When it comes to shipping dangerous goods, they’re, well, dangerous

Many of these hazardous materials fall into classes and categories to signify the nature and degree of hazard, like we’ve mentioned with lithium batteries

Improper handling of dangerous goods can have disastrous consequences. This is why proper labeling matters. 

The transportation of dangerous goods, both liquids, and solids, requires considerable regulation for domestic and international shipping. Goods must meet standards before they can be accepted for shipments, including those packed in limited quantities

Similar to how dangerous goods of high volume are transported, limited quantities follow many requirements and guidelines for shipping, in addition to having their own distinct label design for identification. 

However, because of their shipping specifications when it comes to package quantity, they follow a slightly different set of standards.

What is Limited Quantity?

So how can we define what “limited quantity” means? 

Like its name states, limited quantity refers to certain dangerous goods packaged in small quantities. There is only a maximum number of inner packages or containers permitted for transporting a limited quantity of dangerous goods. 

Limited quantity falls under the umbrella of hazardous goods, which have their own tedious list of classifications, requirements, and rules for transporting. The difference with limited quantity is these are consumer products, not raw materials, being packaged and shipped. 

Examples of Limited Quantity Products: 

  • Fuel
  • Insecticides
  • Aerosols
  • Paint
  • Dry Ice
  • Hydrogen Peroxide

Because smaller quantities of dangerous goods are packed into individual, smaller containers, they pose less of a risk than those transported in larger quantities or volumes. For this reason, some of the normal dangerous goods packaging and labeling regulations do not apply.

This is why they must be identified with a limited quantity label.

Limited Quantity Labels

Think of limited quantity labels as a warning beacon. 

Once affixed to a surface, a limited quantity label informs the person handling that package of the risks associated with its contents and to proceed with caution. This means the label markings need to be visible and legible at all times. 

All features of these labels must be in approximate proportion and applied on a surface square-on-point. This means the square shape of the label sits on the pointed ends so the flat sides are parallel to the sides of the package, resembling a diamond.

Application for a limited quantity label must be on at least one side or end of the outer packaging.

Label Design

The design for the limited quantity label is both simple and unique. 

Simple because of the color scheme. The top and bottom portion of the label are solid black, leaving the center area to be either white or of a suitable contrasting background color. No other colors are used for this label.

The label design is unique depending on the mode of transportation. 

When packages or containers bearing this label are shipped by highway, rail, or ocean carrier, the center of the label remains hollow. However, when the shipping method is specifically by air, a limited quantity “Y” marking is printed in the center of the label as an indication as air travel encompasses many safety regulations.

While it explicitly signifies air transport, in some cases the Y design may also be used for highway, rail, and ocean transportation.


Like mentioned above, hazardous labels must be large enough in order to be visible. 

This means that the minimum size of the label cannot exceed a specific dimension. For most cases, the minimum dimension of a limited quantity label is 4″ x 4″ with the surrounding borderline measuring at least 0.078″ in width. 

In special cases, like when the packaging is too small or irregular in size to fit a full-sized label, the label size can be reduced to no less than 2″ x 2″ and the surrounding borderline to a width of 0.04″ in order to be applied. 

An image showing a limited quantity label with the dimensions included for size accuracy

Label Material & Adhesive

Despite their indication of limited quantity, these labels are still being used to indicate hazardous products. This means they must be durable enough to withstand contact with potentially corrosive chemicals in addition to changing environmental conditions throughout the shipping process. 

Paper material is an option when printing limited quantity labels. However, depending on the application, it might be more plausible to use a durable, synthetic material like polypropylene for longevity and resistance. 

A gloss or semi-gloss finish can offer an added layer of protection. The shine of a gloss finish adds a reflective look to the label, and since there are no bright colors used to accentuate their importance, it can help draw more attention. 

Strong adhesive is a key component to making sure labels stay on during handling and transport. Missing labels can result in delays, large fines, and rejection of shipments.

All of this information concerning labels is only one part of the puzzle.

Exactly what factors allow some hazardous materials to be shipped as limited quantities and not others?

Determining Limited Quantity Criteria

Inner packaging for limited quantity can be plastic bottles, jugs, metal cans, etc.

Dangerous goods cannot simply be placed into a box, taped up, and shipped off.

Even in limited quantities, they must be handled with the utmost care in order to avoid disastrous consequences.

One way this is achieved is by following proper criteria for shipping:

  1. Total weight of the package
  2. Size of the inner container
  3. Level of danger

Total Package Weight

Despite being shipped in smaller volumes, the maximum weight of a limited quantity package plays an important role for its transportation.

It is a requirement that the weight for these dangerous goods cannot exceed a maximum gross weight:

  • Boxes = 30 kgs (66 lbs)
  • Shrink-wrapped trays = 20 kgs (44 lbs)

However, weight is not the only criteria that must be met when packaging dangerous goods. Inner packaging assembly also factors into limited quantity criteria.

Inner Container Size

Inner packaging is defined as a packaging that requires an outer packaging for transport. The capacity for inner packaging differs for solid hazardous materials and liquid hazardous materials:

  • Solid hazardous materials cannot exceed 1.0 kg (2.2 lbs) net capacity each
  • Liquid hazardous materials cannot exceed 1.0 L (0.3 gallons) net capacity each

Examples of inner packaging can include bottles, plastic containers, metal cans with lids, etc. They must be secured and cushioned well to prevent breakage, leaks, and movement.

