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Amazon Faces $350K Fine For Shipping 'Amazing Liquid Fire' (computerworld.com) 202

An anonymous reader writes: The FAA has ruled that Amazon will face a $350,000 fine for shipping a one-gallon container of "Amazing Liquid Fire" by air. The corrosive drain cleaner was sent by air from Louisville, Kentucky, to Boulder, Colorado, on October 15, 2014. The container leaked during transit and nine UPS employees came into contact with the chemical, which caused a "burning sensation on their skin" that had to be treated with a chemical wash. According to Computerworld, "The FAA ruled the shipment wasn't packaged properly, wasn't accompanied by a declaration of dangerous goods, and was not properly marked or labeled as a hazardous package. It also said Amazon didn't provide emergency response information with the package and had not provided hazardous material training to employees who handled the package." The FAA said in a statement, "Amazon has a history of violating the Hazardous Materials Regulations." They apparently violated the rules 24 other times.
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Amazon Faces $350K Fine For Shipping 'Amazing Liquid Fire'

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  • Slap on the wrist (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 13, 2016 @10:33PM (#52312551)

    This fine is nothing to a company like Amazon. It's a slap on the wrist rather than a significant penalty.

    • Proportionality (Score:5, Insightful)

      by golodh ( 893453 ) on Tuesday June 14, 2016 @02:43AM (#52313351)
      It's called proportionality. Amazon sends millions of packages, but were caught out breaking safety rules about 24 times.

      You don't want to kill Amazon, just make it comply. I'd say that 350 K for a single transgression will get their attention. If not, the next penalty will be higher.

      • You don't want to kill Amazon,

        Why not? If they're not willing to obey the law, and endanger the health of their employees and the public just so they can save money, then they need killing. It's not like they're doing anything vital.

        • and endanger the health of their employees

          Actually, it was UPS employees that had to be treated. I suspect that he Amazon ones that required treatment kept quiet about it.

      • 24 items out of millions and we're ready to tar and feather them already? Damn, tough crowd.

    • That wouldn't be a slap on the wrist - and is self regulating

      • Um, Bezos draws $1 in salary each year.

        The company does pay for a personal security service for him, but the company's annual reports don't show that as very much ($1-2M, I think?). So even if you include benefits like that, it won't be much of a fine in Amazon's case.

  • by Imrik ( 148191 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @10:44PM (#52312605) Homepage

    They didn't violate the rules 24 other times, they got caught 24 other times. I would be surprised if the packages leak more than 1% of the time so they've probably violated the rules thousands of times at least.

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday June 14, 2016 @12:59AM (#52313113)
      The important figure would be number of violations per 100,000 packages shipped. Not raw number of packages in violation.

      Number of times they got caught vs. the number of times they got away with it is mostly irrelevant. Since other people/companies shipping hazardous materials will probably have a similar ratio of times caught to times they got away with it. So you can just compare the easy-to-determine number of times caught per 100,000 shipments across companies, and that'll give you pretty much the same ranking order as the much-harder-to-determine number of times they got away with it per 100,000 shipments.
      • by geoskd ( 321194 )

        The important figure would be number of violations per 100,000 packages shipped. Not raw number of packages in violation.

        That number needs to be further refined to the number of violations per number of hazardous packages shipped. i.e. what percentage of the time were they doing it right, and what percentage of the time were they doing it wrong. Hazardous packages make up only a tiny fraction of Amazons business, so you shouldn't count any of the non-hazardous packages in the determination. When you do that, you will discover that Amazon is improperly shipping hazardous materials 100% of the time. That is because hazardous sh

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Bob_Who ( 926234 )

      Right you are. Make 'em pay. Hit them so hard they never, ever think its worth the risk of getting caught again. Mega-corps of this magnitude need to be hit in magnitudes greater so that they never fudge again. They only commit these crimes when its profitable. We just make sure it never is, and suddenly it stops, or they just go out of business. Simple.

      • Are these number of times a lot? Or is it a drop in the bucket? Is someone political out to get Amazon for not making their donations for the year?

    • It sure doesn't seem accidental, and intentional mis-shipping of hazmat is Serious Business:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      I've even heard of someone who (allegedy) got locked up because he ground-shipped sodium to Alaska, not realizing that in Alaska even ground packages go by air.

      • I've even heard of someone who (allegedy) got locked up because he ground-shipped sodium to Alaska, not realizing that in Alaska even ground packages go by air.

