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The transportation of dangerous goods implies a delicate process that puts several interests at risk The UN packaging requirements present a series of protocols to ensure safety during the transport and storage of these goods.

What is UN packaging testing?

The UN packaging testing refers to a series of tests and requirements that establish the integrity and safety of the packaging in the face of different contingencies.

These UN packaging requirements focus on goods considered dangerous, as well as, their rigor depends on the level of risk posed by the goods transported, which are divided into different groups according to their dangerousness.

The main objective of UN-certified packaging is therefore to avoid the possibility of an escape or an accident involving these goods.

In this way, a series of packaging tests are applied according to the category of goods, to check the protective capacity of the packaging against transport contingencies. If the packaging passes the test, it is considered a packaging approved by the UN.

The body responsible for establishing these requirements and regulating them is the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) .

UN packaging requirements and certification process

The more dangerous the risk of the substances contained, the stricter the packaging requirements of the UN become.
In this way, the first step to becoming UN-certified packaging suppliers is to establish to which category the products to be tested correspond. The different categories are:

  • Type 1: explosives
  • Type 2: gases
  • Type 3: flammable liquids
  • Type 4: flammable solids
  • Type 5: oxidizing substances and organic peroxide
  • Type 6: toxic and infectious substances
  • Type 7: radioactive material
  • Type 8: corrosive
  • Type 9: Miscellaneous dangerous goods

Once the categories have been established, the tests are carried out according to the characteristics of each type of merchandise.

The tests to obtain packaging certified by the UN

Drop Test

This test checks the ability of the packaging to protect goods in free-fall movements, which may occur during transport.
The test is carried out with Drop Tester equipment that is capable of making flat, edge and corner falls, as established by the packaging requirements of the UN.

The leakproofness test

It is carried out in all packaging prepared to contain liquids and consists of submerging the packaging underwater while applying some internal pressure.

Depending on the category to which the goods belong, a different pressure is applied and considered successful if there is no leakage from the packaging.

Pressure test

During the transport process, goods can be subjected to different degrees of pressure, so it is vital to know the protective capacity of the packaging against this force. This is especially necessary for those goods that will face the threats of air transport.

Stacking test

The goods distribution cycle usually includes processes by which they are stacked and the stacking test tries to check to what extent the packaging withstands these conditions.

In this way, the test consists of applying pressure to the packaging similar to the total weight that the stacked packages would assume. This pressure is set by the UN packaging requirements to verify that the packaging can tolerate stacking, and is checked for at least 24 hours.

Burst test

This is the next step in the pressure test. In this case, the pressure of the first test is increased by 20%, so it is verified that, even under these conditions, the packaging can protect the goods.

Drilling test

Check the resistance of the packaging to sharp objects that try to cross it at different speeds and with different forces. This test is considered successful if the sharp object fails to access the goods.

In addition to these tests, which are carried out for any of the materials considered hazardous by the UN, some goods can also be subjected to specific tests such as the leak test or the Hot Water Bath.

To obtain the boxes certified by UNECE, any of these tests are carried out with the packaging and the product ready to be transported so that the tests correspond to the largest degree with the reality of transport.

After the required tests have been carried out, a report is prepared to specify the tests carried out and their success. Later on, it is presented to the competent authority at the national level, which may approve the boxes allowed by UNECE.

UNECE recommendations for the transport of dangerous goods

In addition to establishing the packaging requirements of the UN, the organization has collected in two volumes the main recommendations for the transport of dangerous goods, whose most recent agreement was signed in 2019

Collected in two volumes, the recommendations develop different points: from the different criteria for establishing which category the goods belong to (together with a detailed description of each category) to suggestions when packing the goods.

Other issues on UN-approved packaging

There are other considerations to take into account about packaging certified by UNECE. For example, it is vital to know in depth the mark or distinctive which is awarded to the packaging when it is considered that it has met the packaging requirements of the UN.

This code includes:

  • The symbol of the packaging certified by the UN
  • The UNECE codes for the type of packaging and the material with which it has been built.
  • The packaging group determines the dangerousness of the goods shipped.
  • The maximum weight of the load at which it has been tested
  • The year of manufacture
  • The origin of manufacturing
  • The manufacturing code indicates who has been the packaging supplier certified by the UN or who has tested it.

Knowing this data allows a safe shipment since, for example, the UN boxes would cease to be effective if they transport a greater weight than tested during the tests.

Need help meeting UN packaging requirements? At Safe Load Testing Technologies we can help you. Get in touch with us, and let’s work to guide and advise you through the process.

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