Depending on the level of danger, failure to do so can result in exposure to toxic chemicals, fumes, and more.

Level of Danger

There are 3 packing groups that classify the level of risk posed by the dangerous goods and whether they require more or less protective packaging for transportation. 

The degree of danger dictates which group the hazardous material is divided into for packing.

Packing Groups

  • Group 1: High Danger
  • Group 2: Moderate Danger
  • Group 3: Low Danger

For example, hazardous materials in Group 3 pose the least amount of danger and require less protective packaging than hazardous materials in Group 1.

These groups correlate with the 9 classes of dangerous goods according to the predominant hazards they pose during transportation.

Class Association vs. Packaging Group 

Dangerous Goods Class Packaging Group(s)
Class 1: Explosives N/A
Class 2: Gases N/A
Class 3: Flammable Liquids Groups 1, 2, & 3
Class 4: Flammable Solids Groups 1, 2 & 3
Class 5: Oxidizing Substances Groups 1, 2, & 3
Class 6: Toxic Substances Groups 1, 2, & 3
Class 7: Radioactive Materials N/A
Class 8: Corrosives Groups 1, 2, & 3
Class 9: Miscellaneous Substances Groups 2 & 3

*Class divisions not included

Labeling & Packaging Requirements for Limited Quantities

Even when dangerous goods are being being shipped in limited quantities, there are some strict labeling and packaging requirements to comply with:

  • Goods in small containers must be packed into boxes or shrink wrapped on trays 
  • Drop and stack test requirements must be passed
  • Construction for internal pressure and temperature changes is applied to packaging 
  • Limited quantity labels and hazard symbols must be applied to outer packages
  • If required, dangerous goods in limited quantities must be stated in shipping documents or declarations 
  • All liquids require a secondary means of closure in inner packaging 

Despite their lesser volume, dangerous goods must follow rigorous regulations to ensure safety during handling and shipping. But properly following these rules depends on one factor: transportation mode.

Compliance Requirements

Regulations are in place for the transport of dangerous goods to keep employees up to date on compliance and informed on how to handle shipments.

Each mode of transport follows a different set of regulations for safety. They are usually set in place by a policy or governing agency: IMDG Code for ocean, IATA and ICAO for air, and DOT for ground.


The IMDG (International Maritime Dangerous Goods) Code is an international set of regulations related to the shipping of dangerous goods by ocean vessel. It requires completion of special training courses to enhance the safe carriage of dangerous goods in packaged form and to prevent environmental pollution.  

Some vessel carriers require compliance with IMDG Code as a condition of accepting shipments. All Packing Group 1 dangerous goods traveling by ocean are prohibited. Most limited quantities of Packing Groups 2 and 3 are permitted.


Transporting dangerous goods via air travel must comply with regulations from at least one of the two following policies: IATA and ICAO.

The IATA (International Air Transport Association) incorporates standards from the DGR (Dangerous Goods Regulations) for the safe transport of dangerous goods by air. It is significant in avoiding regulatory violations, shipping delays, and package rejections. 

The ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) Technical Instructions is a list of requirements intended to facilitate the transport of dangerous goods while providing a level of safety. It minimizes risks to employees by restricting limited quantities for transport to only certain divisions of Packing Groups 2 and 3. 

Training and certification is required for all employees involved in air transport of dangerous goods to ensure they understand regulations and to avoid unfavorable hazardous incidents.


The above policies and codes require training in their own fields but are not stand alone curriculum. 

When it comes to dangerous goods regulations, many training requirements are outlined and enforced by the DOT (Department of Transportation). It has the authority to issue regulations governing the safe transportation of hazardous goods via interstate, intrastate, and international means.

DOT training helps employees with safety, general and security awareness, and function specific training. Severe penalties, like large fines or even jail time, await those who knowingly or unknowingly violate governing safety rules and regulations. 

Which makes it crucial that labels are designed properly for their application.

So, now that you’re more familiar with limited quantity, there’s a good chance you’ve been seeing more of the distinct black and white diamond shapes at stores and businesses. 

If so, it’s for good reason.

Limited Quantity Boom from COVID

COVID caused a huge uptick in the use for limited quantities. 

As the pandemic hit the global market in 2020, consumer spending shifted to products that are labeled as dangerous goods at an alarming rate. 

Many manufacturers had to change their approach to product packaging during COVID in order to meet the increasing demand for these items.

Due to the large volume of chemical-based products that entered the market during the pandemic, there was a sharp increase in the need for proper hazardous material labeling. 

Products Increasing Demand

  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Cleaning Wipes
  • Household Cleaners
  • Soaps
  • Disinfectants
  • Hair Products

Limited quantity labels were by far one of the most popular hazmat labels to be widely utilized and applied during this time. 

And their use is still going.

Many of the products mentioned above are still in high demand and will likely continue to be for quite some time. If this is the case, we can expect to see packages bearing the familiar black and white diamond design.


Transporting dangerous goods always comes with a litany of rules to follow, and limited quantities are no different. 

Make sure to stay up to date on label and packaging regulations when transporting your dangerous goods to ensure they are compliant and received throughout the entire shipping process.

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