Packing a dangerous good is not just about boxing up something that’s a bit sparky! It requires precision, caution, and a deep understanding of regulations. Suppose you’re a shipper, warehouse manager, safety officer, or anyone who deals with these potentially risky items. Remember, proper packing isn’t just about compliance. it’s also a matter of environmental and public safety.

Here are the steps to guarantee your dangerous goods are being transported in accordance with the rules and in the safest possible manner.

Introduction to Dangerous Goods

The term “dangerous goods” (also known as “hazardous materials”) refers to substances that are corrosive, explosive, flammable, or otherwise harmful to people or the environment. Proper packing of these materials is crucial to prevent accidents, protect the environment, and ensure compliance with transport regulations. It’s not just the contents that matter, but also the way they are contained.

Know Your Goods

Before we jump into packing techniques, it’s important to be able to identify if the goods you’re handling are in fact classified as dangerous. This requires checking the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, which categorises them into classes depending on their attributes.

It’s also important to note that regulations can vary from country to country, so always refer to local regulations for the most accurate classification.

Understanding Dangerous Goods Classes

Familiarise yourself with each class of dangerous goods:

  • Class 1 – Explosives: Includes live ammunition, fireworks, and old-fashioned dynamite.
  • Class 2 – Gases: Anything from aerosol cans to scuba tanks falls into this category.
  • Class 3 – Flammable Liquids: Fuels, lighters, and paints are common examples.
  • Class 4 – Flammable Solids; Substances Liable to Spontaneous Combustion; Substances that, in Contact with Water, Emit Flammable Gases: For instance, matches, self-heating meals, and sodium.
  • Class 5 – Oxidising Substances and Organic Peroxides: Chemicals that can provide oxygen to help something burn.
  • Class 6 – Toxic and Infectious Substances: Poisons and medical waste fall into this category.
  • Class 7 – Radioactive Materials: Anything that’s radioactive, typically used for medical or scientific purposes.
  • Class 8 – Corrosives: Batteries, certain acids, and alkalis.
  • Class 9 – Miscellaneous Dangerous Substances and Articles: Any dangerous substance or article not covered by the other eight classes.

Understanding the goods’ classifications can determine the appropriate packing materials and techniques required for each class.

Understand Regulations

Familiarise yourself with the regulations regarding the packing and transportation of dangerous goods. The two primary sources of information are national authorities (for example, the U.S. Department of Transportation) and international bodies like the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), or the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Why Regulations Are Critical

Following the correct regulations is not only mandatory but protects everyone involved:

  • Legal Compliance: You’re liable to be fined or face legal action for non-compliance.
  • Public Safety: Regulations are there for a reason — to ensure that potentially harmful materials don’t cause any damage.
  • Environment Protection: Fully understanding how to handle and pack these goods can prevent leaks and other environmental hazards.

Check for updates on regulations at least annually, as they can change as new materials are discovered or new evidence comes to light about how to transport them safely.

Step-by-Step Packing Guide

Now that you’re aware of your goods and their classifications and understand the regulations that apply, the next step is to learn how to pack them properly.

Step 1: Choose the Right Packaging Material

The first box you tick is choosing the appropriate dangerous goods packaging material. This will depend on the hazard class and the physical and chemical properties of the dangerous goods. You’ll be looking at things like:

  • Inner Packaging Choice: Bottles, cans, or bags made from suitable materials that are compatible with the substance.
  • Outer Packaging: Must be rigid, durable, and absorb shocks to minimise the risk of damage or rupture.
  • Cushioning: Sometimes, a good layer of bubble wrap, foam, or even vermiculite is needed to protect the inner packages from impacts.
  • Labels and Markings: The outer packaging should be designed in a way that can properly display the class and name of the goods.

Make sure your materials aren’t damaged and are suitable for the mode of transportation you’ll be using.

Step 2: Prepare the Inner Packaging

Before placing dangerous goods into the inner receptacle, ensure they are tightly closed to avoid leaks or spills. Small leaks in transportation can become catastrophic if they lead to a fire or affect other hazardous materials.

  • Use Absorbent Material: If the goods are liquids, having an absorbent material in the package can help contain spills.
  • Maintain Internal Pressure: Good packing should ensure that the packaging can withstand internal pressure.
  • Stacking Consideration: Inner packaging can still move within the outer packaging, so consider stacking for liquid or gas containment.

Step 3: Prepare the Outer Packaging

The final packaging layer is the last line of defence for the environment and public safety.

  • Regulatory Requirements: Ensure the outer packaging meets the specified strength to handle required drop tests and stacking requirements.
  • Compatibility: Make sure the materials of both the inner and outer packaging are compatible. Some materials may react with the contents, causing a breach.
  • Water Resistance: This is particularly important if the goods are water-reactive or can emit flammable gases in contact with water.

Step 4: Label and Mark the Package Correctly

Each hazard class has its own set of labels and markings. Make sure you use the correct ones and that they are placed where they can be easily seen and won’t be damaged in transit.

  • Transportation Mode: The labelling might change depending on whether the goods are shipped by air, sea, or land.
  • Language: Ensure that labels are in a language understood where the goods are being transported.

Step 5: Complete the Necessary Documentation

The final step of the packing process is completing all the necessary documentation. This could include shipping papers, air waybills, and dangerous goods declarations.

  • Accurate Information: Double-check that all the information you provide is accurate. The documentation helps guide the handling of your goods.
  • Keep a Record: It’s wise to keep a copy of all dangerous goods documentation for a minimum number of years as required by law, for future reference or in the event of an incident.

Handling, Storage, and Transport

Finally, it’s not just about packing the right way, but it’s also about handling the package with care.

  • Avoid Stacks: Keep dangerous goods away from areas prone to heavy traffic or storage conditions that could cause a breach or damage.
  • Temperature Sensitivity: Some goods may need to be kept at specific temperatures. If so, use appropriate temperature-controlled transport and storage.
  • Training: Ensure all personnel involved in the transportation process are properly trained and aware of the hazards and emergency procedures.


Proper packing of dangerous goods is vital. Not just because it’s a legal requirement, but because it ensures that everyone involved in the transportation process is safe and that the environment is being protected. It’s a process that must not be taken lightly, and if you’re in any doubt, always seek training or professional advice. Remember to stay updated with regulations and always follow the correct packing procedures.