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GHS Implementation in Australia
Jun 14, 2022
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Australia has implemented UN GHS Rev.3 in 2016. It is implemented through the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations, which was released on January 1, 2012 and came into force on January 1, 2017, prescribing the duty on manufacturers and importers of chemicals supplied to the workplace to correctly classify the chemicals, label hazardous chemicals in the workplace and provide Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

From January 1, 2021, Australia has begun a two-year transition from the UN GHS Rev.3 to the UN GHS Rev.7. During this period, manufacturers and importers of workplace hazardous chemicals may use either UN GHS Rev.3 or UN GHS Rev.7 to classify hazardous chemicals and to prepare labels and SDS. Once the transition period has ended on December 31, 2022, only UN GHS Rev.7 format SDS and labels may be used.

Competent Authority and Related Regulations

Safe Work Australia (SWA) is a national policy body responsible for GHS implementation in the workplace, and the development and evaluation of the Model WHS laws which consist of Model WHS Act, Model WHS Regulations, and Model Codes of Practice. 

The Model WHS laws have been developed for implementation by all jurisdictions (e.g., the Commonwealth, states and territories), however, these model laws do not apply in a jurisdiction unless the jurisdiction has separately taken action to implement the model laws as their own WHS laws. The model laws have been implemented in all jurisdictions in Australia except Victoria. In addition, each jurisdiction has a WHS regulator that enforces WHS laws, inspects workplaces and gives advice.


Manufacturers and importers must use UN GHS Classifications to correctly classify chemicals in Australia to determine whether they’re hazardous, and if the chemicals are hazardous, manufacturers and importers shall use the information to create the corresponding labels and safety data sheets (SDS).

*Through the official online system – Hazardous Chemical Information System (HICS), stakeholders can find GHS classification information for many chemicals.

Classification and Hazard Categories

In Australia, some types of chemicals are not considered hazardous under the Model WHS Regulations, including:

  • infectious substances;

  • radioactive sources; and

  • chemicals only hazardous to the environment.

Furthermore, the following GHS hazard categories are exempt from classification under the Model WHS Regulations:

  • acute toxicity category 5;

  • skin irritation category 3;

  • aspiration hazard category 2;

  • flammable gas category 2;

  • acute hazard to the aquatic environment category 1, 2 or 3;

  • chronic hazard to the aquatic environment category 1, 2, 3 or 4; or

  • hazardous to the ozone layer category 1.

Click here to refer to the official guide, which helps manufacturers and importers correctly classify hazardous chemicals according to the Model WHS Regulations.

Below is a list of hazardous chemicals restricted in Australia under the Model WHS Regulations.

Restricted hazardous chemical

Restricted use

Antimony and its compounds

For abrasive blasting at a concentration of greater than 0.1% as antimony

Arsenic and its compounds

For abrasive blasting at a concentration of greater than 0·1% as arsenic

For spray painting

Benzene (benzol), if the substance contains more than 1% by volume 

For spray painting

Beryllium and its compounds 

For abrasive blasting at a concentration of greater than 0·1% as beryllium 

Cadmium and its compounds 

For abrasive blasting at a concentration of greater than 0·1% as cadmium 

Carbon disulphide (carbon bisulphide) 

For spray painting 


For wet abrasive blasting 

Chromium and its compounds 

For abrasive blasting at a concentration of greater than 0·5% (except as specified for wet blasting) as chromium 

Cobalt and its compounds 

For abrasive blasting at a concentration of greater than 0·1% as cobalt 

Free silica (crystalline silicon dioxide) 

For abrasive blasting at a concentration of greater than 0·1% 

For spray painting 

Lead and compounds 

For abrasive blasting at a concentration of greater than 0·1% as lead or which would expose the operator to levels greater than those set in the regulations covering lead 

