Workplace Hazardous Substances

Workplace Hazardous Substances are materials that have the potential to harm persons handling or exposed to them in the workplace. Hazardous Substances (e.g. chemicals, asbestos, etc.) cause over 2000 deaths each year in Australia. Exposure to Hazardous Substances commonly used in the workplace can lead to a variety of acute and chronic health effects such as poisoning, skin rashes and burns, cancer, and disorders of the body’s systems and organs (e.g. CNS, lungs, liver, kidneys, etc.). Many hazardous substances are also classed as Dangerous Goods.

A substance is deemed to be a hazardous substance if it meets the classification criteria specified in the Approved Criteria for Classifying Hazardous Substances [NOHSC:1008(2004)] 3rd Edition (Approved Criteria). Safe Work Australia provides the Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS), which is an online database containing classification information for hazardous substances that have been classified in accordance with the Approved Criteria. Common Hazardous Substances include:

  • acids and alkalis
  • disinfectants
  • agricultural chemicals and pesticides
  • glues
  • paints
  • solvents
  • heavy metals
  • petroleum products

The health effects are dependent on the type of Hazardous Substances and the level of exposure. Exposure to Hazardous Substances can be from inhalation, ingestion, skin (and eye) contact. Some of the potential heath effects can include:

  • poisoning
  • headaches
  • nausea and vomiting
  • skin rashes and dermatitis
  • chemical burns
  • birth defects
  • cancer
  • sensitisation
  • damage to organs such as lungs, liver and kidneys
  • central nervous system disorders

The key questions to be considered for the chemicals and materials handled in your workplace include:

  • Is the chemical or material hazardous to your health?
  • Is the chemical or material listed on the Hazardous Substances register?
  • Is there a Register of Hazardous Substances on the site?
  • Are there current Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all Hazardous Substances used on site?
  • Has a workplace assessment been conducted for the Hazardous Substances used on site?
  • Are there controls in place to reduce exposure to the Hazardous Substance?
  • Is appropriate Personal Protective Equipment available and used?
  • Are there appropriate emergency provisions?
  • Is there an appropriate exposure monitoring programme?
  • Does the labelling comply with legal requirements?
  • Has there been appropriate training for the potentially exposed personnel, required to handle the Hazardous Substances?


Our Occupational Hygienists have specialist qualifications and considerable experience in the assessment and management of workplace Hazardous Substances. We can assist you to comply with the legislative obligations through the development and implementation of a comprehensive Hazardous Substances management programme. The key services provided include:

  • Provision of advice to clients regarding their legislative obligations for the management of Hazardous Substances
  • Site surveys and preparation Hazardous Substances Registers
  • Review of MSDSs to ensure they are current and in an approved Australian format
  • Conduct Hazardous Substance risk assessments
  • Conduct exposure assessments to Hazardous Substances, where required
  • Establish and conduct short term and ongoing monitoring programmes where required
  • Evaluate and recommend controls including local exhaust ventilation and personal protective equipment programme
  • Audit labelling compliance
  • Conduct induction training for Hazardous Substances Regulation or training for specific Hazardous Substances

For further information regarding hazardous substances management, please contact:
Dan Le Van on 0419 239 720, or
Philip Hibbs on 0418 356 784