4.1 Hazardous Substances

Substances (chemicals and chemical products) are covered by the general duties under the OHS Act. In addition, Victoria has specific legislation covering both hazardous substances and dangerous goods in the workplace. Hazardous substances are covered by the OHS Regulations, and Dangerous Goods are covered by the Dangerous Goods Act and Regulations.

The main changes to the 2007 regulations in the 2017 regulations are:

  • the regulations have been recast to the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) requirements and terminology.
  • All references to the Approved Criteria for Classifying Hazardous Substances, Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS) and associated terminology have been removed
  • The AgVet labelling requirements have been amended to align with the Model WHS approach which is to allow for APVMA labels but require GHS hazard and precautionary statements
  • the definition of 'container' has been amend to capture containers exceeding 500lts or 500kg


  1. A hazardous substance means a substance that satisfies the criteria for hazard classification set out in Part 3 (Health Hazards) of the GHS, but does not include a substance that satisfies the criteria solely for one of the following hazard classes:
    1. acute toxicity - oral - category 5;
    2. acute toxicity - dermal - category 5;
    3. acute toxicity - inhalation - category 5;
    4. skin corrosion/irritation - category 3;
    5. serious eye damage/eye irritation - category 2B;
    6. aspiration hazard - category 2
  2. A hazard pictogram means a graphical composition, including a symbol combined with other graphical elements, that is assigned in the GHS to a hazard class or hazard category
  3. A hazard statement means a statement assigned in the GHS to a hazard class or hazard category describing the nature of the hazards of a hazardous substance including, if appropriate, the degree of hazard

Division 1 - Introductory matters

140 - The regulations do not apply to:

  • food (as per the Food Act 1984); therapeutic goods (as per the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 of the Commonwealth); cosmetics; tobacco or products made of tobacco; or toiletries and toilet products UNLESS the use of the substance is related to a work activity
  • any culture or preparation of pathogenic micro-organisms or other material capable of causing disease in humans (as per the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008); radioactive materials (as per the Radiation Act 2005); or asbestos
  • the transport of hazardous substances
  • asbestos

Division 2 - manufacturers and suppliers
Division 3 - employers and self-employed persons

Division 2 - Duties on manufacturers and suppliers

141 - 142 Set out who specifically this division applies to.

143 Determination of Hazardous Substance

Manufacturers and importing suppliers must determine whether a substance is a hazardous substance before it is first supplied to a workplace, unless this has already been determined under equivalent legislation

144 - 148 Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

Manufacturers and importing suppliers must:

  • 144: Ensure that an SDS is prepared in accordance to reg 145 before the substance is first supplied to a workplace
  • 145 (1): the SDS must contain:
    • the product identifier and chemical identify of the substance;
    • the name, address and telephone number of manufacturer in Australia, or of the importing supplier of the substance;
    • an Australian telephone number where information can be obtained in an emergency;
    • the date of preparation or last review of the SDS;
    • the hazard classification of the substance determined in accordance with the GHS;
    • the hazard statement and precautionary statement for the substance;
    • composition of and information about ingredients, as per Schedule 8;
    • first aid measures;
    • fire fighting measures;
    • accidental release measures;
    • exposure controls, exposure standards (if any), engineering controls and personal protection information;
    • information relating to handling and storage, including how substance may be safety used;
    • disposal considerations;
    • information relating to the physical and chemical properties of the substance;
    • stability and reactivity information;
    • toxicological information, including health effects
  • 145 (2) & (3): the SDS must be in English and be legible, but can also be prepared in languages additional to English
  • 146: Review and revise the SDS as often as necessary to ensure the information is current and accurate AND at least every 5 years
  • 147 & 147: Manufacturers and suppliers must provide a copy of the the current SDS
    • to any person to whom the substance is supplied on or before the substance is first supplied; and
    • to any employer who intends to use that hazardous substance in a workplace, on request; and
    • to that person when it has been reviewed;
    • this does not apply to retailers or retail warehouses if the substance is supplied in a consumer pack; or if the hazardous substance is supplied to a vehicle as fuel.

