What is a DOT-Approved Container?

Understanding healthcare waste container labels is key to keeping your medical facility compliant with DOT standards. Each medical waste container has markings that confirm the degree of danger it contains and to determine how it should be handled. TriHaz Solutions will guide you through the proper packaging steps for your facility’s medical waste to ensure safety and compliance.

Healthcare Waste Packaging

When transporting healthcare waste for treatment or disposal, it is important to ensure your medical facility uses proper packaging. Certain waste streams managed in the healthcare environment require the use of independently tested and Department of Transportation (DOT) approved containers.

The DOT outlines in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (Link – 49 CFR) requirements for the transport of hazardous materials. The summary below covers the 4 proper packaging steps for your facility’s medical waste.

Hazardous Materials Table

The staff member that packs and prepares your office’s healthcare waste for transportation is responsible for determining a lot of detailed information about your waste. First, he/she must identify the proper Shipping Name and UN Identification Number for the waste being collected and packaged for transportation. Based on this information, your packager must reference the Hazardous Material Table to find the details of the transportation packaging requirements. Below are the details outlined in the Hazardous Materials Table which covers regulated medical waste, UN3291. The complete Hazardous Materials Table is in Section 172.101 of 49 CFR. (Link – 49 CFR Sec 172.101).

Here is a breakout of each column in the table with information to help you determine what goes in each column.


What is a DOT Approved Container

A DOT-approved container refers to a packaging or container that meets the safety standards established by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) for transporting hazardous materials. The DOT sets regulations to ensure the safe and secure transportation of various types of materials, including hazardous chemicals, flammable liquids, gases, and other potentially dangerous items, across different modes of transport such as road, rail, air, and sea.

DOT approval indicates that a container complies with the relevant regulations found in the Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR), which covers the transportation of hazardous materials. This ensures that the containers are safe for use in their intended applications and are capable of mitigating risks associated with the transportation of hazardous materials.

DOT Approved Containers

Packaging Groups referenced in column (5) of the Hazardous Materials Table address the degree of danger presented by the hazardous material. Containers are certified by a third-party testing facility to the DOT standards established for each Packaging Group: I, II, and III. Testing involves drop tests, puncture resistance, leak resistance, stack testing, vibration testing, stability testing, handle strength testing, and hydrostatic pressure testing.

There are three levels of Packaging Groups. DOT specifies PG I, II, or III with an equivalent UN packaging mark:


In general, Regulated Medical Waste requires the use of Packaging Group II rated containers (PGII) are required for regulated medical waste, which is specified in column 5. Special provisions and exceptions do apply, as outlined in the Hazardous Materials Table columns 7-10.

DOT Approved Containers for Hazardous Waste

Independent testing facilities utilize Closure Instructions provided by the package manufacturer or distributor in preparation for testing the package.  In turn, the manufacturer or distributor is required to include Closure Instructions with each shipment of DOT-rated packaging. The end user is then expected to follow the details outlined in the Closure Instructions for final package closure prior to shipment.   

Before shipping any healthcare waste, ensure that you have determined the hazardous material status of the waste stream and the compliant level of outer packaging to be used for transportation. Stay compliant and be safe!


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