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An Overview Of Hazmat Label Requirements

The packaging and shipping of hazardous materials are highly regulated across various industries for all modes of transportation. The regulations are extensive, starting with the definitions of what is a hazardous material, including the type of packaging required and how that packaging must be labeled to clearly inform everyone that may come in contact with that package through its transit what’s contained inside. This article is intended to be an overview of the types of classifications of labels, design and placement. It is a regulatory obligation of each and every shipper to assure that the materials deemed hazardous are packaged properly and that includes being affixed with proper labeling or placards.


Please note that this summary is informational only and is not intended to be used as a guide to compliance.


Hazmat Label Classifications

Hazmat labels are divided into nine classes and defined with government standards 49 CFR 172.411 through 172.448, where CFR stands for Code of Federal Regulations1, 49 refers to the title and 172 denotes the part within the title.


  • Class 1 – Explosives – 172.411 – These will include items such as fireworks, ammunition and ignitors as they are materials designed to explode under the proper conditions.

  • This category is further subdivided into 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6 for each specific classification.

  • Class 2 – Gases – 172.415-172.417 – Materials such as natural gas, compressed air, methane and fire extinguishers are regulated with these standards as they are all gases compressed to very high levels of pressure and can become potentially dangerous in certain conditions.

  • This category is subdivided into three: 2.1 (flammable), 2.2 (non-flammable) and 2.3 (poisonous).

  • Class 3 – Flammable liquids – 172.419 – This will include items such as paints, kerosene and gasoline that are flammable under proper ignition conditions.

  • Class 4 – Flammable solids – 172.420, 172.422, 172.423 – Items such as oily fabrics, metal powders, carbon and matches are included in these three codes where can provide hazardous environments under specific conditions whether it be near an ignition source, wet or even spontaneously combustible.

  • This class is subdivided into 4.1 (flammable solid), 4.2 (spontaneously combustible) and 4.3 (dangerous when wet)

  • Class 5 – Oxidizers and organizer peroxides – 172.426 and 172.427 –Items such as hydrogen peroxides, chlorates and nitrates can be classified within these CFR codes where an inert environment is essential to keep these materials stable.

  • Class 6 – Toxic substances – 172.429, 172.430, 172.432 – These types of items include acids, medical waste and dyes. They can be poisonous to people or very toxic when handled by people.

  • Class 7 – Radioactive substances – 172.436, 172.438, 172.440, 172.441, 172.450 – These include materials that contain radioactive matter such as medical isotopes, fission