Hazardous chemicals

Workplace hazardous chemicals are substances, mixtures and articles used in the workplace that can be classified according to their health and physicochemical hazards. Health hazards are hazards like skin irritants, carcinogens or respiratory sensitisers that have an adverse effect on a worker’s health as a result of direct contact with or exposure to the chemical, usually through inhalation, skin contact or ingestion. Physicochemical hazards generally result from the physical or chemical properties, like flammable, corrosive, oxidising or explosive substances. 

Classification of workplace hazardous chemicals

Since the introduction of the NOHSC model Regulations for the control of workplace hazardous substances (1994) and the Dangerous Goods Standard (2001), and their adoption by jurisdictions, hazardous chemicals have been classified by the Approved Criteria for Classifying Hazardous Substances and the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail (ADG Code).

With the adoption of the National model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations in 2012, a new system of chemical classification and hazard communication on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS), based on the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) will come into effect.

Transitional Arrangements

There will be a 5 year transitional period for moving to the new GHS-based system, which will allow for the two systems to be used concurrently by industry. 

Workplace chemicals will not need to be re-classified or re-labelled immediately. During the 5 year transition period, manufacturers may use either the GHS for classification, labelling and SDS, or the previous hazardous substances and dangerous goods classification systems. After 31 December 2016, at the end of the 5 year period, all workplace chemicals must be classified according to the GHS and labels and SDS must be updated. This is illustrated in the following diagram, including the relevant documents to use for classification, labelling and SDS. 

Further information on the transitional arrangements and how they apply to classification, labelling and SDS is provided elsewhere on this website.

until 31 December 2016 from 1 January 2012(mandatory after 31 December 2016)
Hazardous Substances
Approved Criteria for Classifying Hazardous Substances [NOHSC:1008(2004)]
Hazardous Chemicals
Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals 3rd Revised Edition

Dangerous Goods
Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail (ADG Code)

Note that the ADG Code applies to the transport of dangerous goods by road and rail. It will still apply to the transport of dangerous goods by road and rail after 31 December 2016.

Labels
National Code of Practice for the Labelling of Workplace Substances [NOHSC:2012(1994)]
Labels
National model Code of Practice for the Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals (2011)
MSDS
National Code of Practice for the Preparation of Material Safety Data Sheets 2nd Edition [NOHSC:2011(2003)]
SDS
National model Code of Practice for the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals (2011)
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Further information on hazardous chemicals in the workplace

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