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What to look out for in hazardous substance class 7 - handling radioactive substances

Dangerous Goods Class 7: Radioactive Substances

| von Julia

Dangerous goods class 7 includes substances and objects with radioactive materials. According to the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, around 420,000 people in Germany have to deal with these materials every year – think of X-ray equipment, for example. In this blog post, we have summarized how representatives of dangerous goods class 7 are defined, which subclasses there are and what to look out for during transport and in the event of damage.

Dangerous goods class 7: Definition

When we talk about dangerous goods class 7, we are talking about all objects and substances with radioactive components and/or materials. Since radioactivity can neither be tasted nor smelled, these substances pose a particular danger. For example, they can alter human and animal DNA and cause serious damage to health if accidents occur during handling and use.

As a result, these substances differ from, for example, dangerous goods class 2 or dangerous goods class 3 in terms of their storage, transport regulations and packaging requirements.
Typical representatives of the 7th dangerous goods class are primarily uranium and plutonium, which can occur in several instruments and objects. These include, for example, medical instruments (such as X-ray equipment) and technical testing equipment used in production control.

Subclasses of radioactive materials

Especially when storing and transporting radioactive materials, it is important to be able to make an assessment of the possible radiation. For this purpose, the objects and substances are divided into subclasses, the classification and labeling of which are defined in the “UN Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material” of the IAEA. The classification is based on the transport index (TI), which is determined from the respective dose rate of the substance.

Division 7: Category I White (7A)

This subclass includes Category I radioactive materials, also known as “7A”. They are characterized by the fact that the highest surface dose rate is below 0.005 mSv/h (millisievert per hour). This must be indicated on the outside of the packaging for packages. A transport code does not have to be specified, but the appropriate hazard label must be visible and filled out when the package is shipped.

Subclass 7: Category II Yellow (7B)

Dangerous goods class 7B, on the other hand, includes category II radioactive substances that expose persons to external radiation and therefore pose a great danger, especially to people who work with them. For these substances, the exposure time must be limited in accordance with ADR instruction 5.4.3 in order to reduce the risk to persons. The surface dose rate for Group 7B is between 0.005 mSv/h and 0.5 mSv/h.

In contrast to dangerous goods category 7A, the transport index must also be specified, which must not be higher than 1.0. This category is also often referred to as Category II-Yellow and has a yellow hazard label.

Subclass 7: Category III Yellow (7C & D)

Subclasses 7C and 7D can be grouped together as Category III Yellow, but bring with them different limits. For substances in Dangerous Goods Class 7C, the radiation dose may be between 0.5 mSv/h and 2 mSv/h. Here, too, there are restrictions with regard to the exposure time and hazards when taking up the substance. The transport index must not exceed 10.

Subclass 7D goes even further: the dose rate on the outside may be greater than 2 mSv/h, but may not exceed a value of 10 mSv/h. The transport index may not exceed 10. In return, the transport index may be higher than 10. If substances and objects are transported with an “exclusive use” including certain additional requirements, the transport index is not limited. The dangerous goods labels of the two subclasses look as follows:

Division 7: Fissile materials (7E)

Subclass 7E has a special status because representatives of this category are fissile materials. For this reason, the class is given its own white hazard label, on which the word “Fissile” and an additional safety note are shown. In addition, the criticality safety index (CSI) on the hazard label must be taken into account, which again differentiates category 7E from the other categories. The associated hazard label can be found here.

Mandatory information for transport and traffic

Since radioactive materials pose a particular danger to humans, the environment and other organisms, special precautions must be taken during transport. These include comprehensive transport documents as well as suitable packaging, labeling, documentation and qualified handling.

All these requirements are laid down in several UN recommendations and binding mode-specific legislation, such as the ADR (road transport), RID (rail transport), ADN/ADNR (inland waterway transport), IMDG Code (maritime transport) and ICAO-TI (air transport). The transport documents must contain the following information in particular:

  • Address of the consignee
  • UN number
  • Number of the class of dangerous goods
  • name and general description of the radioactive material
  • Information on the radionuclides contained in the radioactive material
  • package category
  • Package type
  • total radioactivity
  • physical state and chemical formula
  • Transport index (TI) and (if applicable) the criticality index.
  • For packagings subject to approval: Marking of the approval authority

By the way, a pre-announcement is only necessary in international transport if the transport is a type B package that exceeds certain maximum quantities. In this case, the packaging is marked (M) for multilateral or (U) for unilateral. Otherwise, advance notifications may also be worthwhile in the case of special agreements.

Information on the radioactive transport material

The safety classification for the transport of radioactive material also requires that specific information about the contents be provided. This helps to assess the risk in the event of damage. This includes the following information:

  • Name and symbol of the radionuclides
  • Designation of the substance
  • Physical and chemical form
  • Maximum activity and total activity
  • Criticality safety index
  • Quantity of cargo

Package Categories

Packages are subject to several regulatory requirements and are categorized into five types. These are based on activity, toxicity and physical state as well as radioactive content. They are divided into exempt packages, industrial packages, and Type A, B, and C packages. In addition, each package is assigned a UN number for precise identification:

Hazardous material classDescriptionUN number
7Excepted package, empty packaging (radioactive material)2908
7Radioactive material as exempted package in limited quantity of material2910
7Radioactive material as an excepted package as instruments or manufactures2911
7Type A package radioactive material2915
7Radioactive material of type A package in special form3332

Excepted packages

Although excepted packages must meet certain requirements, they represent packaging with such small quantities of radioactive material that they are exempt from various regulations on use and design. It is important that the contents are identifiable when opened and that they cannot be damaged by impacts, shocks and the like.

