What are Dangerous Goods?
Substances hazardous to health may also be classified as dangerous goods. For example, kerosene is classified as a hazardous substance, and also as 'dangerous - class 3.' Which goods are classified as dangerous are as per the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road (the 'ADG')
Dangerous Goods legislation is aimed at controlling hazards such as the explosiveness, flammability or oxidising effects of hazardous materials. A list of the various pieces of legislation (Acts, regulations, Code of Practice), with links, is at the bottom of the page.
|Class||Type/Form of Substance|
|2.2||Non-flammable, non-toxic gases|
|4.2||Substances liable to spontaneous combustion|
|4.3||Substances which in contact with water emit flammable gases|
|Class||9||Miscellaneous dangerous goods|
The dangerous goods class and status as a hazardous substance should be found on the chemical container, on the label. This is in the form of a statement: "Hazardous" or "Non-hazardous", and there should also be 'risk phrases' such as 'Flammable'.
Advice for Health and Safety Reps
There are a few things you can do as a rep:
- Before any new substances are brought into the workplace, your employer should obtain and provide you with a copy of the relevant and up-to-date MSDS. Remember that the employer has the duty to consult with you prior to the introduction of new substances into the workplace (Section 35(1)(f) of the OHS Act, 2004)
- Ask your employer to put all workplace substances on a register, and check whether they are hazardous or dangerous, and whether there is an up-to-date MSDS available for each of these. The employer has the duty to provide you with this information. WorkSafe Victoria has a publication: Chemicals Management in the Workplace, A Step by Step Guide - which includes a register at Appendix 1 which may be useful in your workplace.
- Talk with the members of your DWG about the substances on the register. These are some of the issues you might raise:
- how the substances stored, how are they used and so on.
- the training and information your members have received - is it sufficient? Has everyone who may be exposed to any associated risk received training?
- Is personal protective equipment (PPE) used? Should workers be issued with it? Have they been trained?
- Meet with your employer to discuss any issues of concern.
Contact your union if you need some advice on the content of MSDSs or on any of the above.
The Dangerous Goods Act, 1985 can be viewed on the Victorian legislation website - go to Victorian Law Today and then enter the name of the Act.
The Dangerous Goods Regulations outline what an employer must do to comply with the Dangerous Goods Act 1985. If an employer is not complying with the regulations, it is likely that they are failing to provide a safe workplace so far as is reasonably practicable under s.21 of the OHS Act 2004.
Dangerous Goods Regulations
There are also a number of regulations which cover dangerous goods, which are also accessible from the above website (New regulations for the storage and handling of dangerous goods and on explosive dangerous goods commenced in December 2022).
The updated regulations are largely the same as the old regulations. However, some language was modernised and changed for clarity's sake. In the new Dangerous Goods (Explosives) Regulations 2022 there are a number of new definitions, including the new classification of propellant (class 1.4C), and additional provisions to clarify how approvals and determinations are made by the WorkSafe. The main regulations governing dangerous goods are:
- Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2022
- Dangerous Goods (Explosives) Regulations 2022
- Dangerous Goods (Transport by Road or Rail) Regulations 2018
- Dangerous Goods (HCDG - High Consequence Dangerous Goods) Regulations 2016
From WorkSafe Victoria:
- The Dangerous Goods topic information page which covers all aspects including legal requirements, storage, handling and use of explosives and links to publications etc.
- Dangerous Goods Safety Basics
- Victorian Code of Practice for the Storage and Handling of Dangerous Goods (2013) provides practical guidance to manufacturers and suppliers of dangerous goods, and occupiers storing and handling those dangerous goods. This code was released in October 2013 and reflects the 2012 Regulations.
- Chemicals Management in the Workplace, A Step by Step Guide - a guide provided to help employers to manage chemicals safely, and comply with the relevant aspects of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations and the Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2008. This publication includes an example of a workplace register.
- Transporting Dangerous Goods - Don't risk it on the road - provides advice on transporting dangerous goods that can harm people and damage property and the environment, including on the system of danger signs which identify dangerous goods according to the kind of danger.
- Manufactures and importing suppliers and suppliers of hazardous substances and dangerous goods: A step by step guide [pdf] - provides guidance information for manufacturers, importers, first suppliers, and suppliers of hazardous substances and dangerous goods on implementation of the hazardous substances regulations and dangerous goods storage and handling Regulations
- The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has a large number of FAQs, including several on Dangerous Goods. These can be downloaded (in a number of different languages) from its web site (the following open up as PDFs and are the English versions):
Last updated, November 2023
Important Chemicals Information
- Hazardous Substances - An introduction to Legislation
- Dangerous or Hazardous? What's the difference?
- Chemicals management in workplaces
- Material Safety Data Sheets
- Exposure Standards for Chemicals
- Chemicals - Useful websites
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- Occupational cancer and Workers' Memorial Day
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- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
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