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Difference hazardous material vs. dangerous goods - what to look out for? | ProSafeCon
Difference hazardous material vs. dangerous goods - what to look out for? | ProSafeCon
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Difference hazardous material vs. dangerous goods – what to look out for?

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While in many countries there is no linguistic difference between dangerous goods and dangerous substances, this is different in our country. The goal of this article is for you to understand how these two terms are differentiated and what you need to consider in the various cases.

Dangerous goods or hazardous substances – What is the difference?

Hazardous MATERIALS definition

A material that poses a hazard during use or storage is a hazardous material. In concrete terms, this means any substance that is harmful to the body and/or the environment in any form of contact. These substances are marked with appropriate labels (e.g. toxic, corrosive, hazardous to water, hazardous to the environment). The special feature here compared with dangerous goods is that all hazards are labeled, regardless of how serious their effect is. In addition, there is a safety data sheet for each hazardous substance, which contains important information about the substance.

The legal source is the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances, but also the Water Resources Act in the broader sense.

Dangerous GOODS definition

If a good, i.e. an object, or a substance poses a hazard during transport, it is a dangerous good. In concrete terms, this means that, especially in the event of a (traffic) accident, for example, further hazards emanate from a substance or object because it is, for example, highly flammable or under pressure. The legal source here is the Dangerous Goods Ordinance (ADR, GGVSEB, GGVSee, …). All dangerous goods are listed here. However, it is related to international rules, such as the ADR (for road), ADN (inland waterway), IMDG (sea transport) or RID (rail).
The dangerous goods transport is called “carriage” and includes much more than the mere transport from A to B. Thus, the activities of transport preparations, such as passing on information that dangerous goods transport(s) is/are to be carried out, are already part of it. Likewise, packing, loading, receiving and unloading are also part of the transport. The marking of dangerous goods does not only take place on the packaging, but under certain circumstances also on the vehicle.

The task of the dangerous goods safety advisor is to advise and instruct those involved on the correct handling of dangerous goods. You can find out who all needs a dangerous goods safety advisor in our blog post “Who needs a dangerous goods safetly advisor?“.

Are hazardous substances always dangerous goods – and vice versa?

Dangerous goods are not always hazardous materials, and hazardous materials are not automatically dangerous goods.

Many dangerous goods that we know in daily life are hazardous goods. These are, for example, gasoline, hydrochloric acid, propane gas, solvents, arsenic or viruses.
Hazardous materials, such as salt for the dishwasher, is a hazardous material because it is hazardous to water. However, it is not a dangerous goods.
Not a hazardous substance, but dangerous goods, are, for example, table tennis balls made of celluloid (UN 2000) and lithium batteries, as they are now installed in many mobile devices.

Who decides which substances are dangerous and how?

The manufacturer or the first importer of a product must check whether his product is a hazardous substance or dangerous goods. If this is the case, a safety data sheet (SDS) is established. Section 14 of the MSDS indicates whether the product is a dangerous goods – a UN No. is given.
SDSs can only be established by appropriately trained employees.
But beware: Safety data sheets (SDS) are not always kept as they should be. Anyone who relies on an SDS has unlimited personal liability. Anyone who makes false statements in the SDS is liable for up to €50,000.
Unfortunately, MSDSs are not automatically updated, unlike the ADR, which is published in a new version every 2 years. Thus, under certain circumstances, information about the transport (section 14) in the MSDS may be outdated and thus lead to considerable fines for the shipper of the goods.

Practical examples – you should pay attention to the following terms

Packaging for the end user

The choice of the correct packaging, the labeling according to hazardous substances law and the necessary information in the correct font size, all this is regulated according to hazardous substances law.


Usually, storage for 24 hours or more is referred to as “storage”.
The rules for storing hazardous substances are very complex. In addition to the Hazardous Substances Act, the Water Resources Act and possibly other laws, such as the Federal Immission Control Act, also apply here. Other laws may be important, depending on the federal state and also the municipality.
If you have any questions or need advice, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Internal transport

Even if the word “transport” suggests a proximity to hazardous goods law, this assumption is incorrect. This is exclusively a matter of hazardous materials law. However, in addition to the Hazardous Substances Ordinance, the guidelines for occupational health and safety must also be observed. This applies in particular to transport by forklift truck or crane.
ProSafeCon can also help you with this. Please do not hesitate to ask us.

Packing for transport

This is clearly a matter of dangerous goods law. Which packaging, how the goods are to be packed and marked is regulated in detail, e.g. in the ADR.
We support you in all questions concerning the transport of dangerous goods in the modes of transport.

Water or environmental hazard

In addition to the hazard from transport or during storage, a water hazard may occur. During transport, this circumstance is taken into account by the environmental hazard. If an accident occurs during loading or unloading, it is in any case a dangerous goods accident.
The ProSafeCon team is also available to answer these questions.

Register or overview of hazardous products

Anyone who handles hazardous products should establish an overview for these substances. This overview is called a cadastre. Depending on the intended use, the cadastre has different contents.
We can help you with the establishment and evaluation of the cadastre.


  • Hazardous substances are dangerous materials that are stored or used.
  • Dangerous goods are hazardous goods during transport.
  • The most important source of information is first of all the safety data sheet. However, this must be checked against applicable directives, otherwise there is a risk of heavy fines in the event of violations.
  • There are many different legal sources for both dangerous goods and hazardous materials.
  • Stay alert. As soon as terms such as “danger”, “hazard”, or “hazardous” appear, you should take a closer look to see which additional specifications must be observed.

We will gladly advise you

ProSafeCon advises you as a dangerous goods safety advisor, in the establishment of the necessary dangerous goods/hazardous materials cadastre, in questions concerning the storage of hazardous materials, in the instruction and training of forklift and crane operators. We are also at your disposal for questions regarding workplace safety.

You want to read more about a topic here? Contact us! We look forward to your topic requests.

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Difference hazardous material vs. dangerous goods - what to look out for? | ProSafeCon

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