Working with hazardous chemicals

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Working safely with or around hazardous chemicals involves:

  • checking the label
  • having a current (no older than 5 years) Safety Data Sheet in an accessible location (near where the chemicals are being used) for both workers and emergency services
  • reading and understanding the content contained in the Safety Data Sheet
  • following safe work procedures under appropriate supervision
  • using controls (e.g. ventilation, piping or transfer systems)
  • correctly wearing the appropriate safety equipment provided for the task
  • storing PPE correctly to avoid contamination
  • not eating, drinking or smoking while working with a hazardous chemical
  • keeping food or drink away from the work area and not storing chemicals in old drink containers
  • washing your hands, face and other exposed areas before eating, drinking or going to the bathroom.
  • the product identifier, and
  • a hazard pictogram or hazard statement consistent with the correct classification of the chemical.
  • it is not left unattended by the person who decanted it
  • it is used only by a person present at the decanting process
  • the container is subsequently rendered free from any hazardous chemical immediately after use, so the container is in the condition it would be in if it had never contained the chemical.

Everyone is responsible for a safe workplace – so if you're not sure about something, ask someone. For more information about labelling hazardous chemicals, click here. For the managing risks code of practice, click here.

Safety Data Sheets and labels

A hazardous chemical is any chemical that can cause you harm – including paint, glue, cleaning liquid, powders or chemicals. Manufacturer and/or suppliers must provide instructions on the safe use and handling of their chemicals and substances.

All hazardous chemicals used in the workplace should be clearly labelled and stored in a safe place.

A Safety Data Sheet gives in-depth information on the hazardous chemical or substance, including first aid measures, PPE requirements, storage and handling requirements. Labels and Safety Data Sheets are the first source of information for workers about these chemicals. You should always use hazardous chemicals in accordance with the manufacturer or supplier's written instructions.

The information in a Safety Data Sheet may be technical and it is the employer's responsibility to develop appropriate instructions for use in the workplace (such as making the instructions understandable and appropriate for the process in the workplace).

Employers have a responsibility to provide safe work procedures when handling hazardous substances.

International safety data sheets

Unless SDS have been prepared specifically for use in Australia it is unlikely it will meet all the requirements of the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations, which requires information specific to the chemical’s use in Australia, e.g. the contact details of the Australian manufacturer or importer of the hazardous chemical.

When a hazardous chemical is imported to Australia it is the responsibility of the importer here to ensure the chemical is correctly classified and prepare compliant SDS.

If a suitable overseas SDS has been developed specifically for use in Australia, the Australian importer is responsible for making sure it meets Australian requirements.

Decanted or transferred hazardous chemicals

Decant means to transfer a hazardous chemical from a correctly labelled container to another container within a workplace.

If a hazardous chemical is decanted or transferred from the container in which it was packed and it will not be used immediately or it is supplied to someone else, the label must, at a minimum, be written in English and include the following:

Where the entire amount of a decanted hazardous chemical will be used immediately, labelling of its container is not required.

A decanted hazardous chemical can only be considered to be used immediately in situations where:

If you need further assistance, please contact the WR team on 8291 2000 or at