Dangerous goods refer to items or materials with hazardous properties, which present a potential hazard to both human and environmental health and safety. Dangerous goods are widely used across all industries and, therefore, it is important that they are handled, stored and transported in a safe manner. In most cases, incidents involving dangerous goods usually result in fires or explosions causing serious or fatal injuries to the human population involved, as well as large-scale damage to properties and the surrounding environment. Furthermore, the unsafe use of dangerous goods can also cause chemical burns, poisoning and other serious health-related problems.
Dangerous Goods versus Hazardous Substances
Dangerous goods are classified based on the immediate physical and chemical effects they have on property and the environment, as well as on the human population. These immediate physical and/or chemical effects may include corrosion, explosion, fire and poisoning. Hazardous substances, on the other hand, are classified only on the basis of their health effects. These health effects may either be immediate and/or long-term. It should be noted that many substances could be classified as being both a dangerous good, as well as a hazardous substance.
The 9 Classes of Dangerous Goods
Class 1: Explosives
Explosives have the ability to rapidly detonate as a result of chemical reaction. Class 1 dangerous goods include: ammunition, fireworks, igniters and rockets.
Class 2: Gases
Gases or items containing gases with a vapour pressure of 300 kPa or greater at 50°c or which are completely gaseous at 20°c at standard atmospheric pressure. Class 2 dangerous goods include: compressed air, natural gas, lighters, refrigerant gases and aerosols.
Class 3: Flammable Liquids
Flammable liquids give off a flammable vapour at temperatures of not more than 60-65°C. Class 3 dangerous goods include: paints, kerosene, alcohol, perfumes and aviation fuel.
Class 4: Flammable Solids; Substances Liable to Spontaneous Combustion; Substances that Emit Flammable Gases when in Contact with Water
Materials or items that are readily combustible under ambient conditions, may cause or contribute to fire through friction, and/or self-reactive. Class 4 dangerous goods include: sodium batteries, camphor, matches and metal powders.
Class 5: Oxidizing Substances; Organic Peroxides
Oxidizers are substances with the potential to combust if it produces oxygen as a result of a redox chemical reaction. Organic peroxides are substances, which may be considered derivatives of hydrogen peroxide. Class 5 dangerous goods include: ammonium nitrate fertilizers, hydrogen peroxide and lead nitrate.
Class 6: Toxic Substances; Infectious Substances
Toxic substances may cause death or serious harm to human health if ingested, inhaled or if they become in contact with skin. Infectious substances contain pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. Class 6 dangerous goods include: medical waste, nicotine compounds, biological cultures and cyanides.
Class 7: Radioactive Material
Any material containing radionuclides (an atom with an unstable nucleus) and where the total activity exceeds certain pre-defined values. Class 7 dangerous goods include: medical isotopes, enriched uranium and radioactive ores.
Class 8: Corrosives
Substances that can degrade or disintegrate other materials upon contact if chemical reactions occur. Class 8 dangerous good include: batteries, dyes, formaldehyde and acids.
Class 9: Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods
Substances not covered by other classes, such as environmentally hazardous substances, genetically modified organisms and magnetized materials. Class 9 dangerous goods include: dry ice, first aid kits, blue asbestos, and lithium ion batteries.
Storing, Handling and Transporting Dangerous Goods
Dangerous goods must be stored, handled and transported in accordance to the relevant industry act or code of practice. The key dangerous goods storage and handling, as well as transportation regulations detail the requirements regarding:
- Classification and labeling
- Preparation of a material safety data sheet (MSDS)
- Notification of quantities in excess of manifest quantities
- Worker consultation and training
- Risk assessment and review
- Design of workplace, plant, processes and systems of work
- Fire protection systems
- Incidents and accident reporting
- Emergency preparedness and response plans
- Use of appropriate and relevant personal protective equipment (PPE)
An occupier refers to the person who has overall management or control of the workplace where the dangerous goods are stored or handled. Duties include: Identifying hazards, assessing any risks to workers, and controlling, reducing or eliminating the risks associated with the storage and handling of dangerous goods. Obtaining and providing information, such as preparing a manifest if dangerous goods exceed prescribed quantities, keeping a register of all dangerous goods that are stored or handled, developing an emergency plan or procedures, and obtaining a current material safety data sheet (MSDS) for each dangerous good, as well as ensuring that the dangerous goods are properly labeled. This individual is also responsible for investigating incidents, undertaking reviews and keeping records.
2. Manufacturers and First Suppliers
The duties of manufacturers and first suppliers entail:
- Preparing a material safety data sheet (MSDS)/safety data sheet (SDS), as well as reviewing and revising occasionally
- Providing a current MSDS/SDS to any person to whom the dangerous goods are supplied for the first time
- Ensuring that the dangerous goods are assigned an appropriate Class or classified into a hazard class in accordance with the Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals
- Ensuring compliance with relevant legislation covering package, marking and labelling
Employers’ duties involve:
- Protecting employees from the risk of exposure to dangerous goods in the workplace
- Providing training and informational resources
- Providing appropriate personal protective equipment
All employees have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, as well as to cooperate with their employer's to make their workplace safe. Therefore, all employees working with dangerous goods must:
- Follow workplace policies and procedures
- Attend health and safety training
- Assist in identifying hazards and risks
Dangerous Goods Compliance
Where common solutions are not enough to control all risks associated with storing and handling of dangerous goods, occupiers, manufacturers and employers should utilize the following process to help them determine the most effective control measures for dangerous goods storage, handling and transport in the workplace.
The occupier must consult about: (a) induction, training, information provision, hazard identification and risk control; and (b) any proposed changes to structures, plant, processes or systems of work that are likely to increase the risk to workers.
The occupier, manufacturer or supplier must gather as much information as possible on all the dangerous goods in order to identify any hazards and control any risks. Additionally, the dangerous goods’ chemical and physical properties, precautions for use, as well as safe storage and handling requirements should be determined.
Control dangerous goods risks by: (a) eliminating the risk; (b) substituting, reducing the quantity, isolating or using engineering controls; or (c) using administrative controls or providing personal protective equipment.
It is important to review the risk controls regularly to ensure that they are implemented correctly and also that they can be revised if necessary.