The ABCs of Dangerous Goods Classifications and Regulations

Transporting dangerous goods can be a complex process, with various regulations and classifications to consider. Whether you are a business owner shipping hazardous materials or a consumer looking to understand the risks associated with certain products, this primer will provide an overview of the ABCs of dangerous goods.

Classifications of Dangerous Goods

The first step in understanding dangerous goods is to know how they are classified. The United Nations has developed a system that classifies dangerous goods into nine categories based on their properties and potential hazards. These categories are:

  1. Gases
  2. Explosives
  3. Flammable liquids
  4. Flammable solids
  5. Radioactive materials
  6. Corrosive substances
  7. Oxidising substances and organic peroxides
  8. Toxic and infectious substances
  9. Miscellaneous dangerous goods

Each category has specific criteria that must be met for a substance to be classified as such. For example, explosives are classified based on their sensitivity to heat and shock, while flammable liquids are classified based on their flash point – the lowest temperature at which they can ignite.

Regulations for Transporting Dangerous Goods

Once a substance has been classified as a dangerous good, there are regulations in place to ensure its safe transport. These dangerous goods shipping regulations vary depending on the mode of transport – air, sea, or land – and the country of origin and destination.

International regulations for transporting dangerous goods are set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. These regulations are known as the ICAO Technical Instructions, the IMDG Code, and the UN Model Regulations, respectively.

In addition to these international regulations, individual countries have their own regulations for transporting dangerous goods. For example, in the United States, the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates the transport of hazardous materials.

The regulations for transporting dangerous goods cover a wide range of topics, including packaging requirements, labelling and marking, documentation, and training requirements for those involved in the transport process.

Packaging Requirements

One of the most important aspects of transporting dangerous goods is ensuring that they are packaged correctly. The packaging must be able to withstand the hazards associated with the substance being transported, such as pressure changes, impact, and temperature fluctuations.

The packaging must also be designed to prevent leaks and spills and to ensure that the substance is not exposed to the environment. The type of packaging required depends on the classification of the dangerous goods being transported.

For example, flammable liquids must be transported in containers that are able to withstand pressure changes and prevent leaks. These containers must also be marked with the appropriate hazard warning labels.

Labelling and Marking Requirements

Proper labelling and marking of dangerous goods is essential for ensuring their safe transport. All packages containing dangerous items need to be labelled with the proper hazard warning labels, which describe the kind of risk the chemical being transported entails.

These labels must be visible and legible and must meet specific size and colour requirements. In addition to hazard warning labels, packages must also be marked with the proper shipping name, UN number, and packing group.

Documentation Requirements

Documentation is another important aspect of transporting dangerous goods. All shipments of dangerous goods must be accompanied by a shipping document that provides information about the substance being transported, including its classification, quantity, and packaging.

The shipping document must also include emergency response information, such as the name and phone number of a person who can provide information about the dangerous goods in the event of an emergency.

Training Requirements

Those involved in the transport of dangerous goods must be properly trained to ensure their safety. This includes everyone from the shippers and packagers to the couriers of the goods.

Training programs must cover topics such as the classification of dangerous goods, packaging requirements, labelling and marking requirements, and emergency response procedures. The training must be updated regularly to ensure that everyone involved in the transport process is up-to-date on the latest regulations and procedures.

Handling Dangerous Goods

In addition to the regulations for transporting dangerous goods, there are also guidelines for handling them safely. This includes proper storage, handling, and disposal of hazardous materials.

Hazardous materials should be stored in a secure location that is away from other materials that could react with them. They should also be stored in their original containers and labelled appropriately.

When handling hazardous materials, it is important to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves, goggles, and respirators. This can help protect against exposure to harmful substances.

Disposal of hazardous materials must be done in accordance with local regulations. Improper disposal of hazardous materials can have serious environmental and health consequences.

Emergency Response

Despite the best efforts to transport and handle dangerous goods safely, accidents can still happen. It is important to have an emergency response plan in place in case of a spill or other incident involving hazardous materials.

The emergency response plan should include procedures for containing and cleaning up spills, as well as procedures for notifying authorities and emergency responders.

Emergency responders should be trained in the handling of hazardous materials and should have the appropriate personal protective equipment and tools to respond to incidents involving dangerous goods.


Transporting and handling dangerous goods requires careful attention to detail and adherence to strict regulations. Through understanding the classifications of dangerous goods, the regulations for their transport, and the guidelines for their safe handling, businesses and consumers can ensure that hazardous materials are transported and used safely and responsibly.

Proper packaging, labelling and marking, documentation, training, storage, and disposal are all critical components of the transport and handling process. By following these guidelines, we can minimise the risks associated with dangerous goods and protect the environment and public health.

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