Why Is It Important Your Steel Drum Is UN-Approved?

210 litre UN Tight Head Steel Drum (Lacquered Interior)

Why Is It Important Your Steel Drum Is UN-Approved?

If you use steel drums to store and transport industrial goods, then it’s essential that you’re using UN-approved steel drums.

UN ratings are a mark of quality control, denoting that the steel drums have met and exceeded stringent testing standards. UN-approved steel drums can safely store hazardous materials, making them the best choice for storage and transport of potentially dangerous substances.

In this article, the experts at ITP Packaging explain in more detail why it’s so important that your steel drum is UN approved.

What does UN approved mean?

Steel drums are used to transport industrial goods and materials across the world. To ensure that health and safety standards can be met on an international basis, the United Nations devised an approval and rating system that allows anyone, anywhere, to quickly determine if the industrial packaging in transit is appropriate for the goods inside.

The UN (United Nations) approval system has developed into an effective mark of international quality control. UN-rated materials must be able to withstand certain levels of impact and corrosion, and they must offer a certain level of protection to the goods inside. Choosing UN-approved steel drums means you’re safe in the knowledge that the drums have been thoroughly checked, tested and approved before being sold.

Most importantly, UN-approved steel drums have been tested to such a standard that they’re cleared for storing and transporting hazardous materials. UN-approved steel drums can legally carry hazardous waste, fuel, solvents and dangerous chemicals, and much more.

Conversely, if steel drums are not UN approved, they may not be safe for industrial use. If a steel drum isn’t UN approved, it should never be used to store any potentially hazardous, reactive or dangerous materials.

UN approval ratings are not only used for steel drums, but across a wide range of industrial packaging materials. Plastic drums and intermediate bulk containers can also be UN rated, ensuring that your business can safely and securely store and transport all manner of industrial materials.

What Are the Different UN Markings and What Do They Mean?

The United Nations developed its rating system to be universally recognised. When a steel drum passes UN tests and regulations, it’s given a series of symbols and markings that show the drum is now UN approved. This system ensures that anyone can tell if a container has been UN approved simply by reading the markings on the drum.

The markings are a long series of letters, numbers and symbols, and that means a basic knowledge of the UN rating and approval system is needed to interpret them. The markings explain to the reader the type of material the drum is made from, which materials the drum is certified to hold, whether or not hazardous materials can safely be held inside, and more.

UN-approved steel drums have markings that denote:

  • The type of storage container
  • The material used to construct the container
  • The type of opening (either open or closed)
  • The types of hazardous materials that can be safely stored inside
  • If the drum can carry solids, liquids, or both
  • The year the steel drum was manufactured
  • Where the steel drum was manufactured

The markings are preceded by a ‘UN’ symbol, which instantly identifies the drum as UN approved, while a manufacturer’s marking will appear at the end. The different numbers used to mark the type of industrial packaging are:

Types of Industrial Packaging

1 – Drums/pails

2 – Barrels

3 – Jerricans

4 – Box

5 – Bag

6 – Composite packaging

13 – Flexible intermediate bulk container

31 – Rigid intermediate bulk container

The material used to construct the packaging will appear in the series as a distinct letter. This will be one of:

Construction Material

A – Steel

B – Aluminium

C – Natural wood

D – Plywood

H – Plastic material

L – Textile

M – Paper

N – Other metal

UN-approved steel drums have the following sequence at the start of the rating:


This is followed by other letters and numbers explaining facts about the drum, such as the year and location of manufacture. Once you know the system, any UN-approved rating can quickly be deciphered.

Contact ITP Packaging to Purchase Your Steel Drums

Robust, hardwearing and incredibly versatile, UN-approved steel drums are the most effective packaging option for industrial goods.

ITP Packaging offers a comprehensive stock of steel drums, and our expert team is ready to advise you on the best options for your business.

Contact our packaging experts today to place your next order for UN-approved steel drums.

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