To the average person, regulations surrounding what can and cannot be taken on board an airplane may be excessive. But, to the crew working on board the aircraft and the passengers, it could be a matter of life and death.
And, while it is often thought that these are matters for the police and customs officials, postal workers also play a significant role in ensuring that only ???safe??? items make it into the cargo hole of aircraft.
Common items which may be considered dangerous to commercial airlines include some brands of perfume, alcohol over certain strengths, nail polish and nail polish remover, matches, pesticides, and even aerosols.
Postal Superintendent for the airmail facilities at the Grantley Adams International Airport, James Brathwaite, explained that some of these items fit into the category of dangerous goods or hazardous chemicals. ???Dangerous goods are articles or substances that pose a risk to health, safety, property or the environment,??? he pointed out.
These would include explosives, gases, flammables, liquids, flammable solids, oxidising substances and organic peroxides, toxic and infectious substances, radioactive materials, corrosive and miscellaneous dangerous goods.
Examples of toxic items are pesticides, agricultural chemicals, mercury compounds and bacteria virus, while explosives could include items such as ammunition, blasting chargers, detonators, signal flares and fireworks.
Gases would include items such as aerosol containers, oxygen, nitrogen and chlorine, while oxidising substances, or organic peroxide, comprise powdered bleach, hydrogen peroxide in high concentrate and some form of fertilisers. Household matches used to light stoves are also prohibited onboard aircrafts because of their potential to ignite from the shaking of the plane during flight.
Mr. Brathwaite explained that in some instances, certain types of alcohol, perfumes and paint strippers were also removed from parcels or from a traveller???s luggage because the ???proof level??? (the percentage of alcohol, usually above 80 per cent) was too high, making it dangerous in flight.
He added that the regulations were set out by the International Air Transport Authority (IATA), based in the United States, which was primarily concerned with the safety of airplanes, passengers and staff.
???Therefore any substance at all that would be a threat to the airplane, passengers or staff, they will not allow. Most of these regulations are actually created by them???. Where the Post Office is concerned we have to oblige with these regulations as we have signed onto the various conventions,??? the Postal Superintendent pointed out.
To assist persons in following the protocols, Mr. Brathwaite encouraged those posting parcels to pack them at the post office to allow the officer to see exactly what is going into the package.??He explained that customers would be responsible for opening their own parcels and filling out the fields on the declaration form with assistance if required.??
However, these protocols are not always followed, explained Acting Postal Superintendent for Parcel Post, Vincent Greene. ???We have a lot of false declarations on labels for varying reasons. We get parcels labelled books and when they are opened you will find one book and other materials. In some cases, the package is labelled clothing and when you open it, it is electronic equipment and no clothing at all,??? he said, noting persons did it to hide or escape duties.
And, while the Postal Act makes provisions for the Postmaster General to confiscate materials falsely declared, staff members usually explain to the customer that the sender should always have the correct label attached and declare exactly what is in the parcel.
The postal official stressed that all efforts were under way to educate the public about what were considered to be dangerous goods, and the correct procedures to be followed for sending parcels via the post.
In addition, Mr. Greene noted that the transport industry in general was ???very dynamic???, and stated that there would be further training for post office staff to update them on the relisting of substances. Such training is done by the Universal Postal Union which sets out the guidelines, rules and policies to be followed.