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Hazardous Chemicals

Hazardous chemicals in the workplace are substances, mixtures and materials that are classified according to their health and physicochemical risks and dangers.

Hazards include 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 a substance’s physical and chemical properties, as is the case with flammable, corrosive, oxidising or explosive substances.


Hazardous chemicals may present an immediate or long term risk to human health through their toxicological properties, or a risk to safety of persons and property as a result of their physicochemical hazards. Risks include

  • Fire and smoke related injuries
  • Explosion related injuries
  • Skin exposure: symptoms include skin dryness, blistering, redness, rashes, and itching.
  • Eye exposure: the most common symptoms of eye exposure are burning, itching, and watering of the eyes.
  • Respiratory tract exposure: symptoms may include headache, nose and throat irritation, dizziness, and disorientation.
  • Chronic disease


All risks are assessed relevant to the context and conditions, but may include (but not limited to):

  • Where possible, perform the task without using hazardous chemicals
  • Where possible, substitute hazardous chemicals with less toxic alternatives
  • Hazardous chemicals should be isolated from workers in separate storage areas
  • Storage areas should be separately ventilated from the rest of the workplace
  • Workers should be thoroughly trained in handling and safety procedures
  • Personal protection equipment such as respirators, gloves and goggles should be worn
  • The workplace should be regularly monitored with appropriate equipment to track the degree of hazardous chemicals in the air or environment
  • Workers should be consulted regularly to maintain and improve existing safety and handling practices
  • Emergency management plans are developed in consultation with workers and local authorities
  • Ignition sources are eliminated, but if not practicable then controlled
  • Hazardous chemicals, including those decanted into other containers, are clearly labelled
  • Safety data sheets are available to workers or anyone likely to be exposed to the hazardous chemicals at the workplace
  • Maintain a hazardous chemical register

Other statutory obligations

A PCBU is required to:

  • Notify Comcare if the workplace is storing or handling manifest quantities of hazardous chemicals
  • Notify Comcare if the workplace has abandoned tanks that previously stored flammable liquids or gases
  • Notify Comcare if the workplaces transfers hazardous chemicals via a pipeline that crosses the workplace boundary
  • Seek authorisation from Comcare if using Prohibited or Restricted Carcinogens

What else you may need to know


Information Source

What it contains

Code of Practice - How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks

This code provides practical guidance for persons who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety

Chapter 7 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (Hazardous Chemicals)

Information in the WHS regulations that relates to Hazardous Chemicals

Safe Work Australia - Hazardous Chemicals information page

Information on managing risks involving hazardous chemicals

Safe Work Australia - Code of Practice: Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals

Risk management strategy relating to the labelling of hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Please note this is guidance only and not a legislative instrument.

Safe Work Australia - Code of Practice: Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace

Risk management strategy on managing the risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Please note this is guidance only and not a legislative instrument.

Page last updated: 08 May 2017