How to choose the correct labels for the transport of dangerous goods

When transporting dangerous goods, elements such as labels, brands, panels and metal plates have a fundamental communicative role.

In fact, they provide the main information regarding the characteristics and dangers associated with the products contained in packages, containers or vehicles.


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One label is not the same as another

The types of labels for the transport of dangerous goods are very numerous, and their wide range may cause some difficulty when choosing.

Each danger label, mark, transport label, hazard plate, orange panel and the other types of label, applies to a different means of transport. For example, labels that indicate asbestos content, the well-known "fragile" label and the classic arrows (applied with the tip pointing upwards) to indicate the correct position of the package.

Memorizing each type could therefore appear complicated, however experience shows that the subdivision according to class, colour, graphics and the detailed requirements of the ADR, RID, IMDG and IATA regulations, make it relatively simple to find your way among the many choices and uses .

In particular, elements such as warning labels help, because they graphically represent the associated risks in an intuitive and effective way: physical (explosive, pressurized gas, flammable, oxidizing, corrosive) and health hazards (toxic, serious damage to health, harmful to health, environmental hazard).

Those who design and distribute labels for the transport of dangerous goods are also able to provide posters that summarize this information and, when used everyday, reveal their usefulness.

Another aspect to consider, besides selecting the type of label based on the characteristics of the goods to be shipped and transportation mode, is their size. In large packages or IBCs, labels and marks must have a minimum size of 100x100 mm. Only in specific cases, when dealing with small packages can smaller sizes be permitted, provided that good visibility and legibility is ensured.

However, the size of plates and marks changes for containers and vehicles. In these cases, one must use plates and marks with a minimum dimension of 250x250 mm and orange panels with dimensions of 400x300 mm or 300x120 mm (depending on the case).

The criteria for choosing labels

The main feature is naturally to be in compliance with regulations. Quality is also an important feature in labels used for transporting dangerous goodsConsider what would happen if a label peels off or loses its legibility due to low quality materials or a poor production process.

A package containing dangerous goods that travels in anonymity, without a label or if it is illegible, does not call attention to the possible risks involved, and so could easily be confused with a common package containing harmless products. It would end up being classified undeclared dangerous goods and sanctioned.

In light of this, one must consult the corresponding ADR, RID, ADN, IMDG and ICAO / IATA regulations: among other things, they state which labels and marks must be able to withstand the elements without being significantly degraded.

Quality also involves practicality: for example, opting to purchase packs of loose labels means receiving only the necessary pieces, without affecting the remaining ones. When purchasing labels in rolls, however, it is necessary that the perforated lines have been cut correctly, allowing each part to be easily separated. And, again, good quality labels must be provided on supports that allow simple peeling of the adhesive from the protective part, so as not to damage it.

In regards to plates and placards, those who do not need always to display the warning signs, will find the foldable versions particularly useful, these being equipped with secure closing systems. The advantage here being that one can close up the warning signs without the need to actually remove them from the vehicle.

If in doubt about which labels to be purchased, personalized or which are already available in-house, it would be a mistake to give in to the temptation and rely on instinct. It is better with the to carry out any checks  with the help of a specialist or supplier who is able to advise and provide the best solutions.