Handling dangerous goods

Tess Lynch, 4 min read

Handling dangerous goods

When dealing with dangerous goods and liquids, “danger” is in the name so being aware of the risks and taking the safety precautions that surround these good is essential.

For the safety of your workers and the public you need to know how to identify them, store them, handle them and transport them.

While each substance may have its own specific procedures for handling, I wanted to give you an overview of the basics – the important points to take away or your last point of call before you deal with anything hazardous.

What is the difference between dangerous goods and hazardous substances?

As similar as they may sound there is a difference.

Dangerous goods and hazardous substances are covered by different legislation – although some material can be classified as both and requirements for compliance can overlap.

A hazardous substance is defined by its health effects, such as irritation, chemical burns, birth defects, cancer or other diseases. Where as, a dangerous good is defined by their immediate physical and chemical effect, including things like fire, corrosion, explosion, radiation, and poison.

Identifying a dangerous good

The first step in handling any dangerous good is to identify it. By identifying the good and the following risks associated with it, precautions can be made to avoid those risks, handlers will be aware of what they are handling, and if a spill does occur the correct procedure can be implemented.

Although, identifying isn’t just as simple as saying “that’s dangerous”, a big part of identifying a dangerous good is providing information about the good to all parties that may be involved in the storage, handling or transportation of that good.

This includes any workplace you may be supplying too, the public, and the workers that will be handling the good as well as, the necessary training to be able to handle it safely.

This is necessary to ensure that everyone is aware of what the substance is and that no-one will accidentally make an unsafe decision due to a lack of information.

So you don’t have to personally tell every person what flammable, explosive, or toxic gas is in that container, there are some signs that you can use to immediately classify any substance.

Dangerous goods are separated into nine classes (with additional divisions, making fourteen groups in total) depending on their propertied which are used for identification purposes.

These signs should be placed on anything containing a dangerous good:

Risk assessment

The risk of a dangerous good is the combination of the likelihood of an accident causing an injury or illness occurring and the severity of that accident. When assessing the riskiness of a dangerous good you should include the following:

  • The extent of the risks to both workers and the public
  • The factors contributing to the risks
  • The controls necessary for avoiding the risks
  • The priorities when implementing those controls
  • Documentation of both the risks and the controls

It is important to note that risk assessments must be reviewed every five years, if an incident relating to the risk assessment occurs or if the risk assessment it found to be no longer valid.

Creating control measures

The purpose of creating controls when handling and transporting dangerous goods is to ensure that no-one’s health is at risk. When creating control measure you must determine how the material should be contained to avoid spills and leakages, how to clean up spills and prevent them from spreading, and emergency procedures if all other controls fail. Your control measures should attempt to, if reasonably practicable, eliminate all risks.

  • Location of the material – ensure ventilation to prevent a build-up of gases, any buildings or containers holding dangerous substances should be made from non-combustible materials (many shipping containers have wooden floors so unfortunately even they have be modified),
  • Reduce quantities – by reducing the quantity of dangerous goods being stored in one location, risk is reduced. This can be achieved through a just-in-time stocking approach or by reducing the size of packaging.
  • Substitute for something less risky – wherever possible, dangerous goods should be replaced by materials that are, well, less dangerous. For example, this could be something as simple as switching spray paint for a roller or brush, or instead of degreasing with a volatile solvent, use a detergent.
  • Separate out dangerous goods – where eliminating the risk isn’t possible, separating dangerous goods from people, workplaces, ignition sources or placing them within a segregated storage area, can greatly reduce risk.
  • Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – ensure that all workers wear protective clothing and equipment, including safety googles, gloves, coveralls, footwear
  • Security on site – ensuring there is appropriate security for any dangerous good will prevent any accidental exposure to the good or intentional tampering.
  • Regular maintenance, cleaning and inspections – cleaning, maintaining and inspecting any storage containers or areas will ensure dangerous goods remain contained and that any faults in the containment can be picked up before a leak or spill occurs.

This is a rundown of what you should know and what you need to start thinking about when handling dangerous goods – further research should be taken when dealing with specific goods. It is most important that everyone is aware of the risks of a good, how to handle that good safely and what to do if that good becomes a risk. If you have any further comment or enquires about dangerous goods, feel free to reach out.


Tess Lynch

Tess is our in-house design savant, fashion leader and a pretty darn good writer. Whether it’s creating digital designs, blogging about learning science or rocking a neck-scarf, Tess can pull it off.

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