Dangerous goods: Safety basics

Understand what dangerous goods are, and requirements for managing them.


What are dangerous goods?

Dangerous goods are substances that are corrosive, flammable, combustible, explosive, oxidising or water-reactive or have other hazardous properties. Dangerous goods can cause explosions or fires, serious injury, death and large-scale damage.

The Dangerous Goods Act 1985 (DG Act) defines which substances are dangerous goods. Examples of common dangerous goods:

  • flammable liquids (petrol, kerosene, turpentine, flammable paints etc.)
  • corrosives (hydrochloric acid)
  • flammable gases (LP Gas)
  • non-flammable non-toxic gases (CO2)
  • asbestos
  • explosives

Dangerous goods, hazardous substances – what's the difference?

Dangerous goods and hazardous substances are covered by different laws. Some substances are both hazardous substances and dangerous goods. Both sets of laws apply. For some duties, complying with one set of regulations will be enough to ensure compliance with the other.

Storing and handling dangerous goods

The Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2022 set out the legal duties for manufacturers and suppliers, and for occupiers of workplaces where dangerous goods are stored or handled. The Code of practice for storage and handling of dangerous goods provides practical information on how to comply.

Are there dangerous goods in your workplace?

As an occupier, your first step is to identify all dangerous goods stored and handled at your premises. That includes any dangerous goods generated during a manufacturing process.

Manufacturers and suppliers must supply you with a safety data sheet (SDS) with dangerous goods. There must also be package markings and class or hazard class information. These will help you identify what’s in a product, precautions for use, and safe storage and handling requirements.

Risk management

You must identify the hazards related to the dangerous goods at your premises, assess the risks if necessary, and implement risk controls. See the Code of practice for storage and handling of dangerous goods for detail on how to do this.

Storing certain quantities of dangerous goods

You must notify WorkSafe if your workplace stores or handles quantities of dangerous goods in excess of the relevant quantities specified in the table in Schedule 2 of the Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2022.

Industrial sites that store, handle or process large quantities of hazardous chemicals and dangerous goods may be deemed to be major hazard facilities in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017.

Transporting dangerous goods

You need a licence to transport dangerous goods in quantities above set limits.

The Dangerous Goods (Transport by Road or Rail) Regulations 2018 control transporting dangerous goods.

The Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail (ADG Code) sets out the safety requirements for transporting dangerous goods by road or rail. It covers commonly used dangerous goods, such as petrol, LPG and paints.

High consequence dangerous goods (HCDG)

High consequence dangerous goods include types of ammonium nitrate, used to make things like fertilizers. They’re often used in mining, quarrying and agriculture.

You need a licence if you import, export, manufacture, store, sell, supply, use, handle, transfer, transport or dispose of HCDG. You need a permit to handle HCDG unsupervised.

Requirements for the use of HCDG are covered in the Dangerous Goods (HCDG) Regulations 2016 and the Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2022.