How to Safely Store and Handle Toxic Substances: A Complete Guide - Part Two

Aug 23, 2021 Posted by Walter Ingles

Part One  of this series of articles examines the toxic substances used in Australian workplaces and how to identify them and the hazards they present.

Part Two provides guidance on how to manage the risks associated with storing and handling these dangerous materials.

What are the Requirements for Minor Storage of Toxic Substances?

For the quantity of toxic substances to be classified as minor storage, it must be small enough —or sufficiently scattered or separated — to present no real risk of causing harm to people or the environment. It must also not hinder the movements of emergency personnel in the event of an emergency.

SC2506 Close

Class 6.1 Toxic substances must be stored securely in storage cabinets compliant with        AS/NZS 4452-1997

Criteria for Minor Storage Classification of Toxic Substances

The Packing Group to which a toxic substance is assigned is a key determining factor in its classification as minor storage.

If the quantities of a toxic substance do not exceed the permitted maximum amount pertaining to its Packing Group and type of storage facility, it can be designated as minor storage.

The following table shows the maximum quantities of toxic substances permissible at various premises for designation as minor storage, as outlined in Section 2.2 of the Australian Standard, AS/NZS 4452-1997 - The storage and handling of toxic substances.


Type of Storage Facility

Maximum Quantity - Kg / L

Packing Group I

Packing Group II

Packing Group III





Farm 2 ha or more










  1. Kilograms (Kg) apply to solids, while Litres (L) apply to liquid substances.
  2. Maximum quantities are the sum of Kg of solids plus L of liquids.
  3. Quantities on any given line can be aggregated.

Minor Storage of Toxic Materials

The following requirements apply to the minor storage of Class 6.1 Toxic substances:

  • Ensure all toxic substance storage areas are secured against unauthorised entry.
  • Ensure a reliable source of clean water is close by and easily accessible for personal hygiene requirements.
  • Ensure all storage and handling areas have adequate natural or mechanical ventilation as per Clause 6.3.2 of AS/NZS 4452-1997.
  • Ensure packages containing toxic substances are kept separate (segregated) from incompatible substances.
  • Ensure packages containing toxic substances are kept at a safe distance away from any heat sources.
  • Ensure packages containing toxic substances are closed and stored securely when not in use.
  • Ensure packages containing toxic substances are stored and kept in a way that will avoid any spillage.
  • Ensure appropriate spill-retention measures such as spill kits are in place wherever packages containing toxic substances are opened or transferred to other containers.
  • Do not transfer the contents of a package containing toxic substances to any other container for storage unless it is suitably compliant with AS/NZS 4452-1997 and labelled accordingly.
  • Ensure appropriate control measures are in place for any transfer operations and activities such as filling or decanting.
  • Ensure appropriate protective personal equipment (PPE) is provided and worn by any personnel involved in the transfer operations of toxic substances, as per Clauses 6.7.2 (d) and 6.8 of AS/NZS 4452-1997.
  • Ensure any spills or leaks are cleaned up immediately and any waste disposed of in accordance with Section 9: Waste Storage and Disposal of the Standard.

NOTE: After transferring toxic substances to another container for transportation, ensure that the container complies with the ADG Code for the transportation of that substance.

What are the Requirements for Minor Storage of Toxic Substances on Farms?

The Standard also stipulates the maximum quantity of toxic substances that can be kept as minor storage on farms, as per the table above pertaining to the maximum quantities for Packing Groups I, II, and III.

Additionally, the Standard makes it clear that these permissible quantities only apply when the following criteria are met:

  • The toxic substances are not to be resold
  • The farm’s land size is at least 2 hectares and is used for agricultural, horticultural, floricultural, or pastoral purposes
  • The area surrounding the storage area is kept free from any combustible vegetation or rubbish for a distance of at least 3 metres
  • The potential of any spills flowing into any protected place, watercourse or property boundary is prevented by either the natural slope of the ground or by a diversion channel, kerb or bunding
  • The storage area is separated from any protected place or dwelling by at least 10 metres
  • The storage area is separated from any property boundary by at least 15 metres
  • Multiple minor storage facilities must be separated from each other by at least 100 metres to maintain their classification as minor storage 

PR650-6Closed_largeMultiple toxic substance minor storage areas should be separated by at least 100 m

Temporary Storage of Toxic Substances

When toxic substances are being stored temporarily, when awaiting or following transit for example, consideration must be given to any other dangerous goods being stored with them, in transit.

In the absence of any instructions from the relevant regulatory authority, the transit storage of toxic substances and any other dangerous goods sharing the storage area are subject to a range of requirements, including:

  • The maximum quantity of toxic substances held in transit storage, or combined quantity if being held with other dangerous goods, is 200 tonnes.
  • Pallet stacks, unless inside freight containers, must not exceed 25 tonnes (gross mass), and must be at least 5 metres apart.
  • Packaged or bulk toxic substances inside freight or tank containers in transit storage areas are subject to height and depth limits, ease of access, and segregation distances from other dangerous goods.
  • The spill containment (such as bunding) and spill clean-up facilities must be capable of handling 100% of the capacity of the largest storage tank, container, or package of toxic substances.
  • Vehicles containing or loaded with toxic substances are also subject to separation distances from each other (at least 1.5 m) and stores of other dangerous goods (at least 5 m).
  • Unless an emergency, toxic substances and other dangerous goods should not be transferred or decanted to other containers.
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be provided and used by personnel handling toxic substances, and maintained and stored in proper PPE storage cabinets.