        There is ground shipping to/through AK... but not everywhere, and not all year

        • by geoskd ( 321194 )

          There is ground shipping to/through AK... but not everywhere, and not all year

          And even ground shipped hazardous materials need to be properly labeled. In his case, the labeling should have included the designation ORMD (other regulated material), which would have precluded the transportation company from putting the item on a plane. There are far too many people out there who think you can just put anything you want in a box and ship it. That is why, when you bring a pre-packed box to a carrier to ship it, you have to play 20 questions. The Carriers learned long ago that the general

    • This whole issue is bogus. Search for this item on Amazon; look at the details. It's handled and shipped by one of Amazon's partner companies, not shipped by Amazon. How is this Amazon's fault? Is Amazon supposed to police every mom-and-pop that is essentially using Amazon as its marketplace?
  • Amazon can just pass the blame to the 3rd party staffing firms at the shipping centers at least some did not die / a plane did not start on fire. They need to fine all party's and not let amazon hide under some 3rd party / sub contractors?

    remember ValuJet Flight 592?

    • by DaHat ( 247651 )

      Amazon can just pass the blame to the 3rd party staffing firms at the shipping centers

      Doubtful. I'm pretty sure a company the size of Amazon knows everything in it's inventory and internally tags items requiring special care as such, to not do so puts them at significant risk should an unlabeled box of lithium batteries happens to cause a ValuJet 592 like incident.

      • by nnull ( 1148259 ) on Tuesday June 14, 2016 @02:29AM (#52313303)
        You haven't been to Amazon's secret 3rd party suppliers then who masquerade as "Amazon warehouse". Amazon likes to keep this a big secret and not let anyone known. Even the owners aren't allowed to speak about it, but the places I visit who warehouse my stuff, I see the Amazon labels being printed and handling Amazon orders. They're not the brightest people of the bunch (Low skilled minimum wage labor, you think they give a damn what gets shipped?) and Amazon doesn't really have any control of them or what they do (Underpaid management), at least from what I can see. So yeah, I more than likely believe hazardous material is being shipped by Amazon all the time without them notifying anyone.

        And if you think Amazon demands they abide to a certain standard, yeah, good luck. I can't even get these warehouse guys to do it and keep proper inventory. They'll nod their heads, yeah yeah, but the reality is, low paid workers really don't care, but when you need the warehouse space, you really don't have much choice in the matter (They're all like this).
        • And if you think Amazon demands they abide to a certain standard, yeah, good luck. I can't even get these warehouse guys to do it and keep proper inventory.

          The software should handle it when printing labels. They shouldn't have to think.

    • by geoskd ( 321194 )

      Amazon can just pass the blame to the 3rd party staffing firms at the shipping centers

      That is precisely why we need to end limited liability shielding. Forget about what Amazon did or did not know. Make it their job to know, and then they are culpable when something happens because they either knew and didn't care, or didn't know and should have. Get rid of this idiotic gray area of "we didn't know"

      Our legal system long ago had to solve this same basic problem, and the solution was simplicity itself: Ignorance of the law is not a defense.

  • by GumphMaster ( 772693 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @10:50PM (#52312633)
    If enough leaked to affect 9 employees handling the box after the flight then there's a reasonable possibility that the escaped liquid now poses a corrosion hazard to the aircraft structure. UPS should send them the bill for the complete inspection and overhaul of the affected areas of the aircraft used to transport it. Perhaps that will be more than the fine.
    • If enough leaked to affect 9 employees handling the box after the flight then there's a reasonable possibility that the escaped liquid now poses a corrosion hazard to the aircraft structure. UPS should send them the bill for the complete inspection and overhaul of the affected areas of the aircraft used to transport it. Perhaps that will be more than the fine.

      You say that because Amazon is a rich company. Suppose an old grandmother ships something to someone and doesn't properly fill out the form declaring hazardous materials and similar damage was done. Would you suggest UPS go after her for damages to the aircraft? Double standards shouldn't apply just because a party is wealthy.

      • by Bob_Who ( 926234 )

        Double standards shouldn't apply just because a party is wealthy.

        What? No double standards? Sign me up ! Which galaxy and star date is this place?

      • by ShaunC ( 203807 ) on Tuesday June 14, 2016 @09:52AM (#52314969)

        Suppose an old grandmother ships something to someone and doesn't properly fill out the form declaring hazardous materials and similar damage was done. Would you suggest UPS go after her for damages to the aircraft?

        That depends. Is the grandmother incorporated? Does she make decisions at the behest of her shareholders' best interests ($$)? Is it likely that her decision to disregard regulations was driven by a profit motive? Is shipping packages a substantial portion of her daily activity? Does she have, or have a legal obligation to have, employees or consultants who are familiar with shipping regulations?

