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What are packing groups?

In order not to endanger people, animals and the environment, dangerous goods must be transported safely. The more dangerous the goods are, the more reliably they have to be “wrapped”, “packed” and secured for transport. For this reason, packaging groups have been defined to which substances for packaging purposes are assigned due to their respective degree of danger.

  • Packing group I: Substances with high risk
  • Packing group II: Substances with medium risk
  • Packing group III: substances with low risk

The classification of dangerous goods

There are nine main classes of dangerous goods, some with sub-classes that are defined in ADR, the “European Agreement on the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road” (“Accord européen relatif au transport international des marchandises dangereuses par route”).

The classes defined in ADR describe typical characteristics of dangerous goods. These dangerous goods can differ significantly from one another within the class, i.e. require very specific packaging. So it is possible that several packing groups (VG) occur in one class, depending on the respective substance that is to be packed and transported. The assignment of packing groups is not possible for some substances: Exceptions are substances of class 1, 2, 5.2, 6.2, 7 and the self-reactive substances from class 4.1.

At this point the classes of dangerous goods are listed once:

  • Class 1: Explosives and objects that contain explosives (example: fireworks rockets, ammunition).
  • Class 2: gases that are dissolved, liquefied or compressed under pressure (examples: liquid nitrogen, cryogenic; propane gas).
  • Class 3: Flammable liquids (examples: acetaldehyde; ethanol).
  • Class 4.1: Flammable solids; Substances that are self-reactive; desensitized explosive solids (example: highly flammable metal powder).
  • Class 4.2: Self-igniting substances (example: phosphorus).
  • Class 4.3: Substances that develop a flammable gas as soon as they come into contact with water (example: carbide).
  • Class 5.1: Inflammatory (oxidizing) substances (example: hydrogen peroxide / known as bleaching agent).
  • Class 5.2: Organic peroxides (example: peroxyacetic acid).
  • Class 6.1: Toxins (example: arsenic).
  • Class 6.2: Substances that pose a risk of infection (examples: diagnostic samples; laboratory and clinical waste).
  • Class 7: Radioactive substances (example: uranium).
  • Class 8: Substances with a caustic effect (examples: acid, lye).
  • Class 9: Other dangerous substances and objects (example: asbestos).

Most dangerous goods are already classified, so that the consignor usually does not have to do this himself, but can see it from the ADR substance list, in which the main and secondary risks of the goods are described together with the assigned packaging group.

Test marking for packaging of dangerous goods

For dangerous goods, only tested packaging that has been approved by the responsible authorities may be used: The design of the dangerous goods packaging is checked to determine whether it seals tightly and meets specific requirements. In Germany, this approval body is the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, abbreviated to "BAM". This abbreviation can appear in the coding of packaging, for example. The packaging code immediately provides information on whether and for which groups of substances a certain packaging is approved. The relevant code letter is in the third position of the coding.

  • Packaging with an "X" in the identifying code number (3rd position) is suitable for: Substances of packaging groups I, II + III.
  • Packaging with a "Y" in the identifying code number (3rd position) is suitable for: Substances of packaging groups II + III.
  • Packagings with a "Z" in the identifying code number (3rd position) are suitable for: Substances of packing group III.

If the type of packaging is "Z" -coded, it may therefore only be used for substances with low risk (packaging group III); If the type of packaging is "X" -coded, it corresponds to the highest security level and is suitable for substances with high risk (VG I), but substances of medium and low risk could also be packed with it at any time.

Check for the dangerous goods class

Each class of dangerous goods has its own strict regulations that define the criteria that packaging must meet. There are special regulations for each substance, which are listed in the ADR: The type of packaging, the maximum storage volume and / or the maximum mass of the packaging are specified. It is important that the labeling on the packaging does not say anything about whether this packaging may be used for a specific substance. Rather, the packaging code indicates which type of construction is tested and which fulfills the regulations.

Checking the shipping method

The dispatch of dangerous goods is subject to further regulations, depending on the chosen means of transport. The provisions in ADR apply to road traffic. The transport of dangerous goods by rail is defined by the RID rules (Regulations on the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail); in maritime traffic by the rules of the IMDG Code (International Code for the Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Sea Ships), in air traffic finally by the rules of the IATA-DGR (International Hazardous Goods Regulations for the Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Worldwide Air Traffic - "DGR" - Dangerous Goods Regulations) or ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN specialized agency that also defines the abbreviations for airports).

Fiscal Regulations

The German legislator has also issued rules (GGV, Hazardous Goods Ordinance). Hazardous substances are described in more detail according to the Chemicals Act and GefStoffV; this important information can be found on the label of the dangerous goods (examples: "very toxic" for "nitrogen dioxide"; "corrosive" for "pipe cleaner"; "flammable" for solvent). According to the degree of danger, the dangerous goods are divided into packaging groups, just as dangerous goods packaging is divided into three groups (X, Y, Z). Dangerous goods packaging may therefore only be used for dangerous goods in certain packaging groups. If a good combines several dangerous properties not just of one class of dangerous goods (1 to 9, see above), this good must be clearly marked accordingly. However, the packaging of the dangerous goods must also take the dangerous properties into account. The dangerous goods must also be labeled in the dispatch: In addition to the name and the UN number, additional hazard symbols must be attached. For example, the “skull” pictogram is known, which stands for “very poisonous” or “poisonous” dangerous goods. In order to avoid misunderstandings, the EU is striving to standardize the pictograms used for dangerous goods.

The right packaging material: Despite many regulations, there is a large number of variants

For the packaging of dangerous goods, for example - according to the rules for the respective dangerous goods class - can be used: containers, barrels, wooden barrels and natural wood packaging, sacks, cardboard, boxes, canisters, thin sheet metal containers, pressure vessels (e.g. bottles) and rigid or flexible bulk packaging, but also Combination packaging with plastics or with glass, porcelain or ceramics. Packaging can consist of an outer packaging (outer protection of a combination packaging) and an inner packaging with the dangerous goods.

Special cases with special requirements

Special packaging is used to rescue dangerous goods; but there are separate and very strict regulations for their packaging and transport. Strict rules also apply to packaging that is to be reprocessed and re-used after first use: Since dangerous substances must not leave any traces in the packaging in order not to lead to undesirable reactions during later use, special care must be taken. All remnants of the previous content, as well as external coatings or the labels with hazard warnings, must be removed.