Classifying chemicals in Australia

A chemical’s classification tells you what hazards it has. Manufacturers and importers must use the GHS to classify chemicals in Australia, and develop labels and safety data sheets (SDS).

Classifying hazardous chemicals in Australia 

Australia uses the GHS to classify hazardous chemicals. These classifications are based on defined criteria, for example: 

  • the amount of a chemical that will poison someone, for the acute toxicity category 

  • how easily the chemical will ignite, for the flammability category. 

Manufacturers and importers must determine if a chemical is hazardous. If the chemical is hazardous, manufacturers and importers must correctly classify the hazardous chemical. This information can then be used to create: 

Checking a chemical’s classification 

Our Hazardous Chemical Information System (HCIS) can help you find GHS classification information  for many chemicals. 

Other key sources of classification information include: 

These lists should be treated as guidance only. There is no mandatory classification list in Australia.  

Classifying new chemicals 

If you make a new chemical or mixture, it may need to be tested to determine what hazards it may have. This is sometimes referred to as classifying from first principle and must be done by a person who has specialist training and expertise.  

Classifying new chemicals involves: 

  • collecting information or carrying out tests 

  • evaluating the information and data 

  • deciding on classification based on the GHS classification criteria and decision logic. 

If you are classifying a new mixture, you can either: 

  • calculate the hazards of the mixture based on the properties of its ingredients, or 

  • test the mixture as a whole to see how it behaves in practice.  

The Classifying hazardous chemicals - national guide has more information about classifying new chemicals or mixtures.  

Revising labels and SDS 

Manufacturers and importers must review and revise the label and SDS if the classification changes. 

Australian differences to the GHS 

Some GHS hazard categories are not considered hazardous under the model WHS regulations in Australia. A list of these categories can be found on our Hazardous Chemical page.   

In Australia, we have our own generic cut off concentrations for certain hazard classes of chemicals, like: 

  • respiratory and skin sensitisers 

  • chemicals that cause cancer 

  • reproductive toxicants 

  • chemicals that cause damage to organs from single or repeated exposures. 

The Hazardous Chemical Information System (HCIS) has a full list of Australian generic cut off concentrations. 

More information on how to classify mixtures using cut off concentrations can be found in our Classifying hazardous chemicals - national guide

Using different systems for classification 

Some chemicals may need to be classified under multiple systems. 

If you are transporting hazardous chemicals, manufacturers and importers of the hazardous chemical must classify it according to the Australian Dangerous Goods code (ADG code) and the GHS. 

You may also be able to translate an existing hazard classification to a GHS classification. Refer to the  Classifying hazardous chemicals – national guide for more information.

Supporting information