        Double standards shouldn't apply just because a party is wealthy.

        Perhaps not, but it's long been established that double standards do apply when you're running a business, whether it's wealthy or not. I can refuse to let people with seeing eye dogs into my home, but I can't refuse to let them into my business. I can get in my personal car with state minimum insurance and drive for 30 straight hours, but a Wal-Mart tractor trailer driver must carry a much larger insurance policy and is federally limited as to how many hours he can be on the road. When you set up shop and hang out your shingle to the public, you accept a different standard of risk and regulation than a private individual like the old grandmother.

      • small mistake vs a big company system that fails to train workers / flag stuff as hazmat / flag stuff as ground only / has a quota system that does not count for things that can take X5-X10 times the time needed to do it safe.

  • Negligence ! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by invictusvoyd ( 3546069 ) on Monday June 13, 2016 @10:55PM (#52312659)
    Imagine a drone doing that delivery !
  • I think that's the green stuff Tyrion Lannister used to destroy Stannis Baratheon's navy.

  • by guardiangod ( 880192 ) on Tuesday June 14, 2016 @12:38AM (#52313035)

    As mentioned elsewhere, on Amazing Liquid Fire's Amazon page, it is frequently bought with "Red Hot Devil Lye" (Sodium Hydroxide).

    If both substances come in contact during transit on a plane...things would get very exciting very quickly.

    • Sodium Hydroxide is also used in many different "recipes" as an extraction agent for making chemicals like DMT.
    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      They're bought together as they're common chemicals used in making bathtub crank and methamphetamines. They're used as catalytic reagents quite often in attempts to produce anhydrous ammonia for manufacture of meth specifically.

      There's almost no other reason to buy those two things together.

  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Tuesday June 14, 2016 @01:01AM (#52313121)

    My Diet Coke can't make it past airport security but something named "Amazing Liquid Fire" can?

  • by nbritton ( 823086 ) on Tuesday June 14, 2016 @01:22AM (#52313165)

    Meh, that stuff is weak. When my sinks clog I use fuming hydrochloric acid.

    I'm not kidding. [homedepot.com]

    • why?

      I just use boiling hot laundry bleach. Cheap, does not get you on a government watch list, and does the job fast.

      Unless your slow drain is in a fast food place, or a kitchen that uses too much fat. Then you should consider installing a grease trap. Bleach wont do anything to fat, but then again, neither will concentrated HCl. Hydroxides will, but those get you on watch lists, and damage pipes.

      • by afidel ( 530433 )

        does not get you on a government watch list,

        Who cares about being on a watch list? I've been on them since the early 1990's, being interested in explosives and cryptography tends to lead that way. Hasn't kept me from working for a defense contractor or one of the largest law firms in the country. As long as I avoid doing anything overtly illegal there's nothing they can really do except come and talk to me and file a report which might or might not get brought up during a security interview (my first one di

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        " Bleach wont do anything to fat, but then again, neither will concentrated HCl. Hydroxides will, but those get you on watch lists, and damage pipes."

        Wrong. Bleach in fact destroys lipid (fat) membranes of bacteria - that's why we use it to sterilize surfaces and food handling equipment..

        And concentrated HCl (Muriatic acid up to like 12 mol) most certainly dissolves fat, as fat is a lipid hydrocarbon and HCl breaks hydrocarbon chains.

        I can tell you've never worked with any of this stuff in any serious capac

        • We must be thinking of different substances. Laundry bleach is sodium hypochlorate. Its primary method of action is chemical oxidation. When you oxidize most lipids, they form complex branching polymers. That wont wash them down the pipe, it will harden them into resin.

          Treating them with hydroxide, however, will cause exchange of the fatty acid head with the sodium, making the complex able to form stable mycelles which can be suspended in the water as a colloid.

          Bleach destroys hair and protien by decomposi

  • Did these UPS employees think it was amazing liquid fire? If not then there is some kind of truth in advertising charge to be answered too.
  • I thought they called that Napalm.

    Next time they skip UPS and deliver by Amazon drone.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • . . . .because I was on a team that made software to do just that.

    In 2000.

    It was a plug-in to standard shipping systems, that printed labels, generated paperwork, and specified packaging, based on the MSDS of the chemical, the size and type of the container, method of transport, and destination. . . .

    And we were not the only solution in the market. . .

  • Amazon is rapidly becoming just a bazaar of sketchy products and even sketchier vendors. Just last night I was reading about some OTC eye ointment. Three of the reviews were 1 star, pointing out what they received was actually product that had already been recalled due to quality issues (like shards of glass in my eyes, was one reviewers phrase).

