Dangerous Goods – What are they?

Jun 27, 2019 Posted by Walter Ingles

Dangerous Goods are substances or articles that pose a risk to people, property or the environment, due to their chemical or physical properties.

The 9 classes of Dangerous Goods



When I think of the term ‘explosive substances’, I think of bombs, war, loud explosions and huge mushroom clouds – things that go ‘bang’. However, not all explosive substances are used for such destructive aims. The stunning displays we see every year on New Year’s Eve are also a result of a chemical reaction caused by Explosive Substances – Fireworks!

The Australian Dangerous Goods Code defines Explosive Substances as…

A solid or a liquid substance (or a mixture of substances) which is in itself capable by chemical reaction of producing gas at such a temperature and pressure and at such a speed as to cause damage to the surroundings.


In other words, in the event of these substances reacting, you do not want to be around! That is why it is essential to have these Dangerous substances stored in a safe and compliant Explosive Substance rated storage cabinet, to minimise the impact these substances could have on their surroundings, in the event of a chemical reaction.

Explosive Substances have 6 sub-divisions:

  • Division 1.1: Substances and articles which have a mass explosion hazard
  • Division 1.2: Substances and articles which have a projection hazard, but not a mass explosion hazard.
  • Division 1.3: Substances and articles which have a fire hazard and either a minor blast hazard or a minor projection hazard or both
  • Division 1.4: Substances and articles which present no significant hazard; only a small hazard in the event of ignition or initiation during transport with any effects largely confined to the package
  • Division 1.5: Very insensitive substances which have a mass explosion hazard
  • Division 1.6: Extremely insensitive articles which do not have a mass explosion hazard

Commonly examples of Explosives are:

  •         Ammunition/Cartridges
  •         Flares
  •         Fireworks/pyrotechnics
  •         Blasting caps/detonators
  •         Primers
  •         Fuse
  •         Explosive charges (blasting, demolition etc)
  •         Ignitors
  •         Detonating cord
  •         Air bag inflators
  •         Rockets
  •         PETN/PETN compositions
  •         TNT/TNT compositions
  •         RDX/RDX compositions


Class 2 – GASESFlammable - Gas

Remember the Hindenburg disaster at New Jersey in May 1937? Most of us weren’t around at the time, but would have learnt about it at school. The explosion of this airship killed 36 people and was destroyed in 32 seconds; but what was it that caused it? The ignition of Hydrogen – a Class 2.1 Flammable gas.

Flammable Gases are often confused with Class 3 Flammable Liquids.Non Flammable

Gases are defined by the ADG Code as:

  • A substance which at 50 degrees Celsius has a vapour pressure greater than 300kPa; or
  • A substance which is completely gaseous at 20 degrees Celsius at a standard pressure of 101.3 kPa

There are 3 Sub-divisions of Gases:

  • Division 2.1: Flammable gases – Gases which at a standard pressure of 101.3 kPa and at 20 degrees Celsius are ignitable when in a mixture of 13 per cent or less by volume with air; or have a flammable range with air of at least 12 percentage points regardless of the lower flammable limit.
  • Division 2.2: Non-flammable, non-toxic gases – Gases which dilute or replace the oxygen normally in the atmosphere (asphyxiant gases). Gases which may, generally by providing oxygen, cause or contribute to the combustion of other material more than air does (oxidizing gases).
  • Division 2.3: Toxic gases – Gases which are known to be so toxic or corrosive to humans as to pose a hazard to health. Gases which are presumed to be toxic or corrosive to humans because they have an LC50 value (equal to or less than 5000ml/m3)

The confusion

The confusion between Class 2 and Class 3 is due to Liquid Petroleum Gas being both a liquid and a gas.

The fact that it is liquid and also flammable, immediately makes a person think: “Ah this must be a Class 3 Flammable Liquid”.

However, the truth is, its true classification is a Class 2 Gas. As stated above, the ADG Code defines a gas as being completely gaseous at 20 degrees Celsius at a standard pressure of 101.3 kPa. Liquid Petroleum Gas is flammable hydrocarbon gas, which is liquefied through pressurization. When you release some of the pressure in a gas bottle by turning on your gas appliance, it turns back into gas vapour. Thus, it is still classified as a gas, not a flammable liquid.

