Hazardous Substances: What you need to know

Hazardous substances refer to chemicals or substances which can be toxic, corrosive and can cause harm. So it makes sense that we document what’s on-site and when.

If you have hazardous substances on-site, there are processes that, by law, you need to follow to ensure they are stored, used, and disposed of correctly and to reduce the risk to anyone that uses or comes into contact with them.

On 1 January 2021, Australia began a two-year transition to the revised edition of the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS 7). This new system replaces the previous Approved Criteria for Classifying Hazardous Substances.

Despite the transition period, we recommend you start making the changes to labelling, SDS, and packaging as soon as possible.

You can find out more about the changes below so you can make sure you are up to date with the latest info.

There has been changes to the Hazard Classifications, and you will no longer use the following classes for your hazardous substances:

  • Class 1 Explosives
  • Class 2 Flammability gases
  • Class 3 Flammability liquids
  • Class 4 Flammability solids
  • Class 5 Oxidising
  • Class 6 Toxic
  • Class 8 Corrosive
  • Class 9 Ecotoxic

The new GHS7 for hazardous substances will be classed as a physical hazard, a health hazard or an environmental hazard, detailed below:

Physical hazards

  • Explosives
  • Flammable gases
  • Flammable aerosols
  • Oxidising gases
  • Gases under pressure
    • Compressed gas
    • Liquefied gas
    • Dissolved gas
    • Refrigerated liquefied gas
  • Flammable liquids
  • Flammable solids
  • Pyrophoric liquids
  • Pyrophoric solids
  • Self-heating substances
  • Substances and mixtures which, in contact with water, emit flammable gases 
  • Oxidising liquids
  • Oxidising solids
  • Organic peroxides
  • Corrosive to metals


Health hazards

  • Acute toxicity: Oral, dermal, inhalation
  • Skin corrosion/irritation
  • Serious eye damage/eye irritation
  • Sensitisation of the Respiratory tract or skin 
  • Germ cell mutagenicity
  • Carcinogenicity
  • Reproductive toxicity
  • Specific target organ – toxicity single exposure
  • Specific target organ toxicity – repeated exposure
  • Aspiration hazard


Environmental hazards

  • Hazardous to the aquatic environment
  • Hazardous to the terrestrial environment. (This hazard class is not part of the GHS 7 classification system, but was added to ensure risks to the terrestrial environment continue to be managed.

What this means for you

You will need to ensure that your SDS, packaging and labelling of substances has been updated to reflect the new classes or you are in the process of updating. This can be done by reaching out to the supplier or manufacturer of substances.


What is a Hazardous substance register?
This is a list of all your hazardous substances (including hazardous waste) that is used, handled, or stored at any of your sites or workplaces. Having a register will ensure you know the substances you have on-site, the requirements you need-to-know, and what to do in case of an emergency.

Keeping a Hazardous substance register
Keeping your register in a central location on your site means that in case of an emergency, it can be accessed quickly by anyone who needs it. There are some key bits of information that need to be included on your hazardous substance registers. Not only do you need the information below, but you must also make sure that the register is up to date and available on-site. 

  • The name of the substance 
  • Issue date of the current safety data sheet t
  • The maximum quantity that is stored at the workplace
  • Where it’s located
  • Specific storage requirements
  • Any hazardous waste

Because the register represents the maximum amount of the substance held, it means it’s not going to be a daily task to keep it up-to-date. But if the maximum quantity changes, the register needs to reflect this. We recommend that you review your register each time you make a change to ensure it’s up to date and accurate.


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