Dangerous goods (which are often known as hazardous materials or HAZMAT in the USA) may be pure chemicals, mixtures of substances, manufactured products or articles which can pose a risk to people, animals or the environment if not properly handled in use or in transport.

Many products that you come into contact with on a daily can be considered as hazardous to our health, especially if we come into contact with them too often or for too long. The packaging of substances that have explosive, chemical, radioactive or biological properties plays an integral part in the transportation of such items as this prevents their unnecessary exposure to humans and other living organism’s, therefore jeopardising safety and potentially leaving employers in litigious situations in the event that an individual, organism or the environment may be harmed.

It is important to recognise dangerous goods symbols, though in a lot of circumstances, they may only relate to the hazards in the use of the product and do not automatically mean that it is dangerous in transport. However, it must not be assumed that all substances which are packed in small or retail packaging are not subject to the transport regulations, since the classification criteria are different. Here are some examples of hazard diamonds and packing groups commonly used in the transportation of dangerous goods and their meanings;

There are 9 hazard classes defined in the Regulations namely: Class 1 – Explosives (sub-divided into six divisions) Class 2 – Gases (sub-divided into three divisions) Class 3 – Flammable Liquids Class 4 – Flammable Solids; Substances liable to spontaneous combustion; Substances which, in contact with water, emit Flammable Gases (sub-divided into three divisions) Class 5 – Oxidizing Substances and Organic Peroxides (sub-divided into two divisions) Class 6 – Toxic and Infectious Substances Division 6.1 – Toxic Division 6.2 – Infectious Substances Class 7 – Radioactive Material Class 8 – Corrosives Class 9 – Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods

Due to the wide scope of some classes they are further sub-divided into divisions. Division 6.2 Infectious Substances is one such instance.

There are 3 packing groups defined in the Regulations namely:

Packing Group I – High Danger
Packing Group II – Medium Danger
Packing Group III – Low Danger

How to Minimise the Risks of Transporting Dangerous Goods

It's important to take steps to minimise risks when you are transporting goods and materials.
Key risks include goods damaged in transit, loss and theft, fire, explosion, chemical burns and other accidents. You should also consider environmental and other damage caused by spillages or leaks.

There are some useful steps you can take to protect your goods against common risks:

• Ensure you use the most appropriate method of transportation for your goods.
• Consider how best to protect large, heavy or unusual loads. The use of absorbent material and adequate filling to prevent vibration or damage to internal components is always recommended.
• Consider whether you need goods-in-transit or marine insurance to protect goods being transported.
• Always take appropriate security measures. For example, for high-value goods or goods of a particularly sensitive nature, you could consider limiting the way in which information is shared about the nature of the consignment and its content.
• Make sure suitable packaging, labelling and containers are used. It's common for goods to be damaged in transit and good protection and effective packaging will help reduce this risk.
• Ensure that when necessary, suitable warning signs are used on packages and vehicles - for example, to indicate a hazardous load that is over the threshold and is subject to the European ADR legislation.

You should also remember that employees' health and safety could be at risk when loading and unloading goods, and it is therefore as equally important that as an employer, you are acknowledging the basic rules and requirements that govern such activities, as it may not always be the case that the person(s) performing this duty are aware of the potentially dangerous position they may be in.