Common examples of Gases are:

  •         Aerosols
  •         Gas cartridges
  •         Compressed air
  •         Hydrocarbon gas-powered devices
  •         Fire extinguishers
  •         Fertilizer ammoniating solution
  •         Insecticide gases
  •         Carbon Dioxide
  •         Hydrogen/hydrogen compounds
  •         Oxygen/oxygen compounds
  •         Helium/helium compounds
  •         Nitrogen/nitrogen compounds
  •         Oil gas
  •         Natural gas
  •         Ethane
  •         Butane
  •         Propane
  •         Ethylene
  •         Dimethyl ether


Class 3 – FLAMMABLE LIQUIDSFlammable - Liquid 3

Everybody knows what Flammable Liquids are – We use them every day! We put fuel in our cars to get to work, we use oil to cook our foods, and occasionally we enjoy a nice drop of whiskey. These are all examples of flammable liquids: fuel, oil, alcohol.

Flammable liquids can pose serious hazards due to their volatility, combustibility and potential in causing or propagating severe conflagrations.

The ADG Code defines flammable liquids as…

Liquids, mixtures of liquids, or liquids containing solids in solution or suspension which give off a flammable vapour at temperatures of not more than 60 degrees Celsius, closed-cup test, or not more than 65.6 degrees Celsius, open-cup test, normally referred to as the flash point.

This class also includes:

  • Liquids offered for transport at temperatures at or above their flash point; and
  • Substances that are transported or offered for transport at elevated temperatures in a liquid state and which give off a flammable vapour at a temperature at or below the maximum transport temperature.

There are no sub-divisions within Class 3.

Common examples of Flammable liquids are:

  •         Acetone/acetone oils
  •         Adhesives
  •         Paints/lacquers/varnishes
  •         Alcohols
  •         Perfumery products
  •         Gasoline/petrol
  •         Diesel fuel
  •         Aviation fuel
  •         Liquid bio-fuels
  •         Coal tar/ coal tar distillates
  •         Petroleum crude oil
  •         Petroleum distillates
  •         Gas oil
  •         Shale oil
  •         Heating oil
  •         Kerosene
  •         Resins
  •         Tars
  •         Turpentine
  •         Carbamate insecticides
  •         Organophosphorus pesticides
  •         Copper based pesticides
  •         Organochlorine pesticides
  •         Ethers
  •         Esters
  •         Benzene
  •         Ethanol
  •         Isopropyls
  •         Isobutanols
  •         Octanes
  •         Methanol


Class 4 – FLAMMABLE SOLIDSFlammable - Solid

“Flammable solids? What are they? Most things burn if you put a match to them don’t they? So wouldn’t that make most things flammable solids?”

The answer is No. No, no, no. Flammable solids are substances liable to spontaneous combustion – meaning that: They are liable to burst into flames due to internal heating through exothermic internal reactions, without the addition of heat from an external source; and substances that, in contact with water, emit flammable gases.

Flammable solids can be divided into three divisions:

Division 4.1 – Flammable solids: These are defined as solids which under conditions encountered in transport, are readily combustible or may cause or contribute to fire through friction; self-reactive substances which are liable to undergo a strongly exothermic reaction; solid desensitized explosives which may explode if not diluted sufficiently.

Division 4.2 – Substances liable to spontaneous combustion: Substances which are liable to spontaneous heating under normal conditions encountered in transport, or to heating up in contact with air, and being then liable to catch fire.

Division 4.3 – Substances which in contact with water emit flammable gases: Substances which, by interaction with water are liable to become spontaneously flammable or to give off flammable gases in dangerous quantities.

Common examples of flammable solids are:

  • Metal powders
  • Alkali metals
  • Activated carbon
  • Aluminium phosphide
  • Sodium batteries
  • Calcium carbide
  • Phosphorus
  • Carbon
  • Matches
  • Metaldehyde
  • Firelighters
  • Oily cotton waste
  • Oily fibres
  • Camphor
  • Celluloid
  • Desensitized explosives
  • Sulphur
  • Cerium
  • Ferrocerium
  • Seed cake
  • Nitrocellulose
  • Oily fabrics
  • Iron oxide (spent)
  • Iron sponge/direct-reduced iron (spent) 
  • Copra
  • Naphthalene


Oxidizing substances and organic peroxides are used extensively around us without most of us even knowing - They are found in the agricultural industry in fertilizers, in the pharmaceutical industry in medications, and also often used in high school and college laboratories to conduct reduction and oxidization experiments.

Organic - Peroxide

Believe it or not – they are even used in toothpaste: Calcium peroxide in toothpaste decomposes when it comes into contact with water to form a small amount of hydrogen peroxide, which then whitens the teeth!

