The Simple Guide to Shipping Hazardous And Dangerous Goods

The Simple Guide to Shipping Hazardous And Dangerous Goods


5 minute read | By Detype Studio

Last updated: October 26, 2021 | Published: July 12, 2018


The shipping of hazardous and dangerous goods is a specialised area that is understandably subject to strict regulation, meaning plenty of additional requirements when it comes to packing, labelling, handling, transporting and documenting.

This guide outlines the types of goods classified as dangerous and looks at your responsibilities as a shipper.

What counts as hazardous or dangerous?

The UN identifies the following goods as dangerous:

  • Explosives
  • Gases
  • Flammable liquids
  • Flammable solids
  • Oxidizers
  • Organic Peroxides
  • Toxic substances
  • Infectious substances
  • Radioactive material
  • Corrosive substances

There’s also a classification for miscellaneous dangerous substances that don’t fit within the above categories.

What are the additional shipping requirements?

Dangerous and hazardous goods have numerous additional requirements that must be adhered to for safe shipping. These cover various stages of the shipping process, including:


Packaging must have been approved by the UN. This means that it has been designed and constructed to UN specification standards, passing practical tests such as being dropped, held in a stack or placed under pressure, and has also been certified as suitable for its contents. Pre-approved packaging is listed on the Vehicle Certification Agency’s Packaging Approval Database, and buyers should ensure that they receive a copy of the certification and the relevant test report.


Dangerous goods must be labelled with the appropriate hazard symbols, warnings and safety advice. Note that, while the symbols are internationally-recognised, the labelling requirements can vary from country to country (although the requirements within the EU are standard).

Instructions for use also need to be included with the goods – either on the label or on a leaflet inside the package.


If your business handles, processes or transports dangerous goods regularly, then you must appoint a trained and qualified Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser. Their role is to monitor compliance, procedures and safety measures, advise on the rules and regulations around transporting dangerous goods, investigate any related accidents and emergencies, and prepare an annual report for management.

Exceptions to this include businesses that deal with a smaller quantity than is stated in the legislation, and companies that deal with dangerous goods only occasionally (and not for their primary business activity).


The shipping requirements vary depending on whether the dangerous goods are being moved by road, rail, inland waterway, sea or air, with different authorities responsible for governing each method. For example, the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) code provides the guidance for transporting dangerous goods by sea, while the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Technical Instructions are used internationally for transporting dangerous goods by air.

The relevant set of instructions or guidance will detail the requirements for that particular type of carriage, including specific training requirements for handlers and specific vehicle specifications.

If you’re using a combination of transportation, you’ll need to ensure that the relevant instructions for each one are followed at each stage. You can find more information online at


All dangerous goods must be accompanied by identifying documentation known as a Dangerous Goods Declaration. In the case of air cargo, you should use the IATA Shipper’s Declaration of Dangerous Goods.

Who’s responsible?

Whoever is doing the shipping (the consignor) is responsible for ensuring that dangerous goods are classified, marked and packed correctly and that the appropriate documentation accompanies them. However, when it comes to the actual movement of the goods, many of the regulations apply to all parties involved who ‘allow dangerous goods to be carried’, including the consignor, manufacturers, carriers, warehouse workers and freight forwarders.

Not following the rules when it comes to dangerous goods can result in prosecution, so it’s vital that you fully understand and fulfil your responsibilities. If you’re at all unsure, then a freight forwarder with experience in this specialised area of shipping will be able to help. John Good Logistics is experienced in handling dangerous goods and is also registered as an IATA Dangerous Goods Regulated Agent, so you can feel confident putting your dangerous goods in their capable hands.

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