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Safety guide for dangerous goods packing

If you ship dangerous goods by air, sea, road, rail, or inland waterway, you must pack, label and transport them so they are compliant with international regulations.

The sender is responsible for classifying, packaging, and labelling dangerous goods to be transported.

Understanding dangerous goods

Dangerous goods are separated into different classes, which affects how you must package and transport them. For smaller quantities of certain goods, the rules are slightly less strict.

The rules for packaging are dependent on the class of goods you are shipping.

Hazard labels on bottles

Dangerous goods classes

  • Explosive substances and articles
  • Flammable gases, toxic gases, and non-flammable and non-toxic gases
  • Flammable liquids
  • Flammable solids
  • Substances liable to spontaneous combustion
  • Substances which, in contact with water, emit flammable gases
  • Oxidising substances
  • Organic peroxides
  • Toxic substances
  • Infectious substances
  • Radioactive material
  • Corrosive substances
  • Miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles

You must be registered as a waste carrier to carry clinical waste.

Know your packing group

In addition to their classes, dangerous goods are also assigned a packing group. This classifies the level of danger they represent. It is the class and packing group classifications together which dictate how an item should be packaged and labelled.

All forms of shipping are regulated by European agreements, directives, and regulations, as well as UK legislation. You must always understand what class and group your goods fall into and what regulations apply.

Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser

If you handle, process, or transport dangerous goods on a regular basis, you must appoint a Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser (DGSA) to comply with UK health and safety laws.

International UN number on goods label

Completing courier documentation

Dangerous goods must be accompanied by a document declaring the nature of the goods, also known as a Dangerous Goods Declaration (DGD). This documentation must comply with the relevant regulations for your items and mode of transport.

The DGD should include the address and contact details of the shipper and receiver, emergency contact details, the full and proper name of the substance being shipped, and the amount shipped (including the net weight of the goods and total shipment weight).

The UN number should also be included. This is a four-digit internationally recognised classification for hazardous substances.

You must also include the class and group of the goods, details on how to handle them, and whether they are radioactive.

Additional information may be required. You should always check the regulations for your item.

The DGD should be provided in duplicate at the time of the shipment. A copy should be securely attached to the outside of the packaging, in a clear and transparent cover so that is obviously visible.


You must comply with packaging requirements contained in the relevant legislation. Packaging must be designed and constructed to UN specification standards and pass certain practical tests.

Packaging also needs to be certified by a competent authority to confirm that it meets the required standard.

There are specialist companies that provide certified packaging. The Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) Dangerous Goods Office has overall responsibility for packaging certification within the UK.

Warehouse operator packing compliant boxes


You are required by law to label dangerous goods with hazard symbols, warnings, and safety advice. A range of international symbols must be employed to signify the nature of the hazard.

You must also include:

  • the UN specification
  • the addresses of both shipper and receiver
  • the Dangerous Goods Declaration.

You may also need to include instructions for use and, with some goods, safety data sheets.

Make sure the labels and information are on one side of the box, not wrapped around a side. They must be clearly visible and not covered by anything else (such as packaging tape).

Affix hazard symbols in a ‘diamond’ shape and make sure they do not overlap any UN details.

If the shipment contains liquids, make sure you stick arrow labels on two opposite ends of the package to ensure the package is kept the right way up.

The consequences of poor safety labelling

There are different requirements for different goods and transport methods and requirements may vary between countries. Always check what applies before shipping.

If you fail to label and package your shipment correctly, it is likely to be delayed or returned.

Dangerous goods shipping experts

At Impact Express, we have extensive experience of shipping and handling dangerous goods. This extends to specialist consignments such as dry ice and mobile phones. Staff are fully trained and compliant with IATA regulations.

For a competitive shipping quote, call and speak to our certified adviser today.

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