Class 5 dangerous goods are divided into two divisions and are described by the ADG Code as follows:

  • Division 5.1 – Oxidizing substances: Substances which, while in themselves not necessarily combustible, may, generally by yielding oxygen, cause, or contribute to, the combustion of other material. Such substances may be contained in an article.
  • Division 5.2 – Organic Peroxides: Organic substances which contain the bivalent -0-0- structure and may be considered derivatives of hydrogen peroxide, where one or both of the hydrogen atoms have been replaced by organic radicals. Organic peroxides are thermally unstable substances which may undergo exothermic self-accelerating decomposition. In addition, they may have one or more of the following properties:
  • (i)        Be liable to explosive decomposition;
  • (ii)        Burn rapidly;
  • (iii)        be sensitive to impact or friction;
  • (iv)        React dangerously with other substances;
  • (v)        Cause damage to eyes.

Common example of Oxidizing substances and Organic peroxides are:

  •         Permanganates
  •         Perchlorates
  •         Ammonium nitrate fertilizers
  •         Chlorates
  •         Chemical oxygen generators
  •         Potassium nitrate
  •         Nitrites
  •         Persulphates
  •         Nitrates
  •         Ammonium persulphate
  •         Potassium chlorate
  •         Ammonium dichromate
  •         Ammonium nitrate
  •         Calcium peroxide
  •         Calcium hypochlorite
  •         Calcium nitrate
  •         Sodium persulphate
  •         Lead nitrate
  •         Potassium chlorate
  •         Potassium permanganate
  •         Hydrogen peroxide
  •         Magnesium peroxide
  •         Lithium hypochlorite
  •         Potassium perchlorate
  •         Sodium nitrate


Class 6 toxic and infectious substances are also used widely around us, especially in the agricultural industry for use in pesticides. They are also used extensively in the medical industry as they have important physiological effects on humans, E.g. Morphine, strychnine, quinine, chloroform.

Cigarettes are full of toxic substances, one of these being the alkaloid nicotine. Hence the many warnings and advertisements denouncing smoking. There are many other examples of toxic substances such as Barium which is used in fireworks to impart a green colour, and chlorobenzylidene malononitrile used in tear gas.

Infectious substances are those substances like medical and clinical wastes and biological and medical samples and specimens. Any substances which can cause disease in humans or animals. Substances containing pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.

Class 6 substances are divided into two subdivisions and are defined by the ADG Code as below:

Division 6.1 – Toxic Substances: These are substances liable either to cause death or serious injury or to harm human health if swallowed or inhaled or by skin contact.

Division 6.2 – infectious substances: These are substances known or reasonably expected to contain pathogens. Pathogens are defined as micro-organisms (including bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, parasites, fungi) and other agents such as prions, which can cause disease in humans or animals.

Common examples of Toxic Substances; Infectious Substances are:

  • Clinical waste
  • Medical cultures / samples / specimens
  • Medical/Biomedical waste
  • Tear gas substances
  • Biological cultures / samples / specimens
  • Dyes
  • Motor fuel anti-knock mixture
  • Hexachlorophene
  • Carbamate pesticides
  • Allyls
  • Alkaloids
  • Acids
  • Arsenates
  • Cyanides
  • Thiols/mercaptans
  • Arsenites
  • Cresols
  • Resorcinol
  • Arsenics / arsenic compounds
  • Beryllium/ beryllium compounds
  • Barium compounds
  • Mercury compounds
  • Phenol
  • Selenium compounds
  • Ammonium metavanadate
  • Dichloromethane
  • Nicotine / nicotine compounds
  • Lead compounds
  • Antimony
  • Adiponitrile
  • Chloroform



Everyone has heard of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the atomic bombs dropped on these cities caused hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties and brought about the end of World War 2. These explosions were a result of atoms with an unstable nucleus undergoing radioactive decay – Uranium and Plutonium fission bombs.

However, not all radioactive material is used in such a destructive manner. Radioactive material is also used in the medical industry in the form of nuclear medicine, which involves the application of radioactive substances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

There are no subdivisions for Class 7

The ADG code defines this class as below:

Radioactive material means any material containing radionuclides where both the activity concentration and the total activity in the consignment exceed the values specified in to

 A radioactive nucleotide is an atom which an unstable nucleus which emits excess energy as alpha or beta particles or as gamma rays. Unstable nucleus’s undergo radioactive decay to achieve a more stable state.

