Dangerous materials in transport

11 August, 2022 |

Dealing with the transport of goods requires, first of all, adapting the possibilities and conditions to what type of products are transported by us. We will provide different conditions for fragile materials, different for livestock, and finally other conditions for dangerous goods. First of all, this type of transport is regulated by law, so it is necessary to follow the guidelines related to these products. So what do you need to know about transporting hazardous materials?

What are dangerous goods?

Dangerous goods is abbreviated as DG (Dangerous Goods). It is a term referring to hazardous materials during transport. Hazards can be related to health, safety, the environment and property. This type of dangerous products covers a very wide group of goods, many of which are widely used. Examples include aerosols, batteries, bleaches, adhesives, magnets, perfumes, or batteries and cooling fluids. All these products pose a potential hazard, therefore hazardous materials in transport are subject to special markings.

How to transport hazardous materials?

In the case of this type of product, several markings are used for the so-called hazardous materials. In this respect, several classes of danger are distinguished. These are:

  • Explosive materials and items – they can include aerosols that explode when exposed to heat.
  • Gases – Even if they do not explode, some gas producing products can be hazardous.
  • Flammable liquids – all types of flammable liquids, e.g. alcohols or perfumes.
  • Flammable solids – non-liquid products that ignite very quickly.
  • Toxic and infectious materials – depending on the degree of toxicity, they can be extremely dangerous. These products are not transported in the usual public means, and instead they are shipped under strict conditions.
  • Corrosive materials – these include various types of acids that must be stored under special conditions.
  • Radioactive materials – these products also require specific storage and transport conditions. Their insecurity poses a threat to people and the environment.
  • Other materials and dangerous objects – some objects do not explicitly classify or may not fit any of the above, and at the same time pose a danger. In this case, they are placed in this category.

How to recognize hazardous materials?

As a rule, it should be clear that a given transport contains hazardous materials. Their markings are easy to recognize, mainly due to the use of recognizable symbols. In the case of hazardous materials, characteristic pictograms in the form of a diamond are used. The color of the figure shown in the pictogram tells about the exact risk posed by a given product. Thus, in the colors used, the following can be distinguished:

  • green – non-toxic and non-flammable gases,
  • orange – explosive products,
  • red – flammable products.

Due to the fact that this type of goods is particularly dangerous, restrictions must obviously also apply to their proper labeling. This is to ship the goods in a correct and safe manner. It also means the need to fill in specific documentation.

Transporting materials in road transport

How to transport hazardous materials in order to keep safety considerations? There are several options here. First of all, the basic division of this type of activity is taking into account several types of transport of dangerous goods. These can be transported in road, overhead, sea and rail transport. What does it look like in each of these cases?

Dangerous goods in road transport

The basic type of transport of hazardous materials is ADR. This term refers to the carriage of goods with these characteristics by road. This term is used in Europe and comes from the convention dedicated to the carriage of goods and loads deemed dangerous by road (L’Accord européen relatif au transport international des marchandises Dangereuses par Route). The ADR agreement was drawn up on September 30, 1957 in Geneva. At that time, it was signed by 9 countries, and the UN Secretary General became the depositary of this agreement. All signatory countries must adhere to its guidelines. Poland did it in 1975.

Dangerous goods in overhead transport

Another acceptable form of transporting dangerous goods is by air. Here, items intended for this type of transport must meet the conditions described by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO for short). These in turn are included in a specially prepared Technical Manual for the Safe Air Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air. ICAO conditions were developed in accordance with the provisions of DGR, i.e. Dangerous Goods Regulations. They are dedicated in particular to air transport, and IATA, the International Air Transport Association, is responsible for their enforcement.

These conditions are also adapted to the requirements of airlines and government. The basis, however, are the provisions of DGR. At this point, it is worth noting that it is air transport that has the greatest limitations in connection with hazardous materials. Here, their type and quantity is the most restrictive, if you look at how many of them have been approved for transport.

Hazardous materials in maritime transport

Specific transport options are offered by sea. Why? First of all, the goods transported this way are large-tonnage. What’s more, it is possible to carry loads of considerable, even huge mass at the same time. While this is extremely beneficial from a logistical point of view, at the same time, a large accumulation of hazardous materials is potentially a threat on a much larger scale than in road transport, for example. One reason is certainly the fact that many materials spread very quickly in water. No wonder that the regulations on this form of transport of hazardous materials are very restrictive. The law regulating the safety issues related to maritime transport can be found in the IMDG Code (International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code). This is to minimize the potential risk of materials leaking into the water.

The key to these regulations is to maximize the safety of the transport. The IMDG includes, inter alia, external conditions that are permissible for the transport of goods considered dangerous in maritime transport. Ship movements in the water and even air humidity are also taken into account. There is also the HNS convention, which was developed by the member countries of the International Maritime Organization. It deals with providing compensation in the event of a leakage of dangerous goods directly into the sea or ocean.

Dangerous materials in rail transport

The last type of transport to be discussed is rail. Participants in this type of transport are required to comply with the RID regulations that regulate hazardous materials in rail transport. These regulations were developed by the Intergovernmental Organization for International Carriage by Rail. As part of the resulting RID regulations, it was stated that it would become Appendix C to the COTIF, i.e. to the Convention on International Carriage by Rail. This one was founded on May 9, 1980 in Berlin. According to its provisions, there are, inter alia, transportation and loading requirements that apply if we are carrying hazardous materials. Signs used to indicate these goods are also described in that Convention.