BS 5609, GHS, and IMDG Compliant Labels Frequently Asked Questions


Why are regulations in place for transporting dangerous chemicals?

Oil spillage and chemical leakage from dumped freight are still current and heavily debated topics when discussing transportation of chemicals. The implementation of strict transport regulations helps safeguard health, safety and the environment. International regulations like BS 5609 ensure that clear standards and requirements apply to the label and label material. 

Direct labeling of the package shows the contained substance and is the first identifier of a dangerous chemical. To comply with regulations, it is important that hazard information is visible at all times and easily recognizable by the trained professional handling the materials in the chemical container. This applies even when the chemical drum or container has been recovered from the sea. 

What is the British Standard 5609 (BS 5609) certification? 

British Standard 5609 is widely recognized as the most intensive testing protocol for printed labels and as one of the highest standards for label durability. BS 5609 establishes specifications and test methods to determine whether pressure-sensitive, adhesive-coated labels will perform under marine conditions. The four-section standard includes two technical sections: 

  • Section two covers the base material of the pressure sensitive, adhesive-coated label, i.e. the facestock/adhesive combination. Testing includes artificial weathering, temperature cycling, and a 3 month immersion in seawater to measure the adhesion and color fastness of the label in marine conditions.  

  • Section three covers the final printed pressure-sensitive, adhesive-coated labels, including the printing inks, ribbons and systems applied to materials that were certified in Section two. Printed labels are tested for print key effectiveness, legibility, print permanence, resistance to abrasion and weathering from light, salt spray and sand. 

How does BS 5609 classify within the international regulatory frameworks? 

To understand BS 5609 standard and its origins, it is necessary to look into the two regulations that form its background: The United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System (GHS) and the International Maritime Organization’s International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code

GHS is an international, standardized set of criteria for labelling chemical containers including drums, barrels, and intermediate bulk containers (IBCs). GHS communicates hazard information and safety precautions with standardized pictograms, signal words, statements, and identifiers. This minimizes the risk of handling errors and the regulatory burdens on chemical producers. 

The IMDG Code is a global system developed to govern the maritime transport of dangerous goods in packaged form. IMDG provides requirements around packaging, container traffic and stowage for different substances. The IMDG Code requires that label information will still be identifiable on cargo transport units after three month’s immersion at sea. 

BS 5609 provides durability standards for printed pressure-sensitive, adhesive coated labels used in marine environments. Performance testing for BS 5609 certification aligns with the durability requirements of both GHS and the IMDG Code. Ensuring the labels for chemicals and dangerous goods remain legible throughout transport. 

Even when a shipment is not going by sea, BS 5609 compliance can be requested by the label converters or end users when extra durable labels are needed.


What are the label requirements for shipment according to GHS? 

GHS is a general directive for the classification of chemicals. A GHS label contains six basic elements:

  • Hazard pictograms set in a diamond with a white background and red border. 

  • Signal words such as “danger” or “warning”.

  • Hazard statements such as “flammable aerosol” or “fatal if swallowed”.

  • Precautionary statements (phrase and/or pictogram) regarding storage, handling, and disposal. 

  • Product identifier that provides unique means by which the chemical identity of the substance or mixture can be determined. 

  • Supplier identification including name, address, and telephone number.


What are the label requirements for shipment according to the IMDG Code? 

The IMDG Code classifies dangerous substances by their properties to determine how they should be handled, packaged, loaded, transported, unloaded and stored. The goal is to facilitate safe maritime transport of dangerous goods and prevent pollution to the environment. 

Within the IMDG Code, there are 9 classes of dangerous substances each with a number of subdivisions. Each subdivision is assigned a diamond shaped label with a specific pictogram and color combination. Certain subdivisions have additional required safety information. 

The classification information on a label should be readable at all times, including if a container is recovered from sea. 

“The method of affixing the label(s) or applying stencil(s) of label(s) on packages containing dangerous goods shall be such that the label(s) or stencil(s) will still be identifiable on packages surviving at least three months immersion in the sea.” IMDG Code Chapter 5.2 Marking and labelling of packages including IBCs ( 




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