GUIDE: How to choose the right dangerous goods container

Dangerous goods are internationally regulated by the UN Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR) . Their transport is controlled and inspected by all EU member states and there are penalties for non-compliance. When you’re dispatching hazardous materials, you must ensure that they are properly classified, packaged and labelled.

There are containers specifically certified and approved by the UN for the transport of hazardous goods. Read on for our guide on how to choose the right one for your product.

What are hazardous or dangerous goods?

‘Dangerous goods’ or ‘hazardous materials’ are terms used interchangeably to mean things with properties which present a potential danger or hazard to human health and safety, infrastructure and/ or their means of transport.

They are defined as anything explosive, flammable, corrosive, radioactive, asphyxiating, oxidizing, toxic, biohazardous, allergenic or pathogenic.

What are the classes of dangerous goods and the appropriate packaging options?

There are nine classes of dangerous goods, according to the type of danger they present:

1. Explosives.

Materials which can explode due to a chemical reaction. Read our article on the significant role of packaging in explosion prevention and the types of packaging we supply that can help mitigate explosion risk. These include specially developed fibre drums, plastic drums and IBC tanks.

2. Flammable gases.

An example is anything packaged in an aerosol canister, flammable whether full or empty. We supply aerosol disposal drums, specially developed to be compliant with special provision 327 of the European Agreement concerning the international carriage of dangerous goods by road – ADR – section 3.3.1.

3. Flammable liquids.

Liquids which give off a flammable vapour (have a flash point) at temperatures below 60C. Over half of dangerous goods transported in the EU fall into this category. Examples are adhesives, paints and certain chemicals. They are dangerous because of their volatility, combustibility and potential to cause fire, so they must be stored and transported in containers that can contain these risks. For example, in smaller quantities, tin pails are a good option, while for larger quantities steel drums and IBCs are available.

4. Flammable solids.

These are readily combustible (meaning they catch fire easily). They are liable to cause or contribute to fire through friction or other conditions encountered in transport. We have lots of options in stock for packaging flammable solids. The most suitable container will depend on the substance’s UN number. Once we know this, we will be able to advise on the packaging instructions and any special packaging provisions dictated by the ADR, and present the appropriate options.

5. Oxidizing.

Oxidizers can yield oxygen. Organic peroxides can give out heat. Although not necessarily combustible in themselves, either of these can cause or contribute to other materials going on fire. Similar to flammable solids, the most suitable container will depend on the substance’s UN number.

6. Toxic & Infectious.

Toxic substances can cause death or serious harm if swallowed, inhaled or by skin contact. Infectious substances can contain microorganisms which can cause disease. Examples are medical and clinical waste. We supply numerous container types for waste content of different types:

  • Econo AllFibre drums, ideal for environments with high volumes of light-weight waste, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), and UN certified to be incinerated together with the waste content.
  • V-rated drums developed (with the HSA) specifically for lab smalls.
  • Wastepac drums, which can be stored outside and used in a compacter for more efficient transport of hazardous waste.

We also make containment drums for powders that may emit hazardous dust which you don’t want your operators coming into contact with on a daily basis: they incorporate a liner, which connects directly to the chute that the tablet or powder comes out of.

7. Radioactive.

These substances are a very specialist area, to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Don’t hesitate to speak to us about the particular material you need to store or transport.

8. Corrosives.

Substances which can degrade or disintegrate other materials upon contact. Examples are acids, paints, battery fluid. Again, speak to us about the particular corrosive material you need to store or transport and we will most likely have options to offer.

9. Miscellaneous.

Any goods that might present danger to human health and safety, infrastructure and/ or their means of transport but don’t fall into the classes above are covered by class 9. Examples are dry ice, fertilisers, chemical or first aid kits, battery powered equipment. Depending on the characteristics of the product, we have lots of options available, from drums and tanks to UN-certified cardboard boxes.

Questions to ask yourself to help choose the right container

Thinking about the answers to these questions can save time, money and lives, when it comes to the transport or storage of your hazardous materials.

  • What’s going into the container? Is it liquid or solid? Is it flammable, explosive, or poisonous?
  • Is the container just for storage or also for transport to another location? If transport, what means – road, rail, ship, air? (Different regulations apply to different modes of transport and different containers may be more appropriate for different environments.)
  • Is a food-grade container required?
  • Is a specific UN rating required?
  • Is a tamper-evident closure or a security lock required?
  • What size and shape of containers will suit your supply chain and be most transport-efficient?
  • How important is sustainability? If this is key for your company, it may be really worthwhile seeing whether the ADR packaging instructions related to your product would allow a move to fibre drums, the most sustainable type of barrel. Many people believe that fibre drums cannot be used for dangerous goods, moisture-sensitive products or in cleanrooms, but in fact, with sophisticated external and internal liners, anything is possible. The beauty of fibre containers is that they are fully customisable for your supply chain.
  • Can containers be reused in a closed loop? If this is possible, fantastic – your company is contributing to the circular economy! In these circumstances, it may be most appropriate to invest in a more expensive but very durable material (like steel or very high-quality plastic) and put in place a reconditioning loop. (We will be happy to introduce you to our partner Packaging Laundry Ltd.)

Types of industrial container for dangerous goods

At our warehouses in Bray, next to Dublin, we stock the following types of packaging options for dangerous goods:

Largest capacity IBC tanks

IBCs allow the transport of maximum quantities in a minimum of space. This makes them a very economical, food-grade, bulk packaging option for the likes of chemicals and solvents. We carry regular new, reconditioned and rebottled IBCs, as well as special tanks for explosive zones or flammable liquids.

Large capacity barrels & drums 

We carry a wide range of:

  • Steel barrels/ drums (open top and tighthead)
  • Plastic barrels/ drums (open top and tighthead)
  • Fibre barrels/ drums (open top)

Open-top barrels’ covers can be fully removed, making them easy to fill and empty. They are great for thick liquid and solid materials, for both storage and transportation. They are generally closed with bolt rings (solids) or lever locks (liquids).  They are available in steel, plastic and fibre. Steel drums offer maximum durability and protection of contents, but they are the most expensive and there are less size variations available. Plastic barrels, to align with shipping standards, especially for hazardous materials, must be manufactured form the highest quality plastic, which implies that only a percentage of recycled plastic can be used (as recycling affects strength). So, these are the least sustainable option. However, they are reusable if your supply chain will allow (Industrial Packaging works with a partner called Packaging Laundry to wash and recondition both barrels and IBCs). Plastic drums are generally available in a range of capacities running from 15 to 55 gallons. Fibre drums are environmentally-friendly and highly cost-effective, ideal for solid or dry materials, in particular those that require a containment liner to protect handlers. They are available in infinite heights and diameters, as they can be custom-made in the size that suits your supply chain. They are available with a lock-rim which is ideal for hazardous goods packing.

Tight-head barrels are commonly used in transport of fluids with low viscosity, because they are fully sealed with just bung openings at the top. This full closure makes them particularly suitable for shipping hazardous and dangerous materials. They are available in steel and plastic.

Smaller capacity drums, pails, tins & jerricans

We don’t believe our customers should be restricted in their choice to only the containers we manufacture ourselves at our two factories in Bray. So, we also distribute a huge range of smaller drums, buckets, pails, tins and jerricans sourced from trusted suppliers who share our concern with quality and customer service. This allows us to offer size ranges, characteristics and price points to suit all needs.

  • Smaller plastic drums
  • Plastic buckets and pails
  • Tin pails and tighthead tins
  • Plastic jerricans

UN-certified boxes

Boxes are cheap, light and fully recyclable, so they are perfect for small quantities or samples. They are often used for light solids like powders, but liquids can be safely packed in these boxes, too, within an inner packaging. There are different types of box, which have been tested for different types of contents. This is shown by a code on the box, with a letter designating the packing group (X, Y or Z for groups I, II or III). You must also follow certain box-packing procedures for the UN certification to be valid – see our guide to packing UN-certified boxes.

Talk dangerous to us 😉

If you feel you need further advice to ensure your contents, facilities, vehicles, employees and anyone who may come in contact with your materials are kept safe in storage or transport, one of our Dangerous Goods Safety Advisors will be happy to talk with you. Book in a chat.

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