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The International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) provides guidelines and test procedures to ensure that packaged products can withstand the rigors of the global distribution environment. ISTA Test Procedure 3H is an advanced general simulation performance test specifically designed for mechanically handled bulk loads. The purpose of this ISTA test procedure is to challenge the packaging and product's ability to withstand the hazards of transportation while providing a balance of cost, protection, and customer satisfaction.

ISTA Test Procedure 3H considers the packaging and product as a unit and evaluates their performance against various transportation stresses, such as vibrations and shocks typically encountered during transit. However, it should be noted that certain conditions, such as humidity, pressure, or unusual handling, may not be covered by this ISTA test procedure.

One of the unique features of ISTA Test Procedure ISTA 3H is its comprehensive nature, making it applicable to a wide range of products. It is primarily designed for bulk loads of the same product but can also evaluate mixed loads. Additionally, ISTA Test Procedure 3H can be used to assess the protective performance of bulk transport systems and interior dunnage.

It is important to understand and determine what constitutes damage to the product, the acceptable level of damage tolerance, the methodology for determining the product's condition at the end of the test, and the acceptable condition of the packaging. This ensures that the integrity of the product and packaging is maintained throughout the shipping and handling process.

ISTA Test Procedure 3H outlines a specific sequence of tests, which includes:

  • Climatic preconditioning,
  • Atmospheric conditioning,
  • A series of shock/drop tests,
  • Random vibration tests,
  • Another series of shock/drop tests,
  • And compression tests.

The test specimens for the tests should ideally be the actual, untested packaging and product. However, if those are not available, substitutes that closely match the actual items can be used. ISTA recommends conducting the ISTA test procedure multiple times using new test specimens for each test to ensure representative performance of the packaged product.

Lastly, it is important to remember that products and packaging that have already undergone transportation cannot be assumed to be in standard condition. Therefore, products and packaging shipped to certified laboratories for testing should be overpacked or reconditioned in new packaging at the laboratory to ensure they are in pristine condition.

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