Common examples of Radioactive Materials are:

  •         Enriched Uranium
  •         Caesium radionuclides / isotopes
  •         Surface contaminated objects
  •         Medical isotopes
  •         Iridium radionuclides / isotopes
  •         Depleted uranium / depleted uranium products
  •         Thorium radionuclides / isotopes
  •         Density gauges
  •         Americium radionuclides / isotopes
  •         Plutonium radionuclides / isotopes
  •         Radium radionuclides / isotopes
  •         Mixed fission products
  •         Uranium radionuclides / isotopes
  •         Yellowcake
  •       Uranium hexafluoride
  •       Radioactive ores

Class 8 - CORROSIVESCorrosive

If you were as curious as I was when I was a kid, it probably wouldn’t have taken you long to discover what was inside a battery, and then proceed to spill the contents onto the floor of your dad’s workshop – only to quickly make a dash for it when he came around the corner to see what you had done!  To this day, there is still be a dark stain on the concrete from where the battery acid ate away at the concrete. Whoops!

Other uses of corrosives are in cleaning chemicals, for example, drain cleaners contain acids or alkalis which dissolve greases and proteins inside water pipes.

There are no subdivisions for Class 8.

The ADG code defines Class 8 Corrosive substances as:

Class 8 substances (corrosive substances) are substances which, by chemical action, will cause severe damage when in contact with living tissue, or, in the case of leakage, will materially damage, or even destroy, other goods or the means of transport.

 Common examples of Corrosive substances are:

  • Fuel cell cartridges
  • Flux
  • Battery fluid
  • Dyes
  • Fire extinguisher charges
  • Phenol / carbolic acid
  • Batteries
  • Formaldehyde
  • Amines
  • Polyamines
  • Paints
  • Sulphides
  • Polysulphides
  • Chlorosilanes
  • Chlorides
  • Bromine
  • Acids/acid solutions
  • Cyclohexylamine
  • Hydrofluoric acid
  • Sludge acid
  • Alkylphenols
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Hydrogen fluoride
  • Nitric acid
  • Iodine



Compliant_9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods RLI

“Miscellaneous dangerous goods? I suppose that means a mixture of all the previous classes, does it?”


The answer to that question, is no. The ADG code gives us the following defintions:

Class 9 substances and articles (miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles) are substances and articles which, during transport present a danger not covered by other classes.

Genetically modified micro-organisms (GMMOs) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are micro-organisms and organisms in which genetic material has been purposely altered through genetic engineering in a way that does not occur naturally.

Miscellaneous dangerous goods present a wide variety of potential hazards to human health and safety, as well as also presenting hazards to infrastructure and/or their means of transport.

Common examples of Miscellaneous dangerous goods are:

  • Expandable polymeric beads / polystyrene beads
  • Ammonium nitrate fertilizers
  • Dry ice / cardice / solid carbon dioxide
  • Lithium ion batteries
  • Lithium metal batteries
  • Battery powered equipment
  • Blue asbestos / crocidolite
  • Battery powered vehicles
  • Internal combustion engines
  • Vehicles
  • Fuel cell engines
  • Dangerous goods in apparatus
  • Seatbelt pretensioners
  • Benzaldehyde
  • Chemical kits
  • Magnetized material
  • Dangerous goods in machinery
  • Genetically modified micro-organisms
  • Genetically modified organisms
  • First aid kits
  • Life saving appliances
  • Dibromodifluoromethane
  • Air bag modules
  • Castor bean plant products
  • Plastics moulding compound
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Polychlorinated terphenyls


As it will have become clear, dangerous goods are all around us and they vastly affect each of our lives daily - especially in the workplace. Due to the many risks dangerous goods pose to people, property and the environment, it is essential to store these safely and compliantly to minimise any potential harm that could be caused. However, it is often difficult to distinguish what class of dangerous goods your products are. The many standards and regulations for compliant storage of each class can also be very confusing, making it an extremely difficult task for those responsible for storing them safely. 

It is essential for every organisation, large or small to ensure the storage of their dangerous goods complies with the requirements set out in the Australian Standards. This task can be made a lot simpler by consulting a dangerous goods expert with experience and knowledge of the Australian Standards. A dangerous goods expert can conduct an onsite dangerous goods risk assessment - to identify any risks associated with the storage and handling of hazardous chemicals. A dangerous goods expert will also provide corrective solutions that comply with the Australian Standards and Regulations. If you have any further questions regarding the safe storage and management of dangerous goods, please feel free to reach out, we are here to help. 


Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Storage Specialist. He helps organisations reduce risk and improve efficiencies in the storage and management of dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals.

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