SPP1PPE should be stored inside readily accessible secure purpose-built cabinets

How to Store and Handle Toxic Substance Packages

Packages of toxic substances kept in quantities in excess of that defined as minor storage can be stored securely in purpose-built cabinets or stores designed to comply with AS/NZS 4452-1997.

The Standard outlines the various types of package stores, from single indoor storage cabinets to separate rooms or enclosures in a building, and outdoor chemical storage areas protected by a security fence.

PR850-6 OpenOutdoor toxic substance stores are designed to be fully compliant with AS/NZS 4452-1997

Requirements for Outdoor Storage of Packaged Toxic Substances

Section 4 of AS/NZS 4452-1997 stipulates a series of requirements and recommendations for the outdoor storage and handling of packaged toxic substances within these storage installations, including:

ECE270YEInstall a safety shower and eyewash station where packaged toxic substances are opened, decanted or transferred

Watch the following brief video demonstrating a safety shower and eyewash station installation.

Requirements for Indoor Storage of Packaged Toxic Substances

The Standard also outlines the requirements specific to indoor toxic substance storage cabinets, including:

  • Ensuring goods that are incompatible with Class 6.1 toxic substances or react dangerously with toxic materials are not kept in the same cabinets as packaged toxic substances
  • Ensuring that the maximum quantity of toxic substances stored in a single cabinet does not exceed 250 kg (solids) or 250 L (liquids) - of which not more than 50 kg / L can be of Packing Group II, and no more than 25 kg / L of Packing Group I
  • The design of cabinets used for toxic substance storage comply with AS/NZS 4452-1997 and satisfy the following criteria:
    1. Double-walled sheet steel construction of at least 0.75 mm for the walls, floor, door and roof, with at least 40 mm space between walls
    2. Self-closing, close-fitting, spark-proof lockable doors
    3. Liquid-tight sump in the bottom to contain spills with a fixed, suspended perforated floor at least 150 mm deep and capable of holding at least 25% of the maximum storage capacity
    4. Adequate ventilation around shelving, preferably with built-in flash arrestors for mechanical ventilation systems
    5. All components critical to the cabinets structural integrity (excluding seals and gaskets) can withstand temperatures up to 850 degrees Celsius without melting
  • Ensuring the cabinet location:
    1. Does not impede access to exits in the event of an emergency such as a fire
    2. Is not close to hand washing facilities
    3. Is at least 3 m away from any other cabinets storing toxic substances (with no more than one cabinet installed for each 100 m2 of building area
  • Ensuring cabinets are marked with the appropriate placarding and signage

What are the Signage Requirements for Toxic Substances?

As of January 2021, Australia is undergoing a two-year transition to the 7th revised edition of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS 7), which is the global method of classifying chemicals and preparing labels and safety data sheets (SDS).

In Australia, the Model Code of Practice: Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals describes the type of information that is needed on labels for various hazardous chemicals, including Class 6.1 Toxic substances and Class 2.3 Toxic gases, so that workplace personnel can identify any hazards associated with the classification of the chemical and take appropriate steps to eliminate or minimise the risks.

Toxic substance stores, including cabinets, enclosures and rooms, should also have the appropriate signage, including:

PS2506 with stock

Heavy-duty indoor toxic storage cabinet with DG class label and hazard signage

What are the Label Elements for Toxic Substances?

The Code provides guidance for the application of the appropriate signal word, hazard pictograms (or DG class label), hazard statements and precautionary statements to a label for packages or stores of toxic substances, in accordance with the GHS, and ADG Code (where relevant).

NOTE: Class labels required for the transport of dangerous goods as per the ADG Code may be used instead of the relevant GHS hazard pictograms, where they are consistent.

Class 6.1 Toxic Substance dangerous goods class label based on UN Model Regulations Class 2.3 Toxic Gas dangerous goods class label based on UN Model Regulations GHS pictogram for toxic hazards (acute toxicity or acute toxic gas) - categories 1, 2 and 3
toxic-img handle-toxic-1 danger-1

To comply with the Australian Model Code and GHS, the signal word, hazard pictograms and hazard statements should be grouped together in a prominent position on the label — located either immediately following or adjacent to the product identifier and chemical ingredients.

A correctly labelled container should include:

  • The product identifier
  • The name, Australian address and business telephone number of the manufacturer or importer
  • The identity and proportion of each ingredient - as per Schedule 8 to the model WHS Regulations
  • Any hazard pictogram (or DG class label) consistent with the correct classification of the chemical
  • Any hazard statement, signal word and precautionary statement consistent with the correct classification of the chemical
  • Any information about the hazards, first aid and emergency procedures relevant to the chemical, which are not included in the hazard statement or precautionary statement
  • An expiry date, if applicable
  • An emergency phone number for specific poisons or treatment advice (if appropriate)

Example Dangerous Goods Labels

The Code includes example labels of a hypothetical hazardous mixture (called Flammosol and containing toxicole) containing the full set of workplace labelling information.

The hypothetical product Flammosol contains 95% aliphatic hydrocarbons and 5% toxicole and is classified as Flammable liquids (Category 2), acute toxicity - oral (Category 3) and skin corrosion/irritation (Category 2).

Example Front Label

Example Back Label


Next Steps

This concludes the series of articles on How to Store and Handle Toxic Substances: A Complete Guide.

You should now have a good understanding of how to identify toxic substances and the hazards they present , as well as how to manage the risks associated with storing and handling these dangerous materials.

Dangerous goods storage specialists STOREMASTA have also developed a free eBook, How to Ventilate Dangerous Goods Storage Cabinets, which outlines the ventilation requirements according to the Australian Standards, information about workplace exposure standards, and how to ensure the installation of compliant ventilation systems.



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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