Australian Dangerous Goods (ADGs) include 9 classes of potentially deadly substances that could cause serious damage to property, people or the environment as defined by the Dangerous Goods Act 1985 and safe handling of the substances are outlined in The Australian Dangerous Goods Code edition 7.6 (in effect starting July 2019), which gets updated every two years.

The 9 classes of ADGs are (in order): 1) explosives, 2) compressed, liquefied or dissolved under pressure, 3) flammable liquids, 4) flammable solids, 5) oxidising agents and organic peroxides, 6) toxic and infectious substances, 7) radioactive materials, 8) corrosive substances/articles, and 9) miscellaneous dangerous goods.

Starting January 2017, the classification and labelling of chemicals, especially hazardous chemicals (hazchems), have been subject to the Globally Harmonised System (GHS), which is a universal system of chemical classification and communication through container labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

Handling and labelling of these hazchem, chemicals hazardous to workplace health and safety, is regulated by both WHS (GHS workplace labelling) and ADG Code (transport labelling). Section 2 and 14 of the SDS (as well as the manufacturers) specify whether a chemical falls under hazchems or ADGs. They often overlap.

WHS requires businesses (and officers and PCBUs) to minimise the health hazard risks by complying with handling, generating, labelling, storing, and moving hazchems at a workplace. These duties may include but are not limited to:

  • Using correct labels of containers using warning placards and signs using one of 9 GHS pictograms (each representing one of the 9 ADG classes)
  • Keeping a register and manifest of all hazchems
  • Educating and supervising workers handling and using hazchems
  • Obtaining and studying SDS from the manufacturer or supplier

A supplier, manufacturer and importer of hazchems also have the duty to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks of the hazchems as much as reasonably feasible and are correctly labelled.