Dangerous Goods - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



1.What are dangerous goods?

Dangerous goods are articles or substances that are capable of posing a significant risk to Health, Safety, Property or the Environment. There are over 700 individual dangerous goods listings within the dangerous goods regulations.

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2. Which regulations govern transport of dangerous goods?

The transport of Dangerous Goods is subject to modal regulations that follow the Recommendations of the U.N. Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (Commonly referred to as 'The Orange Book'). The relevant authorities for the various modes of transport available are:

1. The International Civil Aviation Organisation for the transport of dangerous goods by air,
2. International Maritime Organisation for dangerous goods by sea, and
3. ADR/RID regulatory guides for transporting dangerous goods by road and rail through Europe.

Each of these regulatory guides spell out the legal position and associated responsibilities of a shipper.

Despite ICAO producing the regulatory statements for transporting dangerous goods by air, the more commonly used guides are produced by IATA (The International Air Transport Association). The current guide is the 57th Edition, produced for 2015-16.

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3. What proof is there of the packagings meeting transport regulations?

For each United Nations approved package there is a test certificate, which is issued by a state and details:

- The name of the body that the certification is issued to (Quite often this is the manufacturer)
- The packaging type - for example, 4G, 1A1 or 3H2.
- Material information; including the type of material used - for example, corrugated fibreboard or steel.
- Any closure methods - for example 50mm tape
- If inner packagings were used, then the quantity contained within them
- The packaging tests that were applied; drop test, stack test, etc
- The packing group(s) that the packaging is approved for - I, II or III
- The UN approval mark
- Conditions of issue (usually found on the back of the certificate

In order to remain compliant, the packaging must be used in exactly the same way as it was tested and approved.

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4. Must all packagings used to transport dangerous goods bear a UN mark?

Simply put, no. Not all packagings used for transporting dangerous goods must bear a UN approval mark. There are some packagings that do not require a UN mark, but do still need to meet a number of requirements, including their capability of passing various packaging tests and the quality of material used. They may also likely require combination packaging - but this does not apply to all packagings.

You can identify whether or not a substance or material requires UN approved packaging by looking at the relevant packaging instruction for the associated UN number.

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5. What do the registered markings with a United Nations symbol mean?

A UN mark identifies that a packaging has been approved to United Nations standards for the transport of dangerous goods by road, sea and/or air. A UN mark will usually be made up of a number of numbers and letters, directly following a ‘UN’ logo. The below is an example of a UN mark that would be displayed on an approved fibreboard box – known as a 4G package.

Fibreboard box typical UN Mark


Similarly, the next example relates to a UN approved steel drum with a removable head – given the UN packaging type identification ‘1A2’.



Steel drum removable head typical UN mark


The same drum (with a non-removable head) has a different UN mark – note the ‘1A2’ identification for a removable head and ‘1A1’ for a removable head – as below:


Steel drum non-removable head typical UN mark




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6. What is the difference between every day packaging and packaging for dangerous goods?
Dangerous goods packaging differ considerably to every day packaging, such as household boxes used to store and transport. For example, there are specific measures that must be taken to ensure that, should a package containing dangerous goods fall from a shelf or wagon, that the substance or materials inside remain safe. There must be precautions taken to limit the likelihood of harm.