149 - 152 Labels

149 - Manufacturers and importing suppliers must label any container that contains a hazardous substance before it is supplied to a workplace.

The label must be in English (though it is permissable to have other languages AS WELL), legible and firmly secured to the container, and must contain:

  • the product identifier;
  • the name, address and telephone number of manufacturer in Australia, or of the importing supplier of the substance;
  • the identity and proportion for each ingredient that must be disclosed (in accordance with Schedule 8 - which allows the use of generic names in some circumstances);
  • any hazard pictogram according to the correct classification of the substance;
  • any hazard statement, signal word and precautionary statement according to the correct classification of the substance.

If the container is too small for the above, the minimum are the product identifier, the name, etc of the manufacturer/supplier, and the hazard pictogram or statement.

150 - Other labellling systems if labelled in accordance with equivalent legislation, or for certain substances (ie for agricultural, veterinarian, therapeutic goods and poisons or controlled substances) are recognised.  For ag/vet chemicals, the minimum requirements are  that the label:

  • is in accordance with the AgVet Code;
  • have the product identifier;
  • have the name, address and telephone number of manufacturer in Australia, or of the importing supplier of the substance;
  • have the hazard statement;
  • have the precautionary statement;
  • be firmly secured, in English (and other languages if wished) and legible.

There are also exemptions for poisons or controlled substances - if it is reasonably foreseeable that the substance will be used in a workplace in a quantity and in a way consistent with household use, and in a way that is incidental to the nature of the work.

151 - A supplier (other than an importing supplier) must ensure that the container is which a hazardous substance is supplied is labelled with the manufacturer's or the importing supplier's label.

152 - If the SDS or label does not disclose the chemical identity of an ingredient, and a registered medical practitioner requests it to assist with the management of a patient, then the manufacturer or the importing supplier must immediately disclose it.

Division 3 - Duties of employers and self-employed persons

153 Prohibited hazardous substances

Various substances can be prohibited for certain uses under Schedule 6 of these regulations.  Employers and self-employed persons must ensure that these are not used in the workplace for any purpose. The only substance listed here is the use of materials containing more than 1% crystalline silica for abrasive blasting

154 The duties of employers and self-employed persons under this division apply to:

  • substances that have been determined under regulation 143 or equivalent legislation to be hazardous substances that are supplied to the workplace; and
  • welding fumes, grain dust, wood dust, silica dust and lead dust; and
  • to any substances determined by the Authority.

Some of the duties do not apply to lead metal, lead alloys or inorganic lead compounds in a prescribed lead process under Part 4.3 (Lead) of these regulations.

155 - 157 Safety Data Sheets

Employers must:

  • obtain a current SDS on or before the first supply of a hazardous substance to the workplace
  • ensure that the current MSDS is readily accessible to any employee who may be affected by the substance
  • ensure that the information in a current SDS is not altered

158 - 159 Labels

Employers must:

  • ensure a container in which a hazardous substance is supplied is labelled with the manufacturer's or importing supplier's label
  • ensure that the label remains legible and is not removed, defaced or altered
  • ensure that if a hazardous substance is decanted into a container at the workplace the container is clearly labelled with the product name OR if this is not reasonably practicable, then some other means is used to identify the substance UNLESS the decanted substance is consumed immediately and the container is then immediately -
    • cleaned so that it is not a risk to health; or
    • neutralised, etc so that any residue is not a risk to health
  • ensure that a container remains labelled until it is -
    • cleaned so that it is not a risk to health; or
    • neutralised, etc so that any residue is not a risk to health

160 - 161 Identification of hazardous substances

Employers must:

  • ensure that a hazardous substance in a pipe, piping system, process vessel, or any other plant in a manufacturing process is identified to employees who may be exposed to the substance (160)
  • ensure that containers of waste produced or generated in a workplace from a hazardous substance are identified (161)

162 Register of hazardous substances

Employers must ensure that a register of all hazardous substances supplied to the workplace is prepared and maintained. 

