that starts in the $10,000 range was reduced to a warning, as U-M has very good awareness level outreach and certification training provided to the research community upon request.
In most cases, when these requirements are not followed, the package will not be accepted by the carrier picking them up; as they've been well-trained to carefully inspect packages and spot when things don't seem quite right.
Since the FAA inspectors may not be so kind the next time they visit our campus, please be aware that any research employee who intends to ship a hazardous material -- including biological specimens -- must be trained on the appropriate methods of preparing packages, labeling, marking, and manifesting.
Online guidance [pdf] can be reviewed on the OSEH website. Training on DOT shipping requirements can be provided by OSEH if you call 734-763-6973.