Topics explained – Chemical labelling

In the section:

A label is the written, printed or graphical information concerning a hazardous chemical that is affixed to, printed on, or attached to the container or pipe work of a hazardous chemical. Labels must clearly identify the chemical and include information on its hazards, plus instructions and information on its safe storage, handling, use and disposal.

The label must be written in English and should be large enough to contain all of the relevant hazard and other information in a size and style that is easily visible. Labels should be appropriate to the size of the container. The label must be attached to the outside of the container and should be visible in the normal storage position. The information and any symbols on the label should be printed in a colour or colours that provide a distinct contrast to the background colour.

You can find further information on chemical labelling requirements on the Safe Work Australia website or you can call our Help Centre on 1300 365 255.

Responsibility for labelling

A PCBU must correctly label any hazardous chemical used, handled or stored at the workplace. Most hazardous chemicals purchased from a manufacturer or supplier and still in their original container should already be correctly labelled. Correct labelling is also required for all hazardous chemical manufactured at the workplace or transferred or decanted from its original container at the workplace.

Labels of workplace hazardous chemicals do not need to be formally approved to meet work health and safety requirements.

Reviewing labels

Labels must be reviewed periodically in order to ensure they are up-to-date e.g. when there is a change in the formulation or ingredients that changes the hazardous properties of the chemical, or when new information on the hazards of the product or any of its ingredients becomes available.

When the classification of a hazardous chemical changes the label must be reviewed and, if necessary, revised to reflect any changes.

Importers, manufacturers and suppliers should review any new or significant information regarding any hazardous chemicals they import, manufacture or supply. A review of the literature and other relevant sources of information should be undertaken on a regular basis, but at least every five years.

If you operate a business that uses hazardous chemicals you should refer to the Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals – Code of Practice.

Chemical classification

Chemical classification and hazard communication on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS) is based on the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

The GHS is a single internationally agreed system of chemical classification and hazard communication through labelling and SDS. The GHS is published by the United Nations and includes harmonised criteria for the classification of physical hazards, health hazards and environmental hazards.

All Australian states and territories have adopted revision 7 of the Globally Harmonized Systems of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) under the model WHS laws for workplace hazardous chemicals. SafeWork SA has amended the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) to update references to the GHS.

Some hazardous chemicals are excluded from the labelling provisions of the WHS Regulations and therefore the Code does not apply to those chemicals.

For modifications to the requirements of the GHS, refer to Schedule 6 of the WHS Regulations.

Conclusion of GHS 7 transitional period

The two year transition period for Australia to move from GHS3 to GHS 7 ended on 31 December 2022.

See the Safe Work Australia website for details and resources on the transition.

Further information

Classification and labelling for workplace hazardous chemicals poster – Safe Work Australia

Hazardous chemical information system – Safe Work Australia

Globally Harmonized System of classification and labelling of chemicals (GHS) – Comcare

The GHS Third Edition – United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Adoption of GHS 7 | Safe Work Australia – Safe Work Australia