Shipping dangerous goods and hazardous materials
Knowing which class your goods fall under and what quantity limits apply helps you determine the required documentation, packaging and labelling.
What are dangerous goods?
Dangerous goods can be solids, liquids or gases, and may be pure chemicals, mixtures of substances, manufactured products or individual articles. They are classified according to the type of potential hazard, e.g. flammable, poisonous, explosive, radioactive etc.
The United Nations (UN) has a universal system for the classification, packaging, marking and labelling of dangerous goods to facilitate their safe transport.
There are nine classes of dangerous goods, plus a few sub-classes. Dangerous goods are named with specific UN numbers that must be used in the declaration form and in the packing and labelling.
Classes of dangerous goods
|Class||Type of material||Examples|
|1||Explosive substances and articles||Fireworks, flares, arms and ammunition|
|2.1||Flammable gas (e.g. butane)||Butane, aerosols, camping gas, lighters, liquefied gas, acetylene for welding, ethylene for ripening fruits, hydrogen for industrial use|
|2.2|| Non-flammable and non-toxic gases which could cause asphyxiation (e.g. nitrogen, helium, carbon dioxide) or
oxidisers (e.g. oxygen)
|Nitrogen, helium, argon, carbon dioxide, oxygen, compressed oxygen, fire extinguishers, refrigerant gas|
|2.3||Toxic gases (e.g. chlorine, phosgene)||Chlorine, phosgene, oxygen difluoride, ammonia for industrial freeing, methyl bromide and ethylene oxide for fumigation|
|3||Flammable liquids (e.g. lighter fluid, petrol)||Lighter fluid, petrol, solvents, paints, varnish, perfume, adhesives, resin solution, printing ink, dry cleaning fluids|
|4.1||Flammable solids, self-reactive substances and solid desensitised explosives||Self-reactive substances, solid desensitised explosives, matches, sulphur powder, camphor, naphthalene balls|
|4.2||Substances liable to spontaneous combustion||Phosphorus, copra, fish meal|
|4.3||Substances which, in contact with water, emit flammable gases||Calcium carbide, sodium, ferrosilicon and potassium metals|
|5.1||Oxidising substances||Calcium hypochlorite, hydrogen peroxide, fertilisers, hair colouring|
|5.2||Organic peroxides||Hardeners, fibreglass repair kits|
|6.1||Toxic substances||Pesticides, sodium cyanide for metal treatment, chromium salt for electroplating|
|6.2||Infectious substances||Blood samples, medical samples, biological substances derived from living organisms|
|7||Radioactive material||Smoke detectors, substances for sterilisation of medical products|
|8||Corrosive substances||Bleach, drain cleaner, dishwasher tablets, acetic acid, citric acid, caustic soda, car and truck batteries|
|9||Miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles|| Lithium batteries, magnets, dry ice
Importance of moving dangerous goods safely
It is important to know if you are moving dangerous goods – sometimes called hazardous materials – which can pose a risk to people, animals or the environment if not properly handled in use or during transit.
Non-compliance with dangerous goods transport regulations can be costly with fines being imposed for improper declarations.
Regulations were tightened in 2009 after several serious fire incidents. So, it goes without saying: moving dangerous goods requires both careful planning and specialised knowledge.
Determine the class of dangerous goods and the quantity limits involved. The specific class of dangerous goods, and the quantity to be shipped, affects how they must be declared, packaged, labelled and transported.
Regulations for the transport of dangerous goods
- Air: International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR)
- Sea: International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code
- Road: National Road Traffic (NRT) Act
- Rail: Appendix C of the Convention covering International Carriage by Rail (COTIF) – Regulations concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail (RID)
- United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE): Dangerous Goods
Check if your goods may be shipped by all modes of transport and how, especially when planning multimodal shipments, e.g. onward transportation from ports or airports by road or rail.
- Load and unload or handle dangerous materials/goods
- Prepare dangerous materials/goods for transportation
- Operate vehicles used to transport dangerous materials/goods
- Design, manufacture, fabricate, inspect, recondition, maintain, repair or test packages or packaging components used to transport hazardous materials
- Only transport dangerous goods in “limited quantities”
- Only occasionally engage in the carriage, loading or unloading of dangerous goods posing low risk
Ensure that your employees and the employees of your service providers have completed appropriate health and safety training for the transport of dangerous goods.
Documentation and paperwork
- Dangerous Goods Note/Declaration: This is a legal requirement for transporting goods by air or sea. The person responsible for signing the Dangerous Goods Note/Declaration is required by law to have completed the appropriate training.
- Materials safety data sheet (MSDS): Can be obtained from the original manufacturer. Not always required, but may be asked for as part of the booking procedure.
- Commercial invoice
- Packing list
- Shipper’s letter of instruction
- Certificate of origin: sometimes required
- Additional documents that may be needed: Weathering Certificate, Certificate of Analysis (CoA), Competent Authority Approval (CAA)
The person responsible for signing the ‘Dangerous Goods Declaration’ is required by law to have had the appropriate training.
Check that you have all the proper documents in place when shipping dangerous goods. Involve the recipient, by giving all details prior to the shipment, to enable them to work with local agencies in the destination country and ensure a smooth process.