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What does the Hazchem code indicate?

If you are involved in the transport and handling of hazardous products, you should know what the Hazchem code is. It contains essential information to ensure the safety of people, animals and the environment. In this post we describe it in detail, explaining the meaning of each number and letter depending on its position.

What is the Hazchem code?

The Hazchem code, short for “Hazardous Chemicals”, is a system for identifying and communicating hazards associated with hazardous chemicals, such as sulfuric acid. This code provides crucial information for the safe handling, storage and transportation of hazardous substances around the world. Since its introduction in the 1960s, the Hazchem code has been instrumental in ensuring the safety of those working with chemicals and preventing catastrophic incidents.

When it was created

The Hazchem code was initially developed in the United Kingdom by the British Railways Board in response to the need to identify the risks associated with the transport of hazardous chemicals by rail. This system was first implemented in 1967 and has since evolved to adapt to changes in the chemical industry and international regulations, to the point where dangerous goods can be safely transported by sea.
The main aim of the Hazchem code is to provide a quick and clear way of communicating the hazards of chemicals, enabling workers and emergency services to take appropriate action in the event of an incident. The system uses a combination of numbers and letters to classify chemicals according to their hazard and provide guidance on how to handle them safely.

Hazchem code interpretation

The Hazchem code consists of a series of numbers and letters that are displayed on an identification plate affixed to chemical containers and vehicles transporting chemicals. Each Hazchem code consists of three main parts:
1. Main identification number: This number indicates the primary hazard class associated with the chemical. For example, the number “2” refers to compressed gases, such as butane, while the number “3” refers to flammable liquids, such as diesel fuel or gasoline. Continuing with other frequently transported chemicals, we can talk about corrosive substances that are identified with number 8 in the Hazchem code, such as sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid or caustic soda.
2. Subsidiary identification number: This number provides additional information on the specific hazard associated with the chemical. For example, a number “2” followed by a “3” would indicate a flammable gas. Accordingly, gases such as butane, propane or acetylene are associated with the number 23 in the Hazchem code.
3. Guidance letters: These letters provide specific instructions on how to handle the chemical safely in case of an emergency. For example, “E” indicates that respiratory protection equipment should be worn, while “O” indicates that water should be used to cool fire-exposed containers.

Because it is important for safety

The Hazchem Code plays a crucial role in protecting the health and safety of people and the environment. By providing clear and concise information on the hazards associated with chemicals, the code enables workers and emergency services to make informed and rapid decisions in hazardous situations.
In addition, the Hazchem code helps prevent accidents and minimize the impact of chemical incidents by providing guidance on how to handle chemicals safely at all stages of their life cycle, from manufacture and storage to transport and end use.


In summary, the Hazchem code is an essential tool for safety in the chemical industry and the transportation of hazardous products. Its ability to effectively communicate the hazards associated with chemicals helps protect people, the environment and property from potential hazards. It is critical that workers and emergency services understand and follow the instructions provided by the Hazchem code to ensure safe handling of chemicals and prevent catastrophic incidents.

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