Commercial Vehicle Operators’ Safety Manual

Module 10 - Dangerous Goods


The Carrier Safety and Enforcement Branch of the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario has prepared this guide to assist and ensure that truck and bus companies (commercial vehicle operators) operate safely and are compliant with the regulations that govern highway use. Ontario, other provinces, the Government of Canada and the transportation industry developed the rules and regulations to help reduce the number and severity of collisions. Each jurisdiction has used the National Safety Code standards as guides in drafting their own transportation safety legislation. This approach promotes uniformity across Canada and helps to ensure that the transportation industry remains as viable and sustainable as possible.

This guide applies to Ontario operators of commercial motor vehicles that are:

  • Trucks, tractors, mobile equipment vehicles or trailers and/or any combination of these vehicles that have a registered gross weight or actual weight of more than 4,500 kilograms
  • Tow trucks, regardless of registered gross weight or actual weight
  • Buses with a manufactured seating capacity of 10 persons or more, excluding the driver
  • Accessible vehicles and school purposes vehicles, depending upon use

The guide contains several modules, each dealing with a specific topic. To get a complete picture of compliance requirements, you should obtain the complete guide. If you intend to use certain parts of this guide only (for example, Module 1, "Getting Started”) it is recommended that you also obtain the modules "Introduction” and "Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration.”

This is a guide only and is not meant to be a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations. This guide highlights some important legal provisions but is not an exhaustive description of all the laws that apply.

Dangerous Goods - Learning Objectives

As you work through this module, you will be able to:

  • Define dangerous goods.
  • Understand the need for legislation to regulate the transportation of dangerous goods.
  • Describe the training required.
  • Identify the classes of dangerous goods.
  • Identify the labels and placards used for dangerous goods.
  • Describe the legislated use of labels and placards.
  • Identify the required documentation.
  • Describe procedures for reporting incidents.

Completion of this module does not constitute dangerous goods training for an employee.

Dangerous Goods Regulations

Dangerous goods are those that could cause harm to people, property or the environment.

Each day, numerous products defined as dangerous goods are shipped from one point to another within Canada, by road, railroad, air and water. With the significant numbers of dangerous goods in transport, there is a great potential for incidents to occur that would endanger human life and damage the environment.

Manufacturers, shippers, operators, terminals, users and governments need to work continually toward minimizing the risk of incidents during the transportation of dangerous goods, as well as the harm done when an incident does occur.

For this reason, governments established legislation that applies to all stages of dangerous goods movement. They have also set up inspection and enforcement programs to achieve compliance with the legislation.

In Canada, the federal government, and those of the provinces and territories, have enacted legislation to regulate the transportation of dangerous goods.


The dangerous-goods legislation directs that no one shall handle, offer for transport or transport dangerous goods unless they are trained or in the presence, and under the direct supervision, of someone who has been trained.

It is the responsibility of each operator to make sure that employees and anyone driving the vehicles they are responsible for have the proper training necessary to transport or handle dangerous goods. When the operator believes that the employee has been adequately trained in relation to their duties for transporting dangerous goods, the operator must issue a training certificate to the employee.

The certificate must include the following information:

  • The name and address of the operator
  • The name of the employee
  • The signature of the operator and employee
  • The date of expiry
  • The aspects of training that the employee has received

A certificate is valid for 36 months, and a copy must be kept at the operator’s place of business for a period of two years after the expiry date.

Every trained person who transports dangerous goods is required by law to produce a certificate of training when requested by an inspector.

What is a Dangerous Good?

Many products pose some danger while being transported, but dangerous goods are generally products that are inherently dangerous, whether or not they are in transport. Special precautions are called for to ensure safe transportation. The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, (TDGA, 1992) defines dangerous goods as "a product, substance or organism included by its nature or by the regulation in any of the classes listed in the schedule.”

The schedule to the TDGA, 1992 identifies nine classes of dangerous goods. Manufacturers of dangerous goods, or products containing dangerous goods, cannot offer these for transport unless they have been properly classified. Each dangerous good falls within one of these nine classes. Some classes are further divided into divisions, in order to provide more information. The sub-class identifies additional dangers associated with the particular good within that general class.

Dangerous Goods on Buses

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations, in column nine of Schedule 1, gives the quantity limits for dangerous goods above which those dangerous goods must not be transported on a passenger-carrying road vehicle (bus). The quantity limit is expressed in kilograms for solids; litres for liquids; and, for gases, the capacity of the means of containment of the gases.

The word "Forbidden” in this column means that the dangerous goods must not be transported in any quantity on-board a bus. If no index number is shown, then there is no quantity limit. A few exceptions do exist: for example, dangerous goods that are required for the health and safety of passengers, such as medical oxygen.

Before transporting dangerous goods, bus operators should check the regulation for prohibitions and applicable exemptions.

Classes of Dangerous Goods

Class 1: Explosives

  • Explosives, as included in the Explosives Act

Class 2: Gases

  • Compressed, deeply refrigerated, liquefied or dissolved under pressure

Class 3: Flammable Liquids

  • A liquid which has a closed-cup flash point not greater than 60oC.

