What are Corrosive Substances?

Originally published April 4, 2017 11:04:38 PM, updated January 21, 2022

Throughout your working career, it is likely that you have used corrosives without being aware of their dangerous chemical properties. To define corrosive substances, you could call them:

 “Substances that degrade certain materials such as metal and stone, through complex chemical processes”

What are Corrosive Substances?

According to the Australian Dangerous Goods Code, corrosive substances are also classified as; “Class 8 - Corrosive Substances” and they are defined as:

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.”

As corrosive substances can degrade certain material such as metal and stone, it means that they have a very strong ability to break down and destroy human tissue. When corrosive materials touch your skin, they will immediately start to dissolve your flesh, leaving burns. If corrosive substances come in contact with your eyes, they can have very severe effects such as; damaging the cornea and even causing blindness.  

There are 2 main types of corrosive substances -  Acids and Bases.

1. Acids

Acids are corrosive substances that;

  • Will neutralise alkalis
  • Turn blue litmus paper red.
  • Dissolve some metals
  • Taste sour
  • Have a pH level less than 7

Some examples of common acids include:

  • Sulfuric Acid (H2SO4)
  • Hydrochloric Acid (HCl)
  • Nitric Acid (HNO3)
  • Citric Acid (C6H8O7)


2. Bases

Bases are corrosive substances that:

  • Will neutralise Acids
  • Turn red litmus paper blue.
  • Taste bitter
  • Are slippery to touch
  • Have a pH level greater than 7

Some examples of common bases include:

  • Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)
  • Calcium Hydroxide (Ca(OH)2)
  • Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3)
  • Aluminium Hydroxide (Al[OH]3)

CorrosiveThe Australian Standard AS1216-2006 - Class labels for Dangeorus Goods sets out the design and selection of labels and pictograms for the different classes of dangerous goods. This standard is based on the requirements set out in the ADG code. The sign that is used to symbolise Class 8 Corrosive Substances is shown to the right:

When storing corrosive substances in the workplace, it is very important that you segregate acids and bases. If acids and bases mix, they will neutralise each other and produce dangerous by-products such as poisonous salts. In some neutralisation reactions between acids and bases, severe heat evolves which can have other dangerous implications.

When corrosive substances are present in the workplace it is also very important that you store and handle them in a way that minimises their risk to people, property and the environment. This can be done by:

  • Ensuring that the corrosive substances are stored in compliant outdoor chemical storage containers or indoor chemical storage cabinets that meet the requirements of the Australian Standard - AS3780-2008.
  • Having a copy of the Safety Data Sheets of the corrosive substances close at hand so they can be consulted when needed.
  • Displaying relevant safety signage in the areas where the corrosive substances are stored to ensure that people in the surrounding areas are aware.
  • Ensuring that correct PPE such as corrosive resistance gloves and eye protection are used when handling corrosive substance.
  • Installing chemical spill kits in locations where corrosive substances are stored to ensure that spills can be cleaned up before they pose further risks to people, property and the environment.

As corrosive substances have a strong ability to dissolve flesh and cause severe burns to your skin and eyes, it is very important that you are aware of the corrosive substances that are present in your workplace. You must also take certain measures to ensure that they pose minimal risk to people, property and the environment. For more information on how to segregate corrosive substances from incompatible classes of dangerous goods, download our free eBook by clicking on the image below 👇.

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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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