What Are Hazardous Materials?


Before you can choosing the perfect packaging you have to ensure that you are not dealing with what is considered a hazardous material. There are some materials that seem relatively innocuous but they are still classified as hazardous and require special handling procedures, including appropriate packaging.

Each country has their own packaging, labeling and handling requirements for hazardous materials so before you ship be sure that you are meeting the gaining ports requirements. Many countries have assigned their own special meanings to what can be considered as hazardous material but ultimately the following definition can be considered the most agreed upon general definition.

Hazardous material is a material or substance, including a hazardous substance that has been determined to be a health or safety of property or person. This type of material can pose an unreasonable safety risk to healthy, safety and property when transported when not contained properly.

Hazardous materials are typically broken down into different classes like, flammable, explosive, poison gas and others. Multiple hazards are materials that meet more than one class of what is considered hazardous. Confused yet? You are not alone. One of the biggest problems with choosing the right packaging is knowing if you are dealing with what can be considered a hazardous material.

Listed below are some of the categories and some of the definitions of the categories that can help you to determine if you are dealing with a hazardous material or not and if it will influence the type of packaging that you choose.


For most organization explosives are pretty easy to pick up on as being classified as hazardous in just about every country in the world. There are however different classes of explosives that get different classifications. An explosive is considered to be any chemical mixture or compound that is considered to result in an instantaneous explosion with the release of gas and heat.

There are three classes of explosives. Class A – Is a maximum hazard. This type of explosive requires detonation. When people consider explosives this is the type that they most naturally will think of.

In essence a bomb (most organizations do not have to worry about shipping Class A explosives). Class B-This type is more common and includes things like fireworks and other goods that may combust causing an explosion of gases and heat.

Class C – is the least hazardous group and includes things like manufactured goods that contain small amounts of any of the Class A compounds. Small fireworks, small munitions and other items fall into this category.

Other items that fall into the explosive category but are considered multi hazards are gases that are compressed or any other gas that is compressed in a container that has a vapor pressure exceeding 40 psc.

All non-liquified compressed gas is captioned under the controls for explosives to most international ports. Any flammable or non flammable compressed gas will have to be discussed with the gaining port before packaging and labeling to ensure compliance.

Flammable Liquids

This is where things get a little more complicated because even if your product only contains a small amount of flammable liquid as part of the compound it can easily be classified as hazardous and have to be packaged in a very specific way.

Flammable liquids that are considered hazardous are flash point of 37 degrees Celcius. This category of hazardous liquids contains several sub categories and unlike other hazardous material is not rated on a sliding scale of hazardousness. That flash point is the determining factor.

Other flammable goods make the list. Any flammable solid that is not classified as an explosive which can under normal shipping conditions that can cause fires either through friction or from retaining heat through processing or manufacturing.

If the material can be easily ignited or burns vigorously and that can cause serious harm to property, health or safety is also considered a flammable hazard. In this classification both spontaneously combustible material and water reactive material is included.

Spontaneously combustible material for the purpose of identifying hazardous material includes pastes, sludge and materials that can increase in temperature during transportation and react when exposed to air.

Included in the hazardous materials list for most nations under the flammable heading includes any organic mixture that contains organic peroxide or a derivative of the same. Even if a hydrogen atom has been removed and replaced with an organic agent this chemical compound is considered hazardous and has to be packaged and shipped as such.

Consult with us on the hazardous materials



Most products at one point or another have had ingredients or materials that could be poisonous, while your end products may not be effected by some of the regulations, your supply chain may very well be effected by the classification and regulation systems of any number of countries.

Poisons are classified using the A, B, C system with A being the most toxic poisons and C being the least toxic poisons. Class A poisons cover poisonous gases that can be harmless until mixed with another agent as one of the top potential toxins.

Of course it is not only gaseous materials that are considered class A poisons. Class B are lesser toxins but still pose a risk to health and safety. Any poison that is presumed to be more than an irritant but less than an immediate risk to life is considered a Class B poison.

Class C or the Irritant Class is reserved for poisons that may not result in death or even illness but instead are enough to cause an irritation to the majority of the people that come in contact with it. Basically any agent that does not fall into class A or class B is considered a Class C agent.

Biological Agents

A biological or etiologic agent is a living organism (micro organism) or its toxin that can cause a threat to human health or cause disease if damaged during shipping and coming into contact with humans. Keep in mind that biological agents can be found in yogurt! Of course that is an extreme comparison but you have to remember that hazardous materials are classified using very narrow terminology that also happens to be rather broad and sweeping.

Radioactive Agents

Any combination or materials or raw materials that gives off ionizing radiation. The acceptable threshold is different for every country. Even the smallest parts that produce ionizing radiation have to be listed and labeled in most countries.

Corrosive Agents

Any material that comes into contact with human skin that can cause serious tissue damage is considered hazardous and has to be labeled accordingly and packaged correctly. Agents that can corrode metals is also considered hazardous.

Unclassified Substances

There is a litany of materials that are considered hazardous that do not fall into any of the categories. Many countries identify items as hazardous even if they do not cause any harm to human safety or health because they can cause damage to the roadways, shipyards and other shipping venues.

A good example is the regulation regarding materials that omit noxious fumes. Let’s say you are transporting fish, and the container that you are using is old and leaky. Let’s say that the truck breaks down along the way and your fishy order has to sit on the side of a road in a mid sized city.

For arguments sake lets say it is hot out. It will not take too long before the fish run off from the leaky container starts to really stink things up. Someone files a complaint about the smell in front of the house they are selling and you get a fine for transporting hazardous materials without the proper packaging.

In other words hazardous does not have to kill you to be considered a hazard all it has to do is to become an issue for the reasonable people that it comes in contact with while being transported.

Basically if you are shipping a product and it can leak, looks bad or cause anyone any discomfort along the way because you have failed to properly package or label the product than you will face having to deal with charges of shipping hazardous material without the proper packaging or labeling.


If you are in doubt about any of the products, materials or compounds that your company ships it is always best to consult with an expert. In many cases the solution is very simple. The right packaging and labeling for your hazardous materials and your shipment leaves on time.

On the flip side of the coin if you neglect the right packaging and labeling in any area of your supply chain you are looking at long delays and potential fines. It is always best to err on the side of caution and choose the appropriate packaging, shipping container and be sure to contact the receiving country to ensure you are in compliance with the gaining countries regulations.

It is very important that you choose packaging that is appropriate for the particular material you are shipping.