    But since it wasn't directly provided by Amazon, they seem to see their role now more as an ISP (hey, not our problem; caveat emptor).

    I suspect shady crap like
    • I once bought an OBD2 scanner from Amazon and when I got it, it was clear that the thing was a cheap Chinese knockoff with pirated firmware. You would expect that sort of thing on eBay, but Amazon surprised me.

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        "You would expect that sort of thing on eBay, but Amazon surprised me."

        Just like ebay, anyone can sell just about anything on Amazon. Why the fuck would you NOT expect this sort of thing where you can't verify by visiting the physical location yourself?

      • If Trump really wanted an effective attack on Oh My God That Is A Terrifying Laugh Bezos, he would focus on this, as it would strike a cord with a good chunk of the US populace.

        Actually, I hope he doesn't as the thought of him being POTUS is more scary than even Jeff.
    • Amazon, they seem to see their role now more as an ISP

      And if it was fulfilled by Amazon, there's no way for the vendor to cooperate with the recall without Amazon's help. I bet Amazon wouldn't even assist with that. I generally don't buy on Amazon unless it's at least fulfilled by Amazon, but that's mostly because of the shipping (both quality and speed).

    • Once I ordered an office chair and received a bobcat instead.

  • Try buying a pair of Apple Earpods - something like 90-100% of the items listed when I searched for "Apple Earpods" are knockoff brands that fall apart or have horrible dynamic range (even compared to the mediocre performance earpods). I'm surprised Apple hasn't (or can't) come down on Amazon like a ton of bricks for enabling such fraudulent listings/sales.

    I sure as hell don't buy Apple stuff on Amazon anymore; I wonder if some of the other stuff I bought was really branded or a knock off.

    • by wbo ( 1172247 )
      Are they actually sold by Amazon or are you simply seeing listing on the Amazon Marketplace? Most of the time when I see stuff like that on Amazon, the items are listed and sold by a marketplace seller - not Amazon directly.

      Almost anyone can setup an Amazon Marketplace account and list almost anything they want for sale (much like eBay's Buy It Now option). Marketplace sellers can put up new listings at almost any time.

      If Amazon receives enough complaints for a particular marketplace seller (selling
      • Are they actually sold by Amazon or are you simply seeing listing on the Amazon Marketplace? Most of the time when I see stuff like that on Amazon, the items are listed and sold by a marketplace seller - not Amazon directly.

        Almost anyone can setup an Amazon Marketplace account and list almost anything they want for sale (much like eBay's Buy It Now option). Marketplace sellers can put up new listings at almost any time.

        If Amazon receives enough complaints for a particular marketplace seller (selling counterfeit goods for example) they have been known to disable the seller's account and pull all of their items from sale. The problem is, new sellers often pop up faster than they can be removed.

        I have a hard time seeing how fraudulently labeled "Amazon Marketplace" is different from say, Walmart putting same items on their retail shelves. In both cases, the retailer (Amazon/Walmart) is collecting the cash before the vendor/seller is actually getting the payment for the product.

        Essentially, Amazon gets to poison the well for stuff they can't directly compete with, and compete unfairly with their own vendors (see Rain Design).

        In both cases, it's unclear what Rain Design or Apple could do to preve

    • I really wish that Amazon would do away with the other sellers. Put them off on another domain where they can be searched separately for those people who still want to use them. It's very disingenuous to show all the stuff that comes on the slow boat from China from some random manufacturer mixed in with the stuff that's sold directly from Amazon and usually delivered within 3.

      • by rsborg ( 111459 )

        I really wish that Amazon would do away with the other sellers. Put them off on another domain where they can be searched separately for those people who still want to use them. It's very disingenuous to show all the stuff that comes on the slow boat from China from some random manufacturer mixed in with the stuff that's sold directly from Amazon and usually delivered within 3.

        Doesn't matter - the earpods I saw on Amazon were "prime one-day" deliverable - doubt that's coming from some slow-boat. It's being held in-state for delivery to me (through Amazon's fulfillment centers). It's so close to actually being retailed by Amazon that it's ridiculous they get to just say they're "other vendors". IN fact, those are being resold by being on Amazon's site.

  • To be fined a really large amount, like half a billion dollars, your company would have to do something monstrous like Google advertising low-cost online prescriptions:
    https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr... [justice.gov]

  • Really, really poor choice of product name on the part of Liqui-Fire people.
    Apparently they know it, too. [woodsmansi...tional.com]

    Doesn't excuse Amazon; just points out the fact you need to confirm.

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