The transportation of dangerous goods implies a delicate process that puts a number of interests as risk. UN packaging requirements involve a series of protocols to guarantee safety during the transportation and storage of these goods.


What is UN packaging testing?

UN packaging testing is a series of tests and requirements to determine the integrity and safety of the package when facing various situations.

These UN packaging requirements focus on goods that are considered to be dangerous, and their level of stringency depends on the risks posed by the transported goods, which are divided into different groups based on their dangerousness.

The main goal of UN certified packaging is therefore to prevent any chances of leaks or accidents involving these goods.

A series of packaging tests are applied based on the types of goods, in order to test the protective capabilities of the packaging when facing unforeseen events.

The organization in charge of establishing and regulating these requirements is the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

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UN packaging requirements and the certification process

As the dangerousness of transported substances rises, the UN packaging requirements become increasingly stringent.

The first step to become a UN approved packaging supplier is to establish the category of the products to be tested. Existing categories are:

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

Once the categories have been determined, testing is performed based on the characteristics of each type of good.

Tests required to obtain a UN certified packaging

> Drop Test

This test verifies the packaging’s ability to protect goods in free fall, which may occur during transportation.

The test is performed using a Drop Tester that can perform flat, edge and corner drops, as outlined by the UN packaging requirements.

> Leakproofness test

This is performed on any packaging designed to contain liquids and consists of submerging the packaging underwater while applying some internal pressure.

Depending on the category of the goods, a different pressure is applied, and the test is considered to be successful if the package experiences no leaks.

> Pressure test

During the transportation process, goods may be subject to different degrees of pressure; therefore, it is vital to know the protective ability of the packaging against this force.

This is particularly necessary for goods that will face the hazards of air travel.

> Stacking test

The merchandise distribution cycle usually includes stacking, and a stacking test aims to verify how the package can withstand these conditions.

The test consists of applying a pressure to the package that is similar to the total weight that stacked packages would exert. This pressure is established among the UN packaging requirements with the goal of verifying that the package is capable of withstanding stacking, and this is tested for at least 24 hours.

> Burst test

This step follows the pressure test. In this case, the pressure of the first test is increased by 20% to certify that, even under these conditions, the packaging is capable of protecting the goods.

> Piercing test

This tests the resistance of the package to sharp objects that try to pierce it at different speeds and forces. This test is considered to be successful if the sharp object fails to breach the goods.

In addition to these tests, which are performed for any goods that are considered as dangerous by the UN, some goods may also be subjected to specific tests, as the leak test or the Hot Water Bath.

In order to obtain UNECE certified boxes, any of these tests is performed with the packaging and the product ready to be transported, so that the tests come as close as possible to the real transportation conditions.

After performing the required tests, a report is prepared specifying the tests performed and whether they were successful. Then, it is filed with the corresponding national authority, which may give the packages the status of UNECE approved boxes.

eumos 40509:2020

UNECE recommendations for the transportation of dangerous goods

In addition to establishing the UN packaging requirements, the organization has outlined the main recommendations for the transportation of dangerous goods, with the most recent agreement having been adopted in 2019.

Contained in two volumes, the recommendations touch on different subjects: from the different criteria to establish the category of the goods (accompanied by a detailed description of each category) to suggestions when packaging goods.

Other considerations for UN approved packaging

There are other things to be considered in regard to UNECE certified packaging. For example, it is essential to know in-depth the mark or label that the package is assigned when it is considered that it has fulfilled the UN packaging requirements.

This code includes:

  • The UN certified packaging symbol
  • The UNECE codes for the type of packaging and material with which it has been
  • The packaging group, which determines the dangerousness of shipped goods.
  • The maximum weight for which it has been tested
  • Year of manufacturing
  • Manufacturing origin
  • The manufacturing code, that specifies who the UN approved packaging suppliers
    are or who have tested it.

Knowing this information allows for a safe transportation, since UN boxes would no longer be effective if used to transport a weight that is higher than the one they have been tested for.

Do you need help complying with UN packaging requirements?

At Safe Load Testing we can help you. Get in touch with us and we will work to guide and walk you through the process.

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