Ignorance about UN boxes dangerous: ‘sender is liable’

In the world of packaging for dangerous goods, UN certified boxes are part of everyday business. However, our specialists at CarePack Holland notice a lot of ignorance among customers about this combination packaging. “A UN marking on a box does not mean that all kinds of hazardous substances can be transported in it” says Lambert Dekkers from Amsterdam.

Packaging for the transport of dangerous goods must be certified according to United Nations (UN) standards. A UN-approved box is a combination packaging with an outer box and an inner packaging that has been tested and complies with regulations. “The UN mark is therefore based on a combination,” Lambert begins. “Take for example, an outer box with a special filling and plastic bottles in it. This combination is subject to drop tests, stacking tests and sometimes air pressure tests. If the combination succeeds in all these parts, it will receive a corresponding code.”

If a packaging combination succeeds in all the tests, it will receive a corresponding UN-code.”


“The code can ultimately be read on the packaging, but can also cause confusion,” Lambert knows. “We regularly hear stories from customers who think that any UN marking is sufficient to pack hazardous substances such as medicines, lithium batteries, explosives or paint in a box. However this is not the case. If a packaging has been tested with plastic bottles and a customer has dangerous goods that are packed in glass, this can result in vastly different outcomes for drop tests and is therefore not allowed. Always request the test certificates just to be sure.


In addition, other variables are important too. Does the product have to be shipped via road transport or does it also go by air or sea? Which hazard class and packing group does it concern? What is the (liquid) density of the packed material? What is the reaction at high and low temperatures? “And the test reports are even more specific,” says Lambert. “It describes, for example, what filling material and tape has been used. You shouldn’t deviate from that either, because this can be problematic. For example, certain corrosive chemicals do not match with Styrofoam-like filling materials because it can melt the substance.”

When using standard packaging solutions, a tailor-made solution is certainly possible. Lambert: “At CarePack Holland we always look at the wishes of the customer. Which tape is desired? And what kind of filling material is most pleasant for the customer? We often see that vermiculite is chosen as the tested filling material for standard UN boxes. A dusty product that makes both packers and unpackers unpleasant. That is why we are also looking for better possibilities. Of course, we always keep a close eye on the general dangerous goods regulations. A packaging with special dimensions is another customary adjustment and it is certainly possible under specific conditions. Required additional tests and reports by an independent test lab will be arranged by CarePack. This is mostly possible within a few weeks and at a low cost.

Shipper is responsible

This is an important point for attention, because once on the road, packaging can no longer be adjusted. “If something goes wrong, you are responsible as shipper. During an inspection by the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, the packaging must comply with the UN report. After an accident inspection, for example, it must be clear that the correct filling material has been used.” If something is not right, the shipper is liable and hefty fines can follow.

Need advice on the transport or storage of hazardous substances? Please contact our specialists at CarePack Holland or read more about UN boxes for dangerous goods here. We can also help with one-off shipments or limited numbers of shipments, for example with 4GV-approved boxes. Do not hesitate to enquire about the possibilities.

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