Lead carbonate 

For spray painting 

Methanol (methyl alcohol), if the substance contains more than 1% by volume 

For spray painting 

Nickel and its compounds 

For abrasive blasting at a concentration of greater than 0·1% as nickel 


For wet abrasive blasting 


For wet abrasive blasting 

Radioactive substance of any kind where the level of radiation exceeds 1Bq/g 

For abrasive blasting, as far as reasonably practicable 


For spray painting 

Tetrachloromethane (carbon tetrachloride) 

For spray painting 

Tin and its compounds 

For abrasive blasting at a concentration of greater than 0·1% as tin 

Tributyl tin 

For spray painting 

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

All except for if its use, handling or storage is: 

  • in relation to existing electrical equipment or construction material 

  • for disposal  

  • for genuine research and analysis. 

Labeling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals

A label is required for any substance, mixture or article that is classified as a hazardous chemical under Model WHS Regulations, so that users of these chemicals in workplaces can identify any hazards associated with the correct classification of the chemical and take appropriate steps to eliminate or minimize the risks.

The label of a hazardous chemical, which is packed in a container, must include the following information (written in English):

  • the product identifier;

  • the name, Australian address and business telephone number of either the manufacturer or importer;

  • the identity and proportion disclosed, in accordance with Schedule 8 of the WHS Regulations, for each chemical ingredient;

  • any hazard pictogram(s) consistent with the correct classification(s) of the chemical;

  • any hazard statement(s), signal word and precautionary statement(s) that is consistent with the correct classification(s) of the chemical;

  • any information about the hazards, first aid and emergency procedures relevant to the chemical, which are not otherwise included in the hazard statement or precautionary statement; and

  • the expiry date of the chemical, if applicable.

Figure 1 - An example of the Australian GHS label given by Safe Work Australia

The information on a label should be of a size and style that is easily legible and is appropriate to the size of the label and container. The minimum dimensions for hazard pictograms and size of text on containers of various capacities are specified as below. The dimensions are intended to be measured along the edges of the pictograms. They are suggested sizes only and are not mandatory.

Container capacity

Minimum hazard pictogram dimensions

Minimum text size

≤ 500 mL

15 * 15 mm

2.5 mm

> 500 mL and ≤ 5 L

20 * 20 mm

3 mm

> 5 L and ≤ 25 L

50 * 50 mm

5 mm

> 25 L

100* 100 mm

7 mm

Detailed guidance on how to prepare a label for a hazardous chemical, see Model Code of Practice: Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

In Australia, an SDS must be prepared before first manufacturing or importing a hazardous chemical, or if this is not possible, as soon as practicable after first manufacturing or importing the chemical and before first supplying it to a workplace. It must state the following information (consist of 16 sections, in English):

  • Section 1 - Identification

  • Section 2 - Hazard(s) identification

  • Section 3 - Composition and information on ingredients

  • Section 4 - First aid measures

  • Section 5 - Firefighting measures

  • Section 6 - Accidental release measures

  • Section 7 - Handling and storage

  • Section 8 - Exposure controls and personal protection

  • Section 9 - Physical and chemical properties

  • Section 10 - Stability and reactivity

  • Section 11 - Toxicological information

  • Section 12 - Ecological information

  • Section 13 - Disposal considerations

  • Section 14 - Transport information

  • Section 15 - Regulatory information

  • Section 16 - Any other relevant information

A reasonable attempt should be made to obtain the information, however, when information is not available or lacking, this should be clearly stated. The SDS should not contain any blank spaces or abbreviations without a legend. Any recommendation made by the Australia Industrial Chemicals Introductions Scheme (AICIS) in the corresponding assessment report relating to the information required in an SDS should be reviewed and considered for inclusion. Further guidance about the information that should be included in the SDS, where relevant and available, see Model Code of Practice: Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals.

Below are some obligations that related manufacturers and importers must comply with.

  • The SDS must be reviewed at least once every five years from the date of original preparations or the last revision of the SDS. It is not necessary to review the SDS if the manufacturer or importer has not manufactured or imported the chemical in the last five years.

