The 101 of Dangerous Goods

Industrial societies depend on dangerous goods – and on their carriage. When transporting dangerous goods, the top priority is to protect people’s health and the environment and avert threats to public safety. For this reason, there are international regulations for the secure transport of such goods. We introduce the most important rules and explain what companies need to observe.

What Qualifies as Dangerous Goods?

All international and national regulations on the transport of dangerous goods are based on the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. Here, the dangerous goods are specified. These UN definitions are the basis for more detailed regulations in the EU Directive on Dangerous Substances and the Directive on the Transport of Dangerous Goods.

National regulations in Europe may differ slightly about the exact transport requirements. But the basic understanding of which goods are to be declared as dangerous goods is common. Dangerous goods are substances and objects which, due to their nature, properties, or condition, may present a hazard in connection with transport.

The Nine UN Classes of Dangerous Goods

The UN Recommendations distinguish between nine classes of dangerous goods, some of which are subdivided into further subcategories (classes 4, 5 and 6). Anyone transporting these goods must comply with the legal transport regulations and label the dangerous goods. Common dangerous goods have a four-digit UN number that identifies them internationally. Individual codes are used for other substances.

1.         Explosives
2.         Gases
3.         Flammable liquids
4.1       Flammable solids, self-reactive substances, and solid desensitized explosives
4.2       Substances liable to spontaneous combustion
4.3       Substances that in contact with water emit flammable gases
5.1       Oxidizing substances
5.2       Organic peroxides
6.1       Toxic substances
6.2       Infectious substances
7.         Radioactive material
8.         Corrosive substances
9.         Miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles

Examples for dangerous transport goods according to this classification are materials that can cause explosions (such as explosives or ammunition), flammable liquids (such as gasoline) or flammable gases. Self-reactive substances are, for instance, white or yellow phosphorus or aluminium dust. Examples of substances that emit flammable gases in contact with water are potassium or sodium. Substances that are flammable include highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide solutions, chlorates, or nitrates. Lithium-ion batteries are also hazardous goods and belong to Class 9. Irrespective of the risk of fire and explosion, many hazardous substances endanger drinking water and bodies of water

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