The register must contain:

  • a list of the product identifiers of all the hazardous substances supplied to the workplace; and
  • a copy of the SDS for each substance.

The register must be accessible to any employee who may be exposed to any of these substances.  In addition to this, Section 69 of the OHS Act places a duty on the employer to allow OHS reps access to any information on actual or potential hazards at the workplace. Consequently, reps must have access to the register.

Note: this regulation does not apply to retailers or retail warehouses if the substance is supplied in a consumer pack intended for retail sale and not intended to be opened at the workplace.

163 Control of risk

  1.  An employer must,so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate any risk associated with hazardous substances.  
  2. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, then the employer must reduce that risk by following the following order of control:
    1. substituting the substance with a less hazardous one; or in a less hazardous form; or
    2. isolating employees from the source of exposure to the substance; or
    3. using engineering controls; or
    4. combining any of the above risk control measures 
  3. If the employer has complied with the above control measures (1 & 2), and a risk still remains, then the employer must use administrative controls (eg limiting the amount of time an employee is exposed) to further reduce the risk. 
  4. If the employer has complied with the above control measures (1, 2 & 3), and a risk still remains, then the employer must control the risk by providing appropriate personal protective equipment.

164 Review of risk control measures

  1. The employer must review and if necessary revise the risk control measures:
    1. before any changes to the systems of work likely to result in changes to the risk; or
    2. if the employer gets advised by a medical practitioner (under regulation 169(2)(c)(i)) that adverse health effects have been identified by the health monitoring; or
    3. after occurrance of any notifiable incident under Part 5 of the OHS Act that involves a hazardous substance; or
    4. if, for any other reason, the risk control measures do not adequately control the risks; or
    5. after a request from an OHS rep.
A rep may make a request for a review if the rep believes 'on reasonable grounds' that
  1. any of the circumstances (a) - (d) exists; or
  2. the employer has failed to
    1. properly review the risk control measures; or
    2. take account of any of the circumstances in 1(a) to (d) when reviewing or revising the risk control measures.

165 Exposure standard must not be exceeded

The employer must ensure that an employee is not exposed to an atmospheric concentration of a hazardous substance supplied to or generated in the workplace above the exposure standard (if any) of the substance or any of its ingredients.

166 - 168 Atmospheric monitoring

The employer must ensure that atmospheric monitoring - checking the levels of contaminants in the air - is carried out if an exposure standard for a hazardous substance or any of its ingredients exists and

  1. there is uncertainty as to whether the exposure standard is or may be exceeded; or
  2. atmospheric monitoring is necessary to determine whether there is a risk to health.

The employer must provide the results of the monitoring to any employee who has been, or may be, exposed, and must keep records of the monitoring for 30 years (unless the Authority determines a period less than 30 years).

169 - 171 Health monitoring

The employer must provide health monitoring for an employee if that employee is exposed to certain hazardous substances (as listed in Schedule 9 or as determined by the Authority) if that exposure is reasonably likely to have an adverse effect on the employee's health under the particular conditions at the workplace.

The employer must ensure:

  1. the monitoring is performed under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner; and
  2. a report is prepared by the medical practitioner and given to the employee; and
  3. the report includes (if relevant):
    1. any indications or adverse health effects identified that may be attributed to the hazardous substance; and
    2. any recommendations for the employer with regard to ensuring the employee is not exposed to the substance for a specified period of time; and
    3. an interpretation of the results, including a statement of whether the employee should continue to work with the hazardous substance.

If the report contains recommendations under (3)(b) above, then the employer must provide a copy of the report to the Authority.

The employer must keep records of the any health monitoring report for a period of 30 years (unless otherwise determined by the Authority).

See Also:

  • The Hazard section Chemicals on this website both in general and specifically
Last amended February 2018


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