Australia has recently transitioned to the Seventh revised edition of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS7). The transition took place over a two-year period from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2022 to allow manufacturers and importers to implement the updated system. Australia made the move to GHS7 to align with key trading partners who were also transitioning to GHS7 and to make sure that classifications, labelling, and Safety data Sheets (SDSs) use the latest classifications and hazard communications. Before transitioning to GHS7, Australia used the third revised edition of the GHS to classify hazardous chemicals. The main relevant legislation for GHS in Australia is the Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws which were released in 2011 by Safe Work Australia and were last amended in April 2022. The WHS prescribes the duty of manufacturers and importers of chemicals supplied to workplaces to correctly classify the chemicals, label hazardous chemicals, and provide SDSs. From 1 January 2023 only GHS7 can be used for preparation of SDSs and labels.
The following GHS hazard categories are exempt from classification under the Australian WHS Regulations:
Acute Toxicity, Category 5
Skin Irritation, Category 3
Aspiration Hazard, Category 2
Flammable Gas, Category 2
Acute Hazard to the Aquatic Environment, all categories
Chronic Hazard to the Aquatic Environment, all categories
Hazardous to the Ozone Layer, Category 1
Like many other countries, Australia also has its own GHS labelling requirements. The requirements are set by the Code of Practice for Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals under Section 274 of the Work, Health and Safety (WHS) Act. A hazardous chemical is correctly labelled if the label includes the following in English:
The product identifier
The name, Australian address, and business telephone number of either the manufacturer
The identity and proportion for each chemical ingredient (in accordance with Schedule 8 of the WHS Regulations).
Any hazard pictogram(s) consistent with the correct classification(s) of the chemical. Pictogram size: For containers up to 500 ml capacity at least 15 mm x 15 mm. For containers from 500 ml to 5 l at least 20 mm x 20 mm.
Any hazard statement(s), signal word and precautionary statement(s) that is consistent
with the correct classification(s) of the chemical. Maximum number of p-statements 6-10.
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
The expiry date of the chemical, if applicable
The following additional information should also be included on the label, when available:
An emergency phone number for specific poison or treatment advice
The overseas name, address and telephone number of the manufacturer or supplier
A valid website or internet address
Reference to the safety data sheet, for example a statement on the label that says: ‘Additional information is listed in the Safety Data Sheet (SDS)’.
Manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals have duties under the Work, Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations to provide current information about the hazardous chemical in the form of a Safety Data Sheet (SDS). The SDS for the hazardous chemical must be prepared before first manufacturing or importing the chemical. The SDS must be reviewed at least once every 5 years and amended whenever necessary to ensure it contains correct and current information. The manufacturers and importers must provide the current SDS to any person who is likely to be affected by the chemical and to any person who asks for the SDS.
The format and content of an SDS in Australia are set by the Code of Practice for the Preparation of Safety Data Sheets for Hazardous Chemicals under section 274 of the WHS Act. An Australian SDS must:
Be in English.
Contain the 16 standard sections.
Contain unit measures expressed in Australian legal units of measurement under the National Measurement Act 1960 (Cwlth).
State the date it was last reviewed, or if it has not been reviewed, the date it was prepared.
State the name, Australian address and business telephone number of the manufacturer or the importer.
State an Australian business telephone number from which information about the chemical can be obtained in an emergency.
Pictogram size: at least 1 cm x 1 cm and not larger than 2 cm x 2 cm
GHS implementation in the workplace and development of the Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations are the responsibility of a national policy body, SafeWork Australia (SWA). The WHS Regulations have been implemented in all jurisdictions (e.g. the Commonwealth, states, and territories) in Australia except Victoria.
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communication in collaboration with the National Transport Commission, Commonwealth agencies, states and territories work to promote best practice and internationally harmonized legislation for the transport of dangerous goods in Australia. The Australian Dangerous Goods (ADG) Code provides information targeted at managing immediate hazards, such as emergency situations during transport.
Safe Work Australia (for implementation in the workplace)
Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (for implementation in transport)
Main relevant legislation:
Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws consisting of a model WHS Act, supported by model WHS Regulations and model Codes of Practice and a National Compliance and Enforcement Policy.
The current version of the Model WHS Regulations (dated 9 December 2019) as released by Safe Work Australia, includes all amendments made since 2011. The amendments to the Model WHS laws and regulations do not automatically apply in a jurisdiction, unless the jurisdiction has separately taken action to implement them. The model laws and supporting instruments are given legal force through their adoption in Australian States and Territory workplace laws.
Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADGC) 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.
GHS implementation status
Transport of dangerous goods
For international transport of dangerous goods, see “Implementation through international legal instruments, recommendations, codes and guidelines”.
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.
Australia has implemented, through model work health and safety (WHS) and other equivalent laws, the third revised edition (Rev.3) of the GHS for chemical classification and hazard communication requirements for workplace chemicals. Information about implementation in the various jurisdictions can found here.
Model Codes of Practice for the labelling and preparation of SDS were published to support the amended model WHS laws. Guidance material was also published on GHS classifications, with a focus on the translation from existing classifications where possible.
From 1 January 2017, manufacturers and importers of workplace chemicals must classify and prepare labels and safety data sheets according to the GHS. Suppliers may continue to supply existing stock-in-trade after 1 January 2017 providing the chemical was manufactured or imported prior to 1 January 2017 and correctly labelled at that time. Suppliers will need to provide GHS compliant safety data sheets from this date. Users of hazardous chemicals are not required to re-label or dispose of existing non-GHS labelled stock.
On 1 January 2021, Australia will begin a two-year transition to GHS Rev.7. During the transition, manufacturers and importers may use either GHS Rev.3 or GHS Rev.7 to prepare classifications, labels and SDS for hazardous chemicals. From 1 January 2023, only GHS Rev.7 may be used. Additional information on the transition from Rev.3 to Rev.7 in Australia is available here.