Class 4: Flammable Solids

  • Flammable solids, meaning substances liable to spontaneous combustion, and substances that emit flammable gases upon contact with water

Class 5: Oxidizing Substances and Organic Peroxides

  • Substance which causes or contributes to the combustion of other material by yielding oxygen or other oxidizing substances or organic compounds which are strong oxidizing agents and may be liable to explosive decomposition, be sensitive to heat, shock or friction or react dangerously with other dangerous goods

Class 6: Toxic and Infectious Substances

  • A solid or liquid that is toxic through inhalation, by skin contact or by ingestion or Micro-organisms that are infectious or that are reasonably believed to be infectious to humans or animals.

Class 7: Radioactive Materials

  • Nuclear substances, within the meaning of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, which are radioactive

Class 8: Corrosives

  • A substance that causes destruction of skin or corrodes steel or non-clad aluminum.

Class 9: Miscellaneous Products, Substances or Organisms

  • Miscellaneous products, substances or organisms considered by the Governor-in-Council to be dangerous to life, health, property or the environment when handled, offered for transport or transported

Identification of Dangerous Goods and Communication of Hazards (Safety Marks)

The legislation prescribes labels and placards (safety marks) for each classification of dangerous goods, as well as information that must be included in documents required to accompany the consignment of the dangerous goods.  The prescribed markings and documentation are intended to communicate the nature of the danger to handlers and those responding to spills and incidents.

Generally, smaller packages are labelled, while larger shipments or goods that are shipped in a large means of containment are placarded.  Transport units that are used must be placarded in accordance with the legislation, and the prescribed documents must accompany the consignment and be readily accessible.

Placards are a clear indication that a transport unit contains dangerous goods.  When a collision or spill occurs that involves a transport unit, these placards alert responders to the presence and nature of the dangerous goods, which allows them to take the necessary precautions and actions.  

Responders may examine the contents of the transport unit to locate the particular consignment of dangerous goods, and examine the accompanying documentation to obtain more precise information.

Generally speaking, prior to taking possession of a shipment of dangerous goods, you must ensure that you are in possession of a shipping document containing the prescribed information, and that the means of containment are displaying the required safety marks.  

When placards are required to be displayed on a large means of containment, they must be displayed on each side and each end.  

The placards must remain on the large means of containment until no hazard remains.  Once the dangerous goods have been unloaded and no hazard remains, the placards must be removed.

If the dangerous-goods safety marks are lost, damaged or defaced during the trip, then the operator must replace them.

Marks of Safety

Marks of Safety

Accompanying Documentation

When a shipping document is required to accompany the dangerous goods, it must be kept within arm’s reach of the driver. When the driver is not in the cab, the documents must be on the driver's seat, in the pocket on the driver's door or in a clearly visible position.

One of the most important sources of information for a first responder to an accident is the dangerous goods documentation. The document outlines the dangerous goods you are carrying in a specific order, in which the first responders are trained.

When a parked trailer carrying dangerous goods is not attached to the tractor, the person in charge of the parking area must keep one copy of the documents. Or, if there isn't anyone in charge of the parking area, place a copy of the documents in a waterproof container attached to the trailer, where it is easily identifiable and accessible. Though there are other options available to leave documentation; the ones above are most commonly used.

If the quantity of dangerous goods changes while in transport, the person in control of the vehicle must indicate this, so that the document reflects the amount of dangerous goods in the vehicle.

Shipping Documents

A shipping document must, at minimum, include the following information for transportation by road:

  • Legible and clear, "dangerous goods” highlighted over other freight
  • Name and address of Consignor (Canadian)
  • Date the document prepared
  • Description of DG in following order
    • UN Number
    • Shipping name
    • (technical name) Special Provision 16
    • Primary class
    • Compatibility group – (explosives Class 1 only)
    • Subsidiary class in parenthesis
    • Packing Group (roman numeral)
    • “Toxic by Inhalation” or “toxic – inhalation hazard” Special Provision 23
  • Quantity of dangerous goods/ NEQ – Explosives (metric)
  • Number of small means of containment
  • 24-hour phone number
  • Residue last contained
  • Declining balance
  • ERAP number and activation telephone number (if required)
  • Consignor’s Certification

Reporting Incidents

In the event of an accidental release of dangerous goods from a means of containment, a person who has possession of them at the time must make an immediate report to the following people, if the accidental release consists of a quantity of dangerous goods or an emission of radiation that is greater than the quantity or emission level set out in the table in Part 8 of the Regulation:

  1. The local police
  2. The owner of the vehicle
  3. Your employer
  4. The person or company that owns the consignment of the dangerous goods (consignor as per TDG Clear Language)
  5. CANUTEC, in the event of an accidental release of Class 1, 6.2, or a catastrophic failure of a gas cylinder

The driver’s employer must submit a 30-day follow-up report to the Director General, Transport Dangerous Goods Directorate, Transport Canada (if you were required to make an immediate report of an accidental release of dangerous goods as per Section 8.1 of the regulations).


Prosecutions are undertaken for violations of the Dangerous Goods Transportation Act. Penalties include fines of up to $50,000 for first offences, up to $100,000 for second offences, and up to two years imprisonment for indictable offences.

More Information

Emergency Numbers

(613) 996-6666

M.O.E. Spills Action Centre

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
(613) 995-0479

Information Numbers

(613) 992-4624

M.O.E. Spills Action Centre

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Hazardous Waste Information Network (M.O.E)

Ontario Ministry of Transportation

The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act (Federal):

The Dangerous Goods Transportation Act:

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