  • The SDS must be amended whenever necessary to ensure that the SDS contains correct, current information, for example, whenever any new information about the hazardous chemical is known or received or when the formulation changes.

  • An SDS should still be made available after the hazardous chemical is withdrawn from sale as it may be required by workplaces at a later date.

Note that an SDS prepared by an overseas manufacturer or supplier is acceptable only if it is prepared in accordance with the WHS Regulations. It is acceptable to have a translation of the SDS attached to the original SDS (prepared in accordance with the WHS Regulations), provided the appended information clearly states the translation is not part of the original SDS.

Disclosure of Ingredients (proportions)

The proportions of the ingredients must be disclosed in an SDS if the generic name and chemical identity of an ingredient that makes up a hazardous chemical is disclosed. For multiple ingredients, proportions shall be listed in descending order by mass or volume. Ingredients not contributing to the hazard classification, where included, should be listed after the ingredients contributing to the hazard classification. However, if the exact concentration of an ingredient is commercially confidential, the concentration of the ingredient can be disclosed using the following ranges:

  • < 10%

  • 10 - < 30%

  • 30 - 60%

  • > 60%

The proportion of an ingredient should normally be disclosed using a narrower range, for example, for an ingredient present at 35%, a range of 30 - 40% should be used instead of 30 - 60%.

Where possible, the percentage composition should add up to or indicate a total of 100%, even if an estimate of non-hazardous ingredients needs to be provided.

Where the chemical identity or generic name of an ingredient that makes up a hazardous chemical is disclosed, the proportions of the ingredients must also be disclosed in an SDS.

Main Updates under UN GHS Rev.7


The ‘flammable aerosols’ hazard class is now called ‘aerosols'.

Category 3 is a new hazard category for non-flammable aerosols. 

Classification and labeling for Categories 1 and 2 aerosols (‘flammable aerosols’ under UN GHS Rev.3) have not changed.

Flammable, pyrophoric and chemically unstable gases

Flammable Gas Category 1 is now split into Flammable Gas Category 1A and Flammable Gas Category 1B.

Flammable Gas Category 2 has not changed and is not used in Australia.

There are three new flammable gas categories under Flammable Gas Category 1A:

  • Pyrophoric Gas – a flammable gas that is liable to ignite spontaneously in air at a temperature of 54°C or below.

  • Chemically Unstable Gas A and Chemically Unstable Gas B – a flammable gas able to react explosively in the absence air or oxygen.

Desensitized explosives

UN GHS Rev.7 has a new hazard class for desensitized explosives. 

Desensitized explosives are solid or liquid explosive substances or mixtures that have had a substance added to make it safer to handle and transport.

Desensitized explosive substances or mixtures can be:

  • diluted or wetted with water, alcohols, or other substances to form a homogenous solid mixture

  • dissolved or suspended in water or other liquids substances to form a homogenous liquid mixture.

Eye irritation

The definition of ‘hazardous chemicals’ in the model Work Health and Safety laws has been updated to include both Category 2A and Category 2B eye irritants.

Using Category 2A or 2B subcategories is optional in Australia. For example, you can class Category 2B eye irritants as either Category 2 or Category 2B eye irritants.

GHS implementation in transport

Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications works with Commonwealth agencies, states and territories, and the National Transport Commission, to promote best practice and internationally harmonized legislation for the transport of dangerous goods in Australia. Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG code) sets out the requirements for transporting dangerous goods by road or rail. It is given legal force in each Australian state and territory by laws that incorporate the code as law. The Australian Dangerous Goods Code is updated every two years, with a one-year transition period for each edition (CL news). For domestic land transport, edition 7.7 of the Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG 7.7) is the latest edition. It can be used from 1 October 2020 and will become mandatory as from 1 October 2021. Edition 7.7 is aligned to the 21st revised edition (Rev.21) of the UN Model Regulations.