Safety Tips for Shipping Dangerous Goods

Safety Tips for Shipping Dangerous Goods

Each year, millions of shipments of dangerous goods are transported from or around Canada. Transportation can be by road, rail, air, or sea, meaning that highways, railway yards, airports, and harbors are all busy hubs for these types of shipments. Transport Canada – which collects information relating to occurrences involving dangerous goods – reported that there were 464 incidents in 2018 that involved dangerous goods. Of these incidents, more than half – 56.5% to be precise – took place on roads, while another 36.6% occurred in shipping facilities such as warehouses and terminals.

Of the incidents reported to Transport Canada, almost half took place in the province of Alberta. This is almost certainly due to the high oil and gas activity in the area and highlights the special attention required when shipping in these industries. Two of the main causes of incidents and accidents when shipping dangerous goods were loss of control – constituting 16.8% of events – and improper handling at 11.9%. Both of these factors involve a distinct human error element and act as examples of how extensive appropriate training should be a priority for any company that ships dangerous goods as part of its business.

The impact of not following the correct procedures can quite literally be the difference between life and death. 12 people died in 2018 in Canada as a result of incidents involving the transportation of dangerous goods. Other consequences include serious injury, property, and environmental damage. Safety precautions, then, are paramount for keeping these types of incidents to an absolute minimum. Here we outline some of the most important safety tips to follow when shipping dangerous goods.

1. Undertake Proper Training

The Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) Act and Regulations address the handling and shipping of dangerous goods, whether by road, air, rail, or water. It is made up of various elements focussing on aspects such as what constitutes dangerous goods, preparing the relevant documentation, reporting incidents and accidents – and training required by those coming into contact with them. A company’s top priority should be to make sure that anyone involved in the transportation of dangerous goods has had – and is kept up to date with – the correct training. There are courses dedicated exclusively to training people to handle and ship dangerous goods, but laws can vary from area to area, so check both government recommendations and local regulations to ensure your employees are properly trained in advance. TDG certificates are generally issued for a period of 3 years, after which retraining needs to take place. Anyone handling dangerous goods without a certificate must be supervised by a certified person.

2. Classify the Dangerous Goods Correctly

Dangerous goods is an umbrella term that encompasses a lot of different materials and substances. It is important to remember that not all dangerous goods are the same and that the way they are handled and shipped should be appropriate to the particular type of hazard. The TDG classifies the different kinds of dangerous goods into 9 classes. These are:

  • Class 1: Explosives
  • Class 2: Gases
  • Class 3: Flammable Liquids
  • Class 4: Flammable Solids; Substances Liable to Spontaneous Combustion; Substances That on Contact with Water Emit Flammable Gases (Water-reactive Substances)
  • Class 5: Oxidizing Substances and Organic Peroxides
  • Class 6: Toxic and Infectious Substances
  • Class 7: Radioactive Materials
  • Class 8: Corrosives
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous Products, Substances or Organisms (including substances which are environmentally hazardous)

Some of these classes are then broken down into sub-divisions. It’s crucial that you correctly classify the dangerous goods and a “proof of classification” must be kept for 5 years after the goods have been transported or imported. A proof of classification should state the technical name and the classification of the goods as well as the date of the classification. It may also include test or lab reports.

3. Contact Your Shipper Beforehand

There are likely to be different requirements and restrictions imposed by different shipping companies when it comes to the transportation of dangerous goods. The TDG outlines the minimum requirements expected by the legislation but there may be additional measures in place at various shipping firms. Therefore, it’s always advisable to get in touch with your shipper beforehand to check the specifics of how your goods should be prepared for shipping.

4. Make Sure Your Shipment is Packaged and Labelled Properly

Ensuring that the shipment is properly packaged and labeled is absolutely critical. You should take the time to study the various requirements for the specific dangerous goods you’re wanting to ship before attempting to package or label them. Companies shipping within and from Canada should make sure labeling is compliant with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) which is an international standard that has been adopted by countries around the world. Various factors will dictate the packaging of a shipment:

The type and quantity of dangerous goods

The TDG outlines the packaging requirements for various types of dangerous goods. Certain quantities of some goods are not permitted to be transported without an Emergency Response Assistance Plan.

The method of transportation

Different methods of transportation have different regulations. For example, if you’re shipping by air, packaging must comply with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR). Always check the specific requirements for your chosen form of transport.

Whether the shipment is domestic or international

It can be the case that sending a shipment internationally triggers different regulations. For example, if you’re transporting by water, domestic shipments come under the TDG. However, if the shipment is international, then the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) code also applies.

When labeling the shipment, the following information must be included:

The proper shipping name

This is the technical name and any hazardous properties contained in the dangerous goods as outlined by the TDG, for example, FLAMMABLE LIQUID, TOXIC. This should always be in uppercase.

Hazard class labels

These are the labels that identify the type of hazardous material in the shipment, for example, CORROSIVE or FLAMMABLE LIQUID.

UN identification number

You can identify the appropriate UN number from column 1, schedule 1 of the TDG.

Packing group

There are 3 packing groups under the TDG:

  • Packing Group I – Very hazardous substance
  • Packing Group II – Hazardous substance
  • Packing Group III – Moderately hazardous substance

Part 2 of the regulations defines which substances fall under which group, so make sure to check before labeling.

Orientation label for liquids

To ensure liquid goods are transported the right way up, always include an orientation label.

UN certification mark

This is a permanent marking on the packaging itself that confirms it meets the minimum standards set out by the United Nations for transporting dangerous goods. Different types of goods may have additional labeling requirements, so always check the regulations beforehand.

5. Pay Attention to Detail

Mistakes happen, which is why it’s so important to pay great attention to detail at every step of the process. As we have already seen, human error is a significant factor in incidents involving dangerous goods. Therefore, employees double, triple, and quadruple-checking their work is critical. Whether it’s preparing the material itself to be shipped, drawing up the shipping manifests, or packaging and labeling the goods, you can never check too many times. Instilling this philosophy into those who regularly handle dangerous goods can help prevent mistakes and accidents from occurring in the first place.

While the transportation of dangerous goods is by its very nature a hazardous business, these safety tips should help keep accidents and incidents to a minimum. Carrying out the proper training for everyone involved in the process ensures that everything is handled as safely as possible. Classifying the goods themselves is key, as is getting in touch with your chosen shipper to check their company-specific requirements. Making sure that your shipment is packaged and labeled according to the various applicable regulations is critical and double-checking the work carried out – at every phase – will help keep the number of mistakes made as low as possible.

Note: This article should not be treated as a substitute for legal information. If you are shipping dangerous goods then you should always ensure you consult and follow the regulations and local requirements directly.


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