How Are Dangerous Goods Classified?

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According to Wikipedia, “Dangerous goods or hazardous goods are solids, liquids, or gases that can harm people, other living organisms, property, or the environment.”

Consequently, the means by which dangerous goods are to be packaged, handled, labelled, and shipped is closely monitored and governed across the world by a wide range of regulatory bodies.

There are different regulations in place for all different modes of transport and in every country.

Ultimately, for all modes of transport – sea, air, rail, road, and inland waterways – the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and other organizations, which includes the International Air Transport Association, have assigned one of nine classes to all dangerous or hazardous substances in order to help make the safe transportation of dangerous goods possible.

Please note that the numerical order of the classes of dangerous goods does not indicate degree of danger. 

The 9 Classes of Dangerous Goods


Class 1 Explosives

Explosives are classified as dangerous goods because they are capable of producing hazardous amounts of heat, light, sound, gas, or smoke.

Class 2 Gases

The class of gases includes compressed gases, liquefied gases, dissolved gases, refrigerated liquefied gases, aerosols, and more. Gases are dangerous because they pose a serious risk as potential asphyxiants and because of their flammability.

Class 3 Flammable Liquids

Flammable liquids are volatile and are capable of giving off a flammable vapour. 

Class 4 Flammable Solids

Flammable solids are highly combustible and can even cause fire through friction. They are certainly capable of inflicting serious damage.

Class 5 Oxidizing Substances

Substances which can yield oxygen are classified as dangerous goods because, although not necessarily combustible in themselves, they can contribute to the combustion of other hazardous substances. 

Class 6 Toxic and Infectious Substances

Toxic substances are classified for being able to cause serious injury or death to humans if swallowed, inhaled, or by contact with skin.

Infectious substances are classified for containing pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, or other agents which can cause disease in humans or animals upon contact.

Class 7 Radioactive Material

Radioactive materials are defined as any substance which contains atoms that are subject to radioactive decay.

Consequently, whilst undergoing radioactive decay, radioactive material can emit potentially harmful ionizing radiation.

Class 8 Corrosives

Corrosive substances react chemically to damage or destroy material, like living tissue, upon contact.

Class 9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods

As the class name suggests, miscellaneous dangerous goods are substance which present a danger not covered by other classes. According to the U.N., this class includes environmentally hazardous substances, elevated temperature substances, and GMMOs or GMOs.
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