Understanding UN Ratings for Containers

When shipping hazardous materials, companies must use special containers that can safely handle the dangerous product. UN ratings help manufacturers and carriers identify the correct packaging for these hazardous materials. In order to adhere to the United Nations and the Department of Transportation performance standards, you must first learn how to read and identify UN rating codes. These series of letters and numbers offer the information you need to choose packaging of the right size, make, and material for your product. Learn more about how to use these codes to your advantage with this guide to understanding UN ratings for containers.

First Section: Packaging Identification Code

UN ratings are made up of several sections that offer different information about the packaging. The first section tells you the type, material, and category of packaging. The first number denotes the package type as one of the following:

  • 1 = Drum
  • 2 = Barrel
  • 3 = Jerrican
  • 4 = Box
  • 5 = Bag
  • 6 = Composite packaging

After the packaging type comes the packaging material, indicated by one of the following letters:

  • A = Steel
  • B = Aluminum
  • C = Natural wood
  • D = Plywood
  • F = Reconstructed wood
  • G = Fiberboard
  • H = Plastic
  • L = Textile
  • M = Paper multi-wall
  • N = Other metal
  • P = Glass, porcelain, or stoneware

The third character of this section indicates the category of packaging as either an open head or closed head container. If there is a 1 in this space, the package is closed head. A 2 denotes an open head package.

Second Section: Packing Group Level Equivalent

The second section of UN rating codes identifies the hazard level that the packaging can handle, followed by the maximum gross weight or specific gravity the container holds. An X, Y, or Z denotes the hazard level by identifying which packing groups you can store and ship within the container.

  • X – High hazard level. Packages marked with an X can handle packing groups I, II, or III (with I being the most hazardous and III being the least hazardous)
  • Y – Medium hazard level. Packages marked with a Y can handle packing groups II or III
  • Z – Low hazard level. Packages marked with a Z can only handle packing group III

Third Section: Solid or Liquid

After identifying the packing group level, the next section of the UN rating code indicates whether the product within the packaging is a solid or liquid. An S denotes a solid material. No S indicates that this is a single package that holds a liquid. This section will instead note the hydraulic pressure of the liquid.

Final Sections: Manufacturer Identification

The fourth, fifth, and sixth sections of the UN rating code identify the manufacturer of the container. The first code indicates the year of manufacture, then the country, and then the manufacture code. This final code is unique to the specific manufacturer or certifying agency that developed the package.

Understanding UN ratings for containers is a crucial part of safely and responsibly storing and transporting your hazardous materials. Another vital step is to find a reliable container and packaging supplier. Here at Best Containers, we have the supplies you need to ensure the safety and security of any product you handle.