Industrial consignments

If radioactive materials with a low specific activity (LSA) or surface contaminated objects (SCO) are to be transported, they are marked as industrial packages. Additional regulations govern the marking on the outside of the packaging and the entry in transport documents.

Type A packages

Type A packages are used for the transport of smaller quantities of radioactive material. These are required to remain intact in the event of “minor” incidents. Since parts of the contents may be released in the event of an accident, the maximum quantity of radionuclides is limited. Typical representatives include radiopharmaceutical products.

Type B packages

Larger quantities of radioactive materials, on the other hand, are assigned to the type B package. Even the most severe accidents must not be able to harm these packages, so that they are resistant even to puncture, immersion in water and fire. In particular, irradiated fuel elements, highly radioactive waste and radioisotopes are transported in this type of package.

Type C packages

Type C packages refer to the transport of radioactive materials by air. Above a certain activity level, this type of package becomes necessary.

Packages with fissile material

In the case of fissile material, it must be prevented that a possible chain reaction can occur – this is what the package category for fissile materials stands for. Additional checks and inspections are also carried out: For example, each type must first be approved by the competent authority.

Marking of dangerous goods class 7

The extent of the required markings for Class 7 dangerous goods depends primarily on how they are transported and whether domestic or non-European destinations are served. For road transport, the ADR regulation (Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road) is decisive. On this legal basis, vehicles and packaging must be marked with:

  • the UN number,
  • a dangerous goods label,
  • information about the consignor and consignee
  • and the weight (if it exceeds 50 kg).

The dangerous goods label also includes the GHS symbol (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals) that applies to the substances in question. However, there is no direct equivalent for substances in dangerous goods class 7, so the typical radioactive symbol is printed:

Radioaktive Stoffe_Gefahrgutklasse 7

The correct handling of substances of dangerous goods class 7

To ensure that hazards from radioactive objects and substances can be contained as far as possible, a number of important factors must be taken into account when handling them. Dangerous goods class 7 substances, for example, may only be handled by qualified personnel who can ensure that they are transported in accordance with the requirements of Section 27 of the German Radiation Protection Act (StrlSchG). For this purpose, a training course for the transport of hazardous materials is necessary, in which at least the following contents are covered:

  • Legal basics for the transport of radioactive materials
  • Important responsibilities
  • Declaration and classification of substances
  • General and special requirements for packages and package types
  • Labeling and marking of vehicles and packages
  • Limit values
  • Necessary documentation
  • Vehicle equipment
  • Requirements for the vehicle driver

In addition, the packaging must meet the specified criteria for the package category. This generally rules out the transport of damaged or leaking packages, for example. In addition, shielding must be used during loading, working hours around the radioactive materials must be reduced to a minimum, and contamination checks must be carried out after each shipment.

Correct procedure in the event of an accident

If an accident should occur during the transport of radioactive materials, rapid and targeted action is elementary. By classifying packages into categories, it is at least often possible to prevent radioactive radiation from escaping – even if the package has been shaken or punctured or has even caught fire.

If an accident occurs, life-saving measures should be the first priority. However, these must be carried out with due regard for self-protection. Emergency services (police, fire department) must also be informed immediately of the nature and extent of the goods loaded. Persons must be removed from the danger zone as far as possible and kept away.

In the case of radioactive cargo, the wind direction must also be taken into account in the event of damage – all persons should remain on the side facing the wind. Cargo fires should also never be extinguished by the cargo itself, and it is essential to avoid any possible incorporation (e.g. through eating, drinking and smoking).

Dangerous goods class 7: Handling radioactive substances correctly

Dangerous goods class 7 includes radioactive substances and objects that can harm both the environment and people through radiation. Therefore, proper classification into subclasses including labeling and strict precautions during transport are mandatory. Find out about all the legal basics before transport in order to be on the safe side – and to keep any potential risk as low as possible.


Substances of the category “radioactive 7” belong to the goods of dangerous goods class 7, which is why they entail separate requirements for storage, transport, labeling and handling.

Dangerous goods class 7 includes all substances and objects that are radioactive or contain radioactive substances. This means that they have unstable atoms which can change their structure spontaneously and randomly. They also emit radiation. Well-known examples are above all uranium and plutonium.

Hazard classes are categories that classify chemical substances and mixtures with potentially hazardous properties. This plays an important role in transport in particular. According to ADR regulations, there are a total of nine classes of dangerous goods for transport by road.

Hazardous substances are mixtures, substances and articles with hazardous properties. These can have a negative impact on the environment and humans and meet the criteria of CLP Regulation No. 1272/2008.

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