Considerations in the packaging and transport of specimens in Canada

Transportation of laboratory specimens is regulated by the Canadian Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations.

We recommend that everyone involved in this process be well read on the guidelines provided by that group.

Packaging & Transport can be broken down into a few areas.

Majority of Specimens

To ensure public safety, please use a three-part packing system:



Leak-proof primary specimen container. Please ensure that lid is tightly secured.

Examples: blood collection tubes, urine cups, eSwabs, SurePathTM cytology specimens




Leak-proof secondary packaging — a sealable plastic bag with one patient's specimens per bag.

Example: Zip lock specimen bag with a requisition pocket. This bag may have a biohazard symbol on one side.




Rigid outer packaging to protect the specimen containers if the package is dropped.

Examples: cardboard box, plastic tool box, specimen cooler


Put completed requisition(s) in the outside pocket of the biohazard bag containing the corresponding, properly labeled specimen(s).

Label package as Exempt human specimens. If waybill is required, declare shipment as Exempt human specimens.

Ensure destination address and shipper's address are correct, complete and legible on the outer package.

Specimens requiring refrigeration: Put a frozen ice pack in the outer package to help maintain temperature. Use cushioning material (e.g. bubblewrap, cardboard) to separate the specimen(s) and the ice pack.

Specimens requiring freezing: Transport on dry ice, whenever possible. Ensure that the outer packaging has sufficient space or permeability to safely handle the gas discharge from the dry ice. Ensure that the outer package includes a label related to the dry ice as required by regulations: the words 'Dry ice'', the UN number 'UN1845' and the weight of dry ice in kilograms.


Infectious Specimens


Most laboratory specimens are classified as exempt human specimens.

If a specimen is known or suspected to contain a pathogen that is a category A or category B infectious substance as defined by Canadian Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations, please follow the additional packaging requirements outlined in the regulations. Please contact the DynaLIFE occupational health and safety department at 780-451-3702 or 800-661-9876 if you require further information.

Not all airlines or couriers will transport category A or category B infectious substances. Please contact your airline or courier for information.

Please write TDG Category A or TDG Category B in the comment section of the requisition(s) that is accompanying the specimen(s).

Larger Specimens in Formalin


To ensure public safety, please use a three-part packing system as outlined above.

For large specimens, an additional leak-proof layer of packaging and additional absorbent material are required to ensure that the specimen does not leak during transport.

For very large specimens, please contact anatomic pathology department at 780-451-3702 or 800-661-9876 for additional information.

For smaller tissue specimens in formalin, please follow the instructions for using the Formalock™ pre-filled formalin containers to ensure optimal specimen quality.

We offer Transportation Services

For those not equipped to handle it, we can handle the logistics and remove the worry. Logistics representatives pick up and deliver laboratory specimens, laboratory reports, collection suppies and blood products. Our transportation schedule includes medical clinics, hospitals, extended care facilities and patient care centres.


Please call the home collections office before collecting the specimens to make arrangements.


When requesting uninsured services testing (e.g. employement related, insurance related, naturopathic), companies are responsible for transport of the specimens that they collect. Use of an overnight courier is recommended.


APL Logistics
780-451-3702 ext 8117