What Legislation Is There Around Dangerous Goods?

Compliance Knowledge Base | Customs Controls

Posted by: Rosie Anderson Published: Fri, 19 Jul 2019 Last Reviewed: Fri, 19 Jul 2019
What Legislation Is There Around Dangerous Goods?

Dangerous goods are defined as items that have the potential to endanger the safety of people and the environment. They may also be referred to as restricted articles, hazardous materials and dangerous cargo. If an organisation regularly handles hazardous materials or dangerous goods, it's essential that they understand the relevant legislation so that appropriate control measures and training can be implemented.

The Petroleum Act 1879 was the first legislation to address the need for control over dangerous goods. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 initiated proposals for a set of regulations that addressed issues such as the classification and packaging and labelling of dangerous substances. Many regulations and legislation have been revoked and replaced over the years, but it's important to understand the most up to date laws.

The UN Model Regulations

The UN Model Regulations is a document prepared by the UN Committee of Experts. This contains accessible information regarding the regulations relevant to the transport of dangerous goods by all modes of transport. Whilst the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods are not legally binding on individual countries, they have gained a wide degree of international acceptance. It's worth looking at them, as they form the basis of many UK laws around dangerous goods.

In these regulations, each dangerous substance or article is assigned a class, which corresponds to the type and severity of the danger posed by the item. You can use this rating alongside the goods' packing group to determine how the dangerous items should be packaged, labelled and carried. These instructions include specifications for the inner and outer packaging, which materials are suitable and which marks and labels they must include.

There are also further, separate legislation for each mode of transport. However, the modes do bear a degree of compatibility. For example, the preparation of dangerous goods for air or sea movements generally comply with road transport regulations. This means you don't have to worry too much if your transport involves more than one mode of transport, for example, if the goods have to be driven by car to an airport.

Significant legislation includes:

  • ADR Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road: This applies to all road transport journeys. These regulations are enforced by several different authorities, including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). The Department for Transport (DfT) also works alongside the police and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to manage these rules.
  • RID Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail: This applies to all rail transport journeys. The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), the HSE, the ONR and the DfT take responsibility for enforcing regulations involving rail transport.
  • IMDG Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Sea: This includes domestic and international journeys. Nationally, the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) is responsible for any matters related to compliance for goods moving by sea.
  • IATA Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Air: This includes all shipments by air, domestic and international. The compliance for goods offered to airlines for carriage by air is monitored by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
  • Tunnel Regulations: For Road and Rail. These are now included in the ADR and RID.
What Legislation Is There Around Dangerous Goods?

Who is responsible?

All businesses are required to ensure that all employees are adequately trained for their roles. With specific reference to dangerous goods, all staff members involved with handling, processing or transporting hazardous materials must receive 'awareness training'. Training courses are run by independent providers and trade associations. The type of training course your business requires is determined by the mode of transport used for moving dangerous goods.

If your work involves importing or exporting and exporting, you must also make sure that all the items are properly packed, marked, labelled and documented according to the appropriate regulations. There are also specific responsibilities assigned to each member of the supply chain, including the consignor, the domestic haulier, the freight forwarder and the international modal carrier. For example, suppliers of dangerous goods are legally obligated to label their hazardous products chemicals with hazard symbols, warnings and safety advice. When trading, it's also important to check the labelling requirements of the destination you're exporting to.

Documentation is another key responsibility involved with dangerous goods. When transporting dangerous goods, the consignment must always be accompanied by a Transport Document. This document outlines the description and nature of the goods. You should refer to the relevant regulations to ensure that all the documents are filled out accurately and thoroughly as is required.

According to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, if your business regularly handles dangerous goods, you must appoint a Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor (DGSA). This advisor provides guidance on how the organisation can transport dangerous goods safely and legally. They also take responsibility for monitoring the business' compliance with legislation, as well as assessing their implementation of procedures and safety measures. Where necessary, a DGSA might launch an investigation and compile reports on accidents or emergencies involving dangerous goods.

Why are the regulations important?

There are many fines associated with failing to comply with legislation surrounding dangerous goods. If a business becomes affiliated with poor health and safety practice, the company also risks compromising its reputation and relationships with shareholders. More importantly, the regulations are implemented to protect us, our resources and the environment. Dangerous goods have the potential to cause serious harm, which is why it's essential that we behave responsibly when handling them.

Case study

In 2016, Amazon UK Services Ltd (Amazon) was found guilty of breaching dangerous goods rules. For an entire year, the company oversaw shipments of dangerous goods including lithium-ion batteries and flammable aerosols. These items are banned from being transported as mail or cargo on a passenger aircraft unless they're installed in or packed with equipment. As a result, Amazon was fined £65,000.

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