Dangerous Goods Vs Hazardous Substances

Here’s the difference between these two seemingly interchangeable terms.
dangerous goods

In this article, we discuss:


How are dangerous goods different from hazardous substances?

While both terms are commonly used in the broad context of safety, they are two different concepts. 

Here’s how we look at them in the context of retailing and shipping industrial supplies: 

  • A dangerous good (DG) designation primarily relates to the handling, storage and transport of a product. 
  • A hazardous substance, sometimes referred to as hazardous good or hazardous material, primarily relates to work health and safety. 

A product can be classified as a dangerous good, hazardous substance or both, regardless of their form (liquid, solid or gas).

Here's an analogy to simplify it:

  • A 'landmine' is a DG, because its danger is immediate and can cause serious harm if not handled properly during transport.
  • A hazardous substance is more like a "slow poison", because the risk is related to long-term exposure or improper handling.

Some products can be both:

  