Under the harmonised Work Health and Safety legislation, the Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG Code) class labels are retained for road transport and inclusion on placarding and chemical storage areas. GHS pictograms should not be used for placarding.
As stated in the Code of Practice ‘Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace: ’‘Where the WHS Regulations require a placard (Schedule 13), the relevant Dangerous Goods class label (pictogram) must be displayed on the placard, not the corresponding GHS pictogram.’
There have been some changes to the threshold quantities which require placarding. Schedule 11 of the WHS Regulations includes details of the threshold placarding quantities for hazardous chemicals. The safe storage of hazardous chemicals is described in the Australian Standards, which specify that chemicals be stored according to their ADG Code class, with consideration given to further incompatibilities. Cabinets which meet the Australian Standard for the storage of specific classes of dangerous goods, are required to be labelled with the corresponding ADG Code class label. The Dangerous Goods class diamonds on such cabinets should not be replaced with GHS pictograms.
For the labelling of shelving or cupboards in the chemical storage area, where there is no dedicated cabinet, chemicals should be stored according to their ADG Code class and therefore, it is appropriate to retain the Dangerous Goods labels for the corresponding storage sections of the chemical storage area. Additionally, with some classes of chemicals, the GHS pictogram covers more than one ADG Code division and thus, the dangerous goods labels are preferable as they give a more precise description of the chemicals stored. Therefore, Science ASSIST recommends that you keep the Dangerous Goods diamonds for signage within the chemical storage area as well as for placarding in other areas of your worksite.
The purpose of placarding is to alert people such as contractors and emergency services personnel to the nature, quantity and location of dangerous goods present at a worksite. Compared with previous legislation for managing hazardous chemicals, under the harmonised WHS legislation, there are some differences in the threshold quantities for which placarding is required. For jurisdictions (NSW, QLD SA, NT, TAS), that have adopted the harmonised Work Health and Safety legislation which incorporates the GHS, Schedule 11 of the WHS Regulations lists the GHS hazard classes for which a placard may be required and specifies the threshold placarding quantities. Schedule 13 of the Regulations gives the specifications for placards, such as the colour scheme, font size and dimensions and where they should be located. Schedule 11 also includes the threshold quantities for which a manifest must be kept, however, it is unlikely that a school would store quantities above the manifest thresholds. The Code of Practice ‘Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace’ provides guidance for implementing the Regulations.
If a placard is required, then it should bear the ADG Code class label(s) and any subsidiary risk labels which correspond to the GHS hazard class of the chemical. In addition to an inner placard, an outer warning placard bearing the word ‘HAZCHEM’ must be displayed, according to the specifications in Schedule 13. GHS pictograms are not required to be included on placards.
Signage within the Chemical Storage Area
As with the separation and segregation of chemicals for transport purposes, storage of chemicals is organised according to ADG Code classes in order to prevent contact, and therefore dangerous reactions, between incompatible chemicals. Requirements for the safe storage of hazardous chemicals are described in the relevant Australian Standards, which give details for the separation/segregation of chemicals according to their Dangerous Goods classes. Consideration should also be given to the subsidiary risks, which may call for secondary containment or further segregation of the goods from incompatible chemicals. For example, concentrated nitric acid has the subsidiary risk of 'Class 5.1 Oxidising agents' and therefore should be segregated from combustible substances such as organic acids. Science ASSIST will be developing more detailed advice on chemical storage in the coming months.
Cabinets dedicated to the storage of flammable and combustible liquids and of corrosive substances should comply with the current relevant Australian Standard. The Standards specify that these cabinets be labelled with the appropriate Dangerous Goods label(s).
The Standard AS 2243.10 recommends the ‘Labelling of cupboards to indicate their contents’ where small quantities of chemicals are stored in a cupboard other than a Dangerous Goods class-dedicated cabinet. The GHS pictograms may be adequate for this purpose for some hazard classes, however, for others, the Dangerous Goods labels are more specific. For example, there is only one GHS pictogram for the classes of flammable chemicals, which corresponds to the six ADG Code class labels flammable liquid, flammable solid, dangerous when wet, spontaneously combustible, flammable gas and organic peroxide. Therefore, Science ASSIST recommends that the Dangerous Goods diamonds be used for labelling cabinets and cupboards within the chemical storage area as they identify the class of the chemicals stored more precisely.
Signage at the entrance to the Chemical Storage Area
Clause 5.10 of Australian Standard AS 2243.10 states that, ‘At the entrance to the storage area, appropriate signage as required for the goods, determined from regulations, shall be displayed.’
For the minor quantities of chemicals which are stored in school chemical storage areas, there are no specific requirements for labelling of the chemical storage area door. Schools could consider displaying the Dangerous Goods labels for the chemicals classes stored. If displaying these labels could potentially create a security issue, then a school could consider signage with less specific wording, for example, ‘Danger - Chemical Storage Area - Authorised Personnel Only’ as well as the name of a responsible person who should be contacted in case of emergency.
It is essential that the chemical storage area be secured against unauthorised access, with access restricted to laboratory staff and any other authorised staff member(s). See the ASSIST INFORMATION SHEET: School science area security AIS: School science area security.
‘Model Work Health and Safety Regulations’, Safe Work Australia website, http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/about/publications/pages/m... (9 January 2014)
‘Model Code of Practice – Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace’, Safe Work Australia website,
‘Placarding for storage of hazardous chemicals’, WorkCover NSW website, http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/media/publications/health-and-safety/pla... (Accessed November 2015)
University of New South Wales. 2014. Dangerous Goods Storage Guideline, Version 1.3 30 April 2014, UNSW Governance website, https://www.gs.unsw.edu.au/policy/documents/HS404.pdf
University of New South Wales. 2013. HS681: An introduction to the Globally Harmonised System Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, March 2013, UNSW Health & Safety website,
Standards Australia. 2004. AS/NZS 2243.10 Safety in Laboratories Part 10: Storage of Chemicals. Sydney, Australia. Extracts from this Australian Standard are reproduced with permission from SAI Global Ltd under licence 1407-c117.
Standards Australia. 2004. AS 1940 The Storage and Handling of Flammable and Combustible Liquids. Sydney, Australia.
Standards Australia. 2008. AS 3780 The Storage and Handling of Corrosive Substances. Sydney, Australia.