High consequence dangerous goods (HCDG): Safety basics

High consequence dangerous goods pose significant security and safety risks if they are not used appropriately. Find out the legal requirements for handling and storing them.

On this page

  • What high consequence dangerous goods are
  • What they are used for
  • Types of HCDG
  • Main hazards of ammonium nitrate
  • Risk management
  • Safe storage and handling
  • HCDG licences and permits
  • Related legislation

Please note

Please note the Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Amendment (Notification) Regulations 2021 came into effect on 1 July 2021 (Amended Notification Regulations).

This information has not yet been updated to reflect the changes introduced by the Amended Notification Regulations. Complying with the guidance after 1 July 2021 may not necessarily mean compliance with a duty under the Amended Notification Regulations. Information on the Dangerous Goods Act 1985 and associated regulations can be found on

What high consequence dangerous goods are

High consequence dangerous goods are:

  • ammonium nitrate
  • calcium ammonium nitrate containing more than 45% ammonium nitrate
  • ammonium nitrate emulsions and mixtures containing more than 45% ammonium nitrate.

They are also known as security sensitive ammonium nitrate (SSAN) in some jurisdictions such as Queensland.

What are not considered HCDG

Solutions and ammonium nitrate products that are class 1 explosives are not HCDG. Solutions refer to water based mixtures where all the HCDG is dissolved and there are no visible solids particles in the HCDG/water mix.

What they are used for

Ammonium nitrate is used to make products like fertilizers and is a key ingredient in explosives. Industries like agriculture and mining rely on the use of HCDG. Its misuse can have catastrophic results. If not used appropriately it poses significant security and safety risks, therefore its use is tightly controlled through a licensing and permit system, with security and police checks.

Types of HCDG

The following United Nations (UN) numbers are considered HCDG. UN numbers are a globally recognised way of labelling dangerous goods.

UN Number Proper shipping name Class or division Packing group
3375 Ammonium nitrate emulsion or suspension or gel, intermediate for blasting explosives 5.1 II
3139 Oxidising liquid, N.O.S. 5.1 I
1942 Ammonium nitrate with not more than 0.2% total combustible material, including any organic substance calculated as carbon, to the exclusion of any other added substance. 5.1 III
2067 Ammonium nitrate based fertiliser 5.1 III
2071 Ammonium nitrate based fertiliser 9 III
N/A Calcium ammonium nitrate N/A N/A

Pictogram symbols for labelling HCDG

Class 5.1 - Oxidising agent symbol

Class 5.1 - Oxidising agent

This symbol is used on goods with the following UN numbers: 3375, 3139, 1942 and 2067

Class 5.1 - Oxidising agent symbol9 - Miscellaneous dangerous goods symbol

Class 9 - Miscellaneous dangerous goods

This symbol is used on goods with the following UN numbers: 2071

Main hazards of ammonium nitrate

There are 3 main hazards when working with ammonium nitrate:

  • Decomposition: ammonium nitrate melts at 170 degrees celsius and above 210 degrees celsius it decomposes releasing toxic gas
  • Fire: ammonium nitrate in solid or liquid state is an oxidising agent which supplies oxygen to the fuel in a fire and supports burning even where air is excluded
  • Explosion: in a fire, hot pools of ammonium nitrate liquid may form and if confined (for example, in a drain) may explode

Risk management

If you occupy premises where dangerous goods are stored and handled, you must make sure any associated risks are eliminated or reduced, so far as is reasonably practicable. To do this, you must consider whether the quantity of dangerous goods can be reduced, and whether other goods, or dangerous goods, with lower risks can be substituted.

Occupiers must make sure any risk control measures are reviewed and if necessary revised:

  • before any change is made to a process or system that is likely to change the risks associated with storing and handling dangerous goods
  • if required following an investigation due to an incident at the premises
  • if they do not adequately control the risks.

The Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2012 list what you must consider when identifying hazards at premises where dangerous goods are stored and handled.

Find the regulations on the Victorian Law today website.

Safe storage and handling

  • Use an appropriate building. If ammonium nitrate is stored in a building it should be a well-ventilated, single-storey building made of a material that will not burn.
  • Keep ammonium nitrate dry. The risk of explosion increases if the product gets wet and the surface forms a crust on the outside. The crust confines the decomposing gases making explosions more likely.
  • Store away from drains, channels and pits where molten ammonium nitrate from a fire could become confined.
  • Store away from ignition or heat sources.
  • Store ammonium nitrate at least 1.2m away from walls. Regularly clean walls and framing or structures (depending on where it is stored).
  • Don't store ammonium nitrate in stacks higher than 3m.
  • Provide appropriate fire protection as per the safety data sheet.
  • Provide information and training to relevant employees about safe storage and handling.

Storing away from incompatible materials

Do not store ammonium nitrate with incompatible materials as the risk of fire and explosion is increased. This includes:

  • flammable or combustible liquids such as petrol, diesel, oil, grease, solvents, oil-based pesticides, gas cylinders
  • combustible materials including organic matter, hay, straw, animal feed, wooden pallets (ammonium nitrate should be stored away from such materials by a distance of at least 8m)
  • finely powdered metal zinc

Separate ammonium nitrate from:

  • class 8 corrosive liquids, acids and alkalis
  • chlorites, chlorates, bromides
  • cement, lime, sulphur, hexamine
  • galvanised iron, copper, zinc

A complete list of incompatible materials can be found in the Australian Standard 4326, 'Storage and handling of oxidizing agents'.

HCDG licences and permits

You must have an appropriate licence or permit if you import, export, manufacture, store, sell, supply, use, handle, transfer, transport or dispose of HCDG. This applies to many industries, particularly the mining, agricultural, transport, retail and manufacturing industries.

Licence and permit applicants must also undergo a security and police check.

Licenses and permits are valid for five years, but may be renewed for a further term.


Licences are only given to people/businesses that demonstrate legitimate need. WorkSafe requires applicants to submit a security plan with their application form outlining how they will deal with the many risks associated with high consequence dangerous goods.


Employees will be required to get a permit if they access HCDG unsupervised. Permits are only issued if the employer holds a HCDG licence.

For more information please contact us at [email protected]

Related legislation

The purchase, sale, use, storage, transport, import, export and supply of high consequence dangerous goods are regulated by the Dangerous Goods (HCDG) Regulations 2016.