Recommended Packaging Materials for Different Types of Dangerous Goods

When it comes to shipping dangerous goods, the stakes are high – both in terms of safety and regulatory compliance. In the complex world of logistics and skilled packaging, the goal is to ensure that potentially hazardous materials reach their destination without incident. Achieving this requires expertise in a diverse range of materials and techniques designed to contain and shield various types of dangerous goods.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to recommended packaging materials and methods for different classifications of hazardous items, equipping professionals in the industry to safeguard their shipments.

The Crucial Role of Proper Packaging

It’s not just a box and some bubble wrap. Proper dangerous goods packaging is a science, especially when it comes to securing hazardous cargo. The right materials and techniques can prevent leaks, spills, fires, and other potentially catastrophic events.

For shippers and carriers, mastering the art of hazardous materials packaging is not only a professional necessity but a moral imperative to public health and safety.

1. Flammable Substances

The Risks Involved

Flammable substances present a significant risk during transportation. These materials have the potential to catch fire easily and, if not contained properly, can turn a minor incident into a disaster.

Recommended Packaging Materials and Techniques

  • Metal Drums: For large quantities of flammable liquids, metal drums are an industry-standard. They offer robustness and prevent spills.
  • Composite and Non-Refillable Packaging: With layered protection, composite packs ensure flammable substances are securely sealed. Non-refillable containers are single-use and thus avoid contamination from previous contents.
  • UN-Certified Packaging: Packaging with United Nations certification meets strict safety standards for hazardous materials.
  • Shock-Absorbent Materials: For transportation, it’s critical to use shock-absorbent materials inside the package to prevent movement and reduce the risk of breakage or damage that could lead to a fire.

Examples of Flammable Substances

  • Gasoline
  • Propane
  • Some solvents and adhesives

2. Corrosive Substances

The Risks Involved

Corrosive substances can damage living tissues and other materials, making them potentially dangerous if not handled with care.

Recommended Packaging Materials and Techniques

  • Plastic Bottles or Jars: For liquids, plastic may be preferred due to its resistance to corrosive chemicals.
  • Glass Bottles with Protective Coatings: When using glass, a protective coating can mitigate the risk of breakage and leaks.
  • Inner Packaging: Secondary containment, such as an inner liner, can provide a second layer of protection.
  • Packing Absorbent Materials: In case of leaks, packing absorbent materials like vermiculite can contain the spill.

Examples of Corrosive Substances

  • Sulfuric acid
  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Certain strong cleaning materials

3. Toxic Substances

The Risks Involved

Toxic substances can cause harm to living organisms including humans, often with serious or life-threatening effects.

Recommended Packaging Materials and Techniques

  • Barrier Packaging: This limits the passage or migration of gases, moisture, aromas, and waterborne or volatile contaminants.
  • Child-Resistant Packaging: If the substance is a hazard if accidentally ingested, child-resistant containers are necessary.
  • Double Pack System: Use two containers that are different structures and materials to provide extra protection against spillage or breakage.
  • Poly or Metal Cans with Lined Interiors: To contain hazardous AI substances that could compromise the integrity of a non-coated can.

Examples of Toxic Substances

  • Pesticides
  • Some pharmaceutical drugs
  • Poisonous gases

4. Explosive Substances

The Risks Involved

Explosive substances can cause catastrophic damage to living creatures and structures if not handled carefully.

Recommended Packaging Materials and Techniques

  • Explosion-Proof Containers: These are designed to withstand the pressures of an explosion, containing the blast and preventing oxygen from reaching the substance.
  • Cushioning: Inside the packaging, cushioning materials should be soft enough to reduce the shock from sudden impact but durable enough not to compress or break during normal handling.
  • Specific UN Packaging: Some explosives require packaging that meets stringent United Nations guidelines to prevent unintended detonations.

Examples of Explosive Substances

  • TNT
  • Certain types of fireworks

5. Radioactive Materials

The Risks Involved

Radioactive materials emit ionising radiation, which can pose severe health risks if not properly contained.

Recommended Packaging Materials and Techniques

  • Lead-Lined Containers: Lead is an excellent shield for most types of ionising radiation and is often used in the construction of containers for radioactive materials.
  • Pelletised Foam: To provide secure positioning of the radioactive material and shock absorption during transport.
  • Vacuum Packaging: For some low-level radioactive materials, vacuum packaging can be effective in preventing leaks or spillage.

Examples of Radioactive Materials

  • Uranium
  • Radioactive isotopes used in medicine and industry

6. Infectious Substances

The Risks Involved

Infectious substances, such as those causing COVID-19, can spread disease and infection if not contained.

Recommended Packaging Materials and Techniques

  • Leak-Proof Bags: Double-bagged and in a rigid container, this is often the first step in containment.
  • Triple Packaging System: This includes a primary receptacle, secondary packaging, and outer packaging.
  • Coolant Systems: For samples that must stay cold, coolant systems should be used but always follow the specific guidelines for the infectious material.

Examples of Infectious Substances

  • Cultures
  • Tissue samples
  • Samples for P testing For each type of dangerous good, there exists specific packaging and handling requirements to minimise risks effectively.


Packaging dangerous goods is not about avoiding the journey; it’s about ensuring they undergo it safely. Industry professionals must be diligent in their selection of packaging materials and techniques that match the hazard classification of the goods. Whether it’s containing flammable, corrosive, toxic, or infectious substances, or dealing with explosives or radioactive materials, it’s important to adhere to the strict regulations in place.

The meticulous work of proper dangerous goods packaging isn’t just a matter of avoiding fines or preserving your company’s reputation. It’s about being a responsible steward of safety in a world that relies on the movement of goods and materials more than ever.