Previously, the storage, handling and use of hazardous chemicals in the workplace were regulated separately in each jurisdiction under a different framework for hazardous substances and for dangerous goods. Now with the implementation of the new work health and safety (WHS) harmonised scheme, the WHS regulations cover hazardous substances and dangerous goods under a single scheme. This single scheme, “hazardous chemicals” includes a new process in which hazards are classified. This classifying system is based on the United Nations’ Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

What is a “hazardous chemical”?

It is easy to get confused as to what actually classifies as a “hazardous chemical” but basically, it includes any substance that, following employee exposure, can have a harmful effect on health. Side effects of exposure can include (but are not limited to); burns, skin/eye irritation and even fatal diseases such as cancer.

 “But isn’t that the same thing as “Dangerous Goods”?

Dangerous Goods can include substances, mixtures or articles that are hazardous to people, property or the environment. These types of substances can come in chemical or physicochemical form.  It is the properties of these substances that typically cause harm. Some “Dangerous Goods” are explosives, flammable liquids/gases, corrosive substances, and chemically reactive or highly toxic substances. Other examples of dangerous goods include petrol, LP gas, chlorine, explosives and fireworks.

The characteristics used to determine if a substance is a ‘Dangerous Good’ falls under the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods (ADG Code) 7th Edition. This code presents a list of substances considered to be ‘Dangerous Goods’.

However, to answer the initial question: In many cases, dangerous goods are also considered to be hazardous substances.

One can speculate that the system was harmonised in order to avoid confusion on whether or not a substance was a hazardous chemical or dangerous good. However, now they both simply fall under the same scheme.

Whose Job is it to classify materials as ‘Hazardous’?

The model WHS Regulations (harmonised law) made it the manufacturer and importer’s responsibility to correctly classify the hazardous chemical prior the chemicals delivery to a workplace.

More information on Hazardous Chemicals:

According to a 2009 International Labour Conference report, over 650,000 deaths worldwide were caused in 2003 due to hazardous chemicals.

Dangerous Goods Transportation by sea falls under the IMDG Code. Since 2010 every marine worker who transports Dangerous Goods has been required to receive the proper training under AMSA regulations.  

More information on training