Transportation and Shipping of Biological Materials

The transportation of infectious substances within Canada is regulated by the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act (1992, c.34) and its Regulations (TDG) (SOR/2017-137), administered by Transport Canada. Transport Canada defines classification, labeling, packaging and the documentation requirements necessary for shipping dangerous goods including but not limited to human and animal pathogens, diagnostic specimens, genetically modified plants or organisms, toxins, and dry ice within Canada. The Regulations also require that any individual transporting an infectious substance be trained in the transportation of dangerous goods (infectious substances).

In order to comply with Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and Regulations and International Air Transportation Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations, persons who prepare hazardous materials for shipment (including shipping papers) or who transport hazardous materials in commerce must complete training in accordance with the requirements of these transportation safety authorities. The person who is signing the shipping document is the consignor. In TDG, a consignor is defined as:

  • A person in Canada who is named in the shipping document as the consignor;
  • A person who imports or who will import dangerous goods into Canada;
  • or if the previous do not apply, has possession of dangerous goods immediately before they are in transport.

It is the responsibility of the consignor to prepare and give a shipping document to the carrier or an electronic copy, if the carrier agrees. If the consignor is an importer of dangerous goods, then he or she must make sure that the carrier has a shipping document prior to the dangerous goods being transported in Canada. The consignor is required to be trained and must have a valid training certificate (valid for 2 years). The training certificate must be signed by the employer.

In order to obtain a training certificate, the trainee must successfully complete a test to demonstrate their knowledge of training materials as it relates to their shipping function. Then the trainee will receive a certificate of training specific for the class of materials they may ship. In order for this certificate to meet all required elements under the transportation safety regulations, the trainee’s supervisor must also sign the certificate to acknowledge that the person has demonstrated that they can apply the required packaging and documentation practices as they relate to their shipments. Because of this, it is advisable that either the PI or a lab manager who may sign training certificates also complete this training to be fully aware of the requirements, regardless of whether they will be shipping materials themselves.

Through its membership of the Network of Networks (N2— a national initiative that brings together multiple existing disease networks, institutions, hospitals, and universities to enhance Canada’s research capability and capacity) the University is able to provide free access for faculty, staff, and students a comprehensive course for Transportation of Dangerous Goods/International Air Transport Association (TDG/IATA). This online course covers Class 6.2 and Class 9 under TDG, and covers also IATA regulation for air shipment. This online training is available from the CITI Program course webpage.

First time enrolment instructions for CITI courses

Go to the CITI Program course page

Once a trainee completes the training, CITI provides a document of course completion, which is NOT a TDG certificate. In order to obtain the TDG certificate, the CITI course completion document must be sent to the Senior Biosafety Officer, who will validate all information and provide the TDG certificate. The TDG certificate is valid for a period of 2 years.

Please contact the University Biosafety Office if biological materials are to be shipped from the University of Toronto.