Specimen transport solutions to ensure compliance

Patient samples such as swabs, blood and excreta fall under the Dangerous Goods Regulations, so their transport from source to the laboratory is strictly controlled. Diagnostic specimens are assigned to UN3373. It is a legal and mandatory requirement that they are packaged according to the Dangerous Goods IATA (air) or ADR (road) Packaging Instruction 650 for transport.



Packaging must be strong and of good quality to withstand vibration or changes in temperature, humidity or pressure encountered during transport. The leak-proof primary receptacle must be contained within leak-proof secondary packaging. One of these must withstand, without leakage, an internal pressure of 95 kPa (0.95 bar). When transporting multiple primary receptacles, they must be individually wrapped or separated. Absorbent material must be placed between the primary receptacle(s) and the secondary packaging in sufficient quantity to absorb the entire contents. ALPHA LABORATORIES can offer training and solutions to ensure compliance. www.un3373.co.uk


How do you package your send-away pathology samples? Are you spending too much time and money on packaging your samples correctly? If you are currently using boxes or PathoPaks and transporting samples by courier or Royal Mail parcel rates, this could be costing you a lot more and taking much longer than necessary.

UN3373 Compliance

The Transport of Dangerous Goods Regulations require patient specimens and other biological samples to be transported according to UN3373 Biological Substance Category B stipulations. Compliance to UN3373 is essential but requires multiple elements that can result in a bulky package. It can also be very time consuming to construct a correctly packaged sample.

3-Layer System for Compliance


1. For road transport, UN3373 compliance requires the leak-proof primary container to be held in a secondary leak-proof container. One of these must be 95kPa compliant.

2. The secondary packaging must include enough absorbent materials to soak up all the contents should leakage occur. When shipping multiple primaries these must be individually wrapped or separated so they do not come into contact with each other. Either the secondary or outer packaging must be rigid to protect the primaries from damage in transit.

3. Finally the outer packaging must contain suitable cushioning material & withstand a 1.2m drop test with no damage to the primary container. It must be clearly marked with the UN3373 diamond adjacent to the words “BIOLOGICAL SUBSTANCE, CATEGORY B”.

Cost Effective UN3373 Compliance

Saving Time and Money on Sample Transport


SpeciSafe® - The Complete Secondary

Packaging Solution

SpeciSafe is a unique all-in-one secondary packaging system that makes adherence to the strict guidelines of UN3373 quick, easy and cost-effective.

■ Contains ultra absorbent material, bonded to the inside of the pack, sufficient to soak up the maximum volume within the primary container(s)

■ Primary 95kPa containers fit into pre-moulded positions so are readily separated from each other

■ The robust SpeciSafe pack provides protection and cushioning

■ It is leak-proof when closed

■ The SpeciSafe is rigid so only requires a flexible outer envelope for road transport


Compare the Costs

By reducing the bulky packaging required for compliant mailing of biological samples, SpeciSafe brings significant cost savings. For example a pack of 5 blood tubes weighs less than 250g and when packaged in SpeciSafe and a UN3373 marked poly envelope, can be mailed at large letter rate, saving £2.05 (first class - Royal Mail prices as published March 2018) compared to the small parcel rate necessary for a bulky package of multiple wrapped tubes.


SpeciSafe® for a Wide Range of Samples

SpeciSafe packs are available in a wide range of design options covering the most commonly used 95kPa sample vessels. This unique packaging concept helps make compliance with the UN3373 packaging instruction easy, using minimal components, and saves you time and money.


SpeciSafe also delivers further benefits:

■ It is very quick and easy to use

■ The transparent front means any leakages from the primary container are easily visible

■ Patient information is easily seen and can be read by barcode readers without unpacking

■ Samples can be posted by Royal Mail at large letter rates which could save over £2 per package, provided the primary container is less than 25mm in diameter and the sample volume does not exceed 50ml

The packaging solution described is suitable for road transport. For air transport using SpeciSafe please see our website: www.alphalabs.co.uk/specisafe-ifu

We have recently updated our website and added a lot of useful resource material to help you with your sample transport compliance and packaging requirements.

Please visit www.un3373.co.uk to find out more.


Case Study

Alpha Laboratories recently introduced a busy pathology department to the unique SpeciSafe® secondary packagingsystem. The team is sending away around 1000 samples every month, that include a mixture of 10.5ml vacutainers, 2ml screw cap tubes and 30ml universal containers.

Time-Consuming Processes These were originally packaged into boxes, which were supplied flat packed. It took up valuable time to assemble the boxes. What’s more this was only one of the components used for packaging. Constructing the multiple layers required for legal compliance took up a lot of precious time.

Financial Savings of 50%
This pathology department ran a pilot test to work out what savings could be made. By introducing SpeciSafe they discovered that around £21,000 can be saved on sample transport costs over the course of a year. This equates to almost 50% of their total spend on send-away samples. The SpeciSafe and accompanying polythene envelopes are cost neutral and the savings come from reduced postal costs, using large letter rates rather than small parcel rates.


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