Before you embark on the exportation and shipping of chemicals, you need to be well aware of the classes the chemicals belong to. Generally, chemicals are considered hazardous, which makes it necessary to comply with standard requirements when shipping. 

Symbols used for labeling hazardous substances

This article will guide you through the different classifications available and how to handle them.

Why You Need To Know the Classification Before Shipping

Chemicals are an important factor in the development of a country's economy, whether they are developing or industrialized. The classification of chemicals must be known before they are shipped into or out of a country. To safely use chemicals, you need to know their classification, environmental and health hazards, and how to handle them. 

It's important to know the classification of chemicals before they are shipped to ensure you meet the necessary safety requirements for transportation. Chemicals are expected to be organized so that the user can easily identify the information containing the hazard and protective measures. If you're to ship a hazardous chemical, it's expected to be properly labeled to ensure the safety of whoever will use it upon arrival. 

8 Different Classes of Chemicals 

Classes of chemicals

There are 8 different classes of chemicals based on how harmful they are. The classes of chemicals are highlighted as follows:


An explosive substance can form an explosive vapor, gas, or dust atmosphere. Explosives can also be chemicals produced to cause an explosive, practical, or pyrotechnic effect. There are six various divisions of explosives: Explosives with a projection hazard, Explosives with mostly a fire hazard, Explosives with no blast hazard, insensitive explosives, and highly insensitive explosives. 


Gasses are substances that, when at 50°C, have a vapor pressure higher than 300 kPa. It can also be a substance that's completely gaseous at 20°C with a standard pressure of 101.3 kPa. There are three subdivisions of gasses, which include:


  • Non-Toxic and Non-Flammable Gasses 

These are gasses that replace or dilute the oxygen present in the air. They can also be gasses that, through providing oxygen, contribute to or cause materials to combust more than air does. 


  • Toxic Gasses

These gases are known to be corrosive or toxic to humans, posing a health threat. They are also gases that are presumed to be corrosive or toxic to humans because they have a concentration less than 5,000 ml/m3 (ppm)

Flammable Liquid

Flammable Liquids are substances that, in the presence of an ignition source, will burn. Flammable Liquids can also be said to be liquids or mixtures of liquids that give off a flammable vapor when heated to not more than 60-65*C. They are used to power popularly used equipment such as generators, vehicles, outdoor equipment, and many others.  

Flammable Liquids

Flammable Liquids also include liquids transported at a temperature higher than their flash points. It also includes substances transported at a higher temperature in a liquid state, which would give off flammable vapor when the temperature is lower than the maximum transport temperature. While working with flammable liquids, it's essential to note that the flash point of substances varies in the presence of impurities.   

Flammable Solid

Flammable Solids are substances that are liable to combust without external action. They also include substances that emit flammable gasses when they come in contact with water. When flammable solids undergo combustion, they emit toxic gasses. 

Flammable Solids have three sub-divisions which are:


  • Self-reactive Substances and Solid Desensitized Explosives

These flammable solids are readily combustible or might contribute to or lead to fire through friction. They also include self-reactive substances likely to go through a strong exothermic reaction. Solid Desensitized explosives are likely to explode if they're not diluted properly.  


  • Substances liable to Spontaneous Combustion

Substances liable to spontaneous combustion are flammable solids that heat up unexpectedly under normal conditions or when they come into contact with air and are likely to catch fire. 


  • Substances In Contact with Water Emit Flammable Gases

These are flammable solids that, after interacting with water, are likely to become spontaneously flammable or produce flammable gases in dangerous quantities. 

Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides

Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides

Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides have two sub-divisions which include:


  • Oxidizing Substances

These substances are not combustible; however, yielding oxygen might contribute to or cause the combustion of other materials.  


  • Organic Peroxides

Organic Peroxides are organic substances made up of the bivalent -0-0 structure. They might be considered derivatives of hydrogen peroxides, where one or both hydrogen atoms have been replaced with organic radicals. These substances are thermally unstable and might undergo exothermic, self-increasing decomposition. In addition, they possess some qualities such as: being liable to decompose explosively, being sensitive to friction or impact, burning rapidly, causing damage to the eye, and reacting aggressively with other substances. 

Poison and Etiologic Materials

This class of chemicals has two sub-divisions which include:


  • Poison

These substances are likely to cause serious injury, harm human health, or even cause death when inhaled, swallowed, or when they come into contact with the skin. 


  • Etiologic Materials

These are infectious substances that are known to contain pathogens. Pathogens are microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, rickettsiae, fungi, and several other agents, such as prions, that can cause diseases in animals and humans. 

Radioactive materials 

Radioactive waste materials

Radioactive materials are materials that contain unstable atoms that emit radiation. This radiation can be harmful to humans and the environment, so it is important to handle radioactive materials with care. 

Radioactive materials are classified according to their activity, which is a measure of how much radiation they emit. The higher the activity, the more dangerous the material.

Radioactive materials must be packaged correctly to prevent the radiation from escaping. The packaging must be strong enough to withstand the pressure of the radiation, and it must also be designed to prevent the material from coming into contact with the environment.



Corrosives are substances that can cause damage to living tissue and other materials. They do this by chemically reacting with the tissue or material, causing it to break down. Corrosives can be in the form of liquids, solids, or gasses.

Some common corrosives include acids, bases, and oxidizers. Acids can cause burns to the skin and eyes, while bases can cause skin burns and respiratory problems. Oxidizers can cause fires and explosions.

Corrosives must be handled with care. They should be stored in properly labeled containers, and they should be used in well-ventilated areas. If you come into contact with a corrosive, it is important to flush the affected area with water immediately.


In conclusion, understanding the category of the chemical you intend to ship is a crucial step in ensuring safe and accident-free transportation. Properly packing the chemicals based on their category is essential to mitigate any potential risks or hazards during transit. This valuable information can be obtained from the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) provided by the chemical's manufacturer.

The MSDS contains vital details about the chemical's properties, handling guidelines, potential hazards, and emergency response measures. Familiarizing oneself with the MSDS and thoroughly reading through all associated documents is of equal importance. This will provide comprehensive insights into the chemical's characteristics and enable you to take necessary precautions and adopt appropriate safety measures.

By being well-informed about the chemical's category and following the guidelines from the MSDS, you not only safeguard the well-being of those handling the shipment but also protect the environment and the communities through which the chemical will be transported.

Additionally, adherence to safety protocols and regulations ensures compliance with legal requirements and industry standards, reducing the likelihood of accidents, spills, or other incidents that could result in harm to individuals and property.