The legal requirements for packaging and penalties for non-compliance

Is your packaging compliant? And what packaging is regulated?

Packaging for all dangerous goods (DG) is regulated, as well as packaging for many foodstuffs. DG’s are chemicals and articles that have been classified at a global level and designated a UN number, together with a hazard class.

DG’s can pose risks to people, property and the environment if not correctly packaged, handled, stored and transported.

They include industrial products and retail products such as household chemicals and cleaning materials, aerosols, personal products, detergents, paints, solvents, pool chemicals, pesticides, fuels, batteries and many other everyday products.

In the 1950s, the United Nations, recognising the increasing global trade through shipping and road and rail transport, initiated a committee of experts who compiled technical regulations for safe packaging, documentation and transport to provide for common understanding and use for safe transport around the world to enhance safety and prevent accidents.

Through this committee, the UN Model Regulations for Transport of Dangerous Goods evolved and forms the umbrella for all modes of transport globally. South Africa is a member of the UN Committee and has adopted these into law through its National Standards.

All dangerous goods are classified into one of 9 classes, based on their physical, safety hazards i.e. explosives, gases, flammable liquids, flammable solids (including powders), oxidizing chemicals and organic peroxides, radio actives, corrosives and plus class 9 miscellaneous dangerous goods and articles, including environmentally-hazardous substances.

The 9 classes are defined in the UN Model Regulations for Transport of dangerous goods, and in the SANS 10228 and 10229 Standards.

All are regulated for packaging, labelling, and documentation and consignment procedures for transport. They are allocated a UN number, which must be marked on the label. Accompanying documents must promote safe handling and be presented with the applicable hazard warning diamond.

Safe packaging is the starting point for safe #transport.

Compatibility with the product to be packed is a fundamental requirement for all packaging. It is therefore essential for the packaging designer, and manufacturer as well as the product manufacturer, to understand the composition and properties of the products to be packed.

Safe, compliant packaging specifications apply to retail products, samples and industrial products for use with all modes of transport i.e. road, rail, sea and air.

The essential rules for dangerous goods packaging are:

• Compatibility with contents
• Compliant with DG specifications
• UN tested and certified
• Each unit of packaging is permanently marked with the UN packaging certification to confirm that it is safe for use with the product to be packed
• Correct labelling with product name and UN number, hazard type and pictogram/s, name of manufacturer and 24/7/365 emergency contact number

Packaging regulations are regularly reviewed by the UN Committee of experts in terms of new technologies and investigations into accidents and incidents around the world.

They are clearly defined and any necessary improvements are included in the bi-annual revisions of the UN Model Regulations, which are in turn taken into the following revision of the modal and regional regulations.

Responsible packaging manufacturers will advise their customers what specification of packaging is appropriate for their products, as long as the correct classification of the product is informed.

Product manufacturers are responsible to pack and label their products in UN compliant packaging. This is product stewardship/producer responsibility, which is regulated under transport and environmental legislation among others.

Packaging is the starting point for safe handling, storage and packaging. The use of non-compliant packaging could lead to failures, which could have serious adverse effects on workers, the public, property and the environment.

Liability and costs to rectify any harm done would be for the account of the manufacturer, if he did not use compliant and properly marked and labelled packaging.

Exporters could have their shipments denied under maritime IMDG law. Receiving countries finding no-compliant packaging could quarantine shipments and require that the product manufacturer repack and label – in quarantine – as well as bear all costs, plus pay a hefty fine.

EU counties are particularly strict on this and now even more so since the GHS requirements came into effect on 1 June 2015.

A company’s insurance may refuse to cover such costs as these packaging regulations have been in place globally for over 60 years. Costs of harm to people and environmental impairment are very high, and any adverse publicity can be even more damaging to a manufacturer.

In 2003 an additional classification scheme – the GHS – was introduced at UN level by a new Committee of Experts for the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. This adds human health and environmental risks to the transport physical risks.

Product manufacturers have to classify their products to the new GHS classification and compile GHS compliant Safety Data Sheets (SDS), label them correctly and check that the packaging is still appropriate for the health and environmental hazards the product may pose.

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