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Limited Quantities guidance in the postal network

The online shopping revolution appears to know no bounds as our thirst for consumer goods spreads across borders and our postal services are increasingly required to transport every kind of commodity. Some of those commodities are classed as dangerous goods, but what if they are conveyed in limited quantities.

Even items as seemingly innocent as perfume, paint, drain cleaner, batteries (including items containing batteries) and medicines come under scrutiny. And if you are involved in selling these sorts of items – which many eCommerce websites are – and/or are physically transporting them (as postal and distribution services are), you need to be aware of the rules and regulations governing dangerous goods. For those disregarding them, the penalties are high (unlimited fines and imprisonment).  The human cost resulting from an accident involving dangerous goods, however, could be immeasurable.

What are Dangerous Goods?

Dangerous Goods are liquid or solid substances, or articles containing them, that are harmful or hazardous to people, property or the environment. Strict controls are enforced across the world to mitigate the risks of transporting them and anyone handling them must be specially trained.

The United Nations Committee of Experts (COE) on the Transport of Dangerous Goods has agreed nine global classifications on the Transport of Dangerous Goods in conjunction with various specialist groups, and materials are tested and assessed into these classifications. European and UK regulations for the road are governed by ADR – a French acronym  for  'Accord European Relatif au Transport International des Marchandises Dangereuses par Route'. For air transport, the rules are specified by IATA, the International Air Transport Association.

The rules and regulations involve the safe packaging and correct labelling of hazardous items as well as the training of staff handling them.  You may also need to appoint a dangerous goods safety adviser (DGSA) depending on what you are transporting. Furthermore, there are rules for different types of transport for shipping dangerous goods.

What are Limited Quantities?

In addition to the nine hazard classifications, there are four different levels governing the Carriage of Dangerous Goods, each commodity with its own quantity requirements. The lowest of the four levels is called Limited Quantities or LQ and goods/quantities that fall into this category are governed by less stringent rules for post and transport because the danger is reduced. Advice and exemptions can be found on the Health & Safety Executive website.

Whilst the responsibility for transportation falls on the shipper, including postal services, items must be correctly classified, packaged, marked and labelled.  Failure to do so may constitute a statutory offence. Any product being transported under the LQ allowance must be clearly revealed to the shipper by the consignor in a traceable form - text messages or emails are acceptable nowadays.  

Packing limited quantities

LQ regulations defines the measures of how these goods are packaged.  Nearly all dangerous goods have a clear limited quantity allowance, defined by their UN number, assigned by the COE. Goods need to be carried in quantities in the defined LQ receptacle size, e.g in small containers such as bottles, which are then packed in an outer container such as boxes or on shrink-wrapped trays. The maximum weight is 30kg for boxes, or 20kg for shrink-wrapped trays. The maximum weight for the individual containers depends on the type of goods. These limits are listed in column 7a of the ‘Dangerous Goods List’ in part 3 of ADR 2013 , which starts on page 295. For certain goods, the limit in column 7a is zero. This means these goods cannot be shipped as Limited Quantities.


With different modes of transport crossing different international borders, international agreements are essential. Transporting dangerous goods is guided by COE, who produce the United Nations Recommendations, but the regulatory boards differ.  The latest agreements for road transport came into force on 1st January 2013 on ADR ECE/TRANS/225 (Vol. I) and ECE/TRANS/225 (Vol. II). EU directives are issued every two years to take into account updates on dangerous goods, which evolve constantly with new products, developments and inventions.

Domestic regulations are currently implemented in Great Britain through The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009. There are similar but separate regulations for Northern Ireland. The regulations directly implement the latest editions of RID (rail) and ADR. The Secretary of State for Transport is responsible for the transport of dangerous goods by all modes of transport within the UK, supported variously by HSE, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA), the Radioactive Materials Transport Division and the Dangerous Goods Branch.

Recognising Dangerous Goods in transit

The regulators have issued a set of instantly recognisable marks for display when transporting dangerous goods, including in certain circumstances since 2011, for limited quantities.

The LQ diamond (left) must measure at least 100mm x 100mm, and on cargo transport units significantly more – 250mm x 250mm. Under ADR 2011 requirements, this mark is already being used on UK Mainland road transport and becomes fully mandatory from 30th June 2015. For journeys involving sea crossings under the IMDG CODE, this mark is also being used and became fully mandatory from 1st January 2012.


The LQ diamond no longer features the UN number displayed in it as on the old style neutral-coloured diamonds, although certain items may require text displayed elsewhere on the package – e.g. 'UN 1950 AEROSOLS'. The old style labels are still being used until 2015. Where liquids are concerned, there is also an orientation symbol required to be displayed.

Limited quantities of dangerous goods being sent by air must display the LQ diamond, but with a capital ‘Y’ in the centre (left). IATA regulations require the diamond to be displayed no smaller than 100mm x 100mm and the shipment must be accompanied by a completed IATA Dangerous Goods Declaration.

In 2009 alternative markings could consist of LTD QTY in black letters not less than 65mm high on white background. This may still be used until 30th June 2015 under ADR regulations. Until then, it is also permissible to have a container marked with this as well as the new LQ diamond.

In the UK the Dangerous Goods Emergency Action Code List (EAC) lists dangerous goods and aids the emergency services in dealing with an incident. The latest information is available from the National Chemical Emergency Centre (NCEC).


UK mail operators, including Asendia, work within the constrictions of ADR, IATA and IMRG on the shipment of dangerous goods, including Limited Quantities. Asendia manages the logistics for many eCommerce companies, both in the UK and overseas. For more information about shipping any level of dangerous goods with Asendia, call 01234 848415. Asendia offers Next Day delivery in the UK. Overseas deliveries will depend on the selected carriers.


Prohibited items such as explosives and corrosive liquids should never be sent in the post. One of the hot topics being discussed internationally at the moment is the transport of lithium batteries, both ion and metal types, which can be found in many everyday items. For more information see What’s the hype about transporting lithium batteries?


Many of the regulatory bodies and government organisations recognise that dangerous goods are vital for the economy, whether they are ingredients for the chemical industry or retail consumer goods, and are mindful of the cost implications for businesses. In the UK, the HSE and the Department for Transport work closely with the CAA, IATA, MCA, hauliers and distributors, companies manufacturing dangerous goods, and other interested parties to make rules that maximise safety whilst not inhibiting trade and commerce.


The UN publish all the information required and there is helpful information and guidance on the HSE and DfT websites, not to mention those of hauliers, postal services, the various modes of transport regulators, and consultancy firms like Dangerous Goods Advice Ltd.

Useful links


Read the full article: Limited quantities guidance in the postal network.

Read a summary article about Dangerous Goods


About the author
Catherine Jackson is an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has been a publishing professional for over 30 years, working in newspapers, magazines, and marketing in the education, retail and travel sectors. She has also worked as a freelance copywriter, editor and proofreader before joining Asendia UK as Content Marketing Executive & Copywriter. Google+