Guidance on Packing with UN Certified Boxes for Dangerous Goods

Transporting packaging containing dangerous goods safely is a priority and the legal requirement of those shipping them. The United Nations has set regulations which condemn the use of ineffective packaging for goods deemed dangerous during transit, meaning that only packages that have been certified by UN packaging standards may be used. Shippers must declare that they have packaged any dangerous goods with suitable materials and have done so correctly, using boxes manufactured to UN specifications.

What are UN certified boxes?

The UN specifies the use of certified cardboard boxes that meet a number of packaging requirements, depending on whether goods are transported over land, sea or air. The UN’s dangerous and hazardous goods list, also shows the items which must be packaged according to national and international standards. The requirements ultimately aim to prevent the spread of dangerous goods if an incident should occur, protecting shippers and the surrounding environment.

Certified packaging is tested by its ability to protect dangerous goods, under drop, stack, and leak and pressure conditions. If the items you are packaging are on the dangerous goods list, there’ll be a specific packaging instructions for them, displaying the type of packaging that can be used — wooden pallets, cardboard boxes, metal containers etc. The list will also state the suitable quantities and maximum gross masses for the items being shipped.

UN packaging specifications

A packaging design that has passed testing successfully, is certified with a unique approval mark. The approval mark should be visible on the box, with the UN symbol:

An example of the approval code for packaging manufactured in the UK, is as follows:

4GV / X12 / S / 15 / GB / 97949

The first item, 4GV, relates to the type of container, numbered from 1–7 and the material used, A-P. 
1 — Drums/Pails
2 — Barrels
3 — Jerricans
4 — Boxes
5 — Bags
6 — Composite Packaging
7 — Pressure Receptacle

A — Steel
B — Aluminium
C — Natural Wood
D — Plywood
F — Reconstituted Wood
G — Fibreboard
H — Plastic
L — Textile
M — Paper
N — Metal other than Steel or Aluminium
P — Glass, Porcelain or Stoneware

In this case, 4GV is a fibreboard box, which can carry dangerous goods held in an uncertified container (V).

Next comes the rating for how high the goods being transported rate on the dangerous goods list, X, Y, Z, and the weight, or gross mass or specific gravity permitted.

X — High Hazard Level — Packing Groups I, II and III
Y — Medium Hazard Level — Packing Groups II and III
Z — Low Hazard Level — Packing Groups III only

Gross mass or specific gravity
Gross mass for solids — The maximum gross mass of solids or the packaging with inner packaging in kilograms.
Specific gravity for liquids — The specific gravity, rounded down to the first decimal point for packaging intended to contain liquid.

An ‘S’ or ‘L’ will then specify whether the goods contained are solid or liquid. The number that comes after, for this example 15, shows the year of the packaging’s manufacture, with the last two digits of the year displayed (2015).

GB stands for the location of manufacture, as packaging must show the country of manufacture on the approved mark. Finally, the last number ‘97949’, will show the code for certifying agency or manufacturer, identifying the party responsible for certifying that the packaging has met all required testing.

Nicklin is a leading manufacturer and supplier of bespoke transit packaging products, including UN certified packaging. To find out more about whether your packaging meets national or international regulations bespoke, or for a bespoke UN certified packaging solution for dangerous goods, please don’t hesitate to contact us today by calling 0121 359 8101 or emailing

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