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Does your company ship dangerous goods? 

If you thought normal cargo was tricky and confusing to transport, moving dangerous goods from A to B comes with an even bigger minefield of rules and regulations. And getting it wrong can be disastrous. 

Carry on reading to find out why dangerous goods need to be regulated so carefully and what the current rules are.

What Counts As Dangerous Goods?

Dangerous goods are substances and items that have explosive, toxic, flammable, infectious or corrosive properties. They are classed as any product capable of putting health, safety and property at serious risk when transported.

It’s not something many of us think about. But plenty of the goods we use regularly can pose dangers in transit. Things like aerosols and batteries might seem innocent, but if mishandled can become volatile and do serious damage. 

Hazardous, or dangerous goods, have been grouped into nine categories by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation). Identifying and classifying hazardous materials means they can be handled, packed and stowed properly to avoid potential risks. 

The categories run on a sliding scale, like this: 

  • Class 1: Explosives. These materials come top of the list because they have the ability to detonate, for example, fireworks and flares.
  • Class 2: Gasses. Gasses are commonly flammable, toxic or corrosive. Your run-of-the-mill aerosol deodorant sits in this category. 
  • Class 3: Flammable liquids. Liquids like petrol and lighter fluid fall here. Compared to other liquids, these need only a very low temperature to ignite and are commonly found in household products. 
  • Class 4: Flammable solids. Flammable solids include sodium batteries and matches. These materials are easily combustible, some spontaneously. 
  • Class 5: Oxidising agents & organic peroxides. This class contains material which has a high oxygen content and is, therefore very reactive, such as hydrogen peroxide.
  • Class 6: Toxins and infectious substances. Toxic substances such as acids can cause serious harm to our health if swallowed, inhaled or in contact with our skin. 
  • Class 7: Radioactive material. These products host unstable atoms that give off radiation, and it’s that radiation that can be damaging to our health. Smoke detectors contain radioactive material. 
  • Class 8: Corrosives. Corrosives cause serious damage when in contact with human skin, or damage and destroy their surroundings in the event of a leak. This category includes things like dyes, but also batteries.
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous dangerous goods. This part covers any substance or product which could cause danger or damage during transport that doesn’t fit into the other categories. Dry ice, anyone? 

There are plenty of everyday-use products and goods that are considered hazardous. The car you drive, its airbag unit, your mobile phone and the de-icer you use to clear the frost from your windscreen are all considered dangerous goods.

Why Is Extra Care Taken With Dangerous Goods?

Whilst many of the items on the dangerous goods list seem harmless, the transit environments and sheer quantities they may be shipped in can cause them to pose a threat.

Vibrations of the transit vehicle, static electricity, temperature and pressure variations are all variables that must be taken into account. Extra care, such as heavy-duty packaging and expert handling, is required because dangerous goods that aren’t respected have the potential to leak, start a fire, generate toxic fumes or even explode. 

What Are The Current Rules In The UK? 

The three principal regulations governing the moving of dangerous goods from one country to another are: 

  • ADR, covering the international carriage of dangerous goods by road
  • IMDG, covering the international carriage of dangerous goods by sea
  • IATA, covering the international carriage of dangerous goods by air

Each set of regulations covers consignments travelling worldwide, but different countries have their own rules and regs surrounding the treatment of hazardous materials that must also be adhered to.

In the UK, businesses must abide by various hazmat shipping rules. First up…


Anyone involved in any part of the hazmat shipping process must be trained to do so, refreshing their training every two years. And, if you’re shipping dangerous goods internationally, you should employ a Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor to oversee the handling of all associated consignments.

Material Safety Data Sheet

If you ship or receive dangerous goods, you should have a Material Safety Data Sheet. This extensive legal document contains information about any potential hazards and how to work safely with the product.

Labelling And Packaging

All dangerous goods need to be declared, packaged and labelled according to their classification. They also need to travel with the right documents for each and every country they’ll be passing through on their way to their destination. 

You should be able to locate the information you need for labelling, such as Class number, UN number and Proper Shipping Name, on the MSDS.

Dangerous Goods Notes

A Dangerous Goods Note is a document often required alongside any dangerous materials in a consignment. It carries detailed information about how to handle the prescribed goods safely.

Breaking The Rules

Breaking the regulations on transporting dangerous goods could get you a hefty fine, prosecution or even a prison sentence, depending on the severity of the breach. 

Changes To Rules From 1st January 2023 

The ADR (or the European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage Of Goods By Road) is updated every two years.

From January 2023, employing a Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor is paramount if you want to ship hazardous materials. There are a few exceptions, but many who weren’t affected now will be, and failing to comply could mean a breach of regulation. DGSAs can be appointed internally, after working through a course and passing an exam, or as external contractors.

What You Need To Do 

Interpreting new regulations can feel a little overwhelming. And it gets especially complicated when different countries interpret the scope and application of the requirements differently.

Here at Millennium, we advise finding a freight forwarder who can talk you through these changes. Any forwarder worth their salt will have a deep understanding of what the new requirements mean for you and your business in the coming year.Not sure where your goods fall in the classification table? Check out Millennium’s Hazardous Guide, your one-stop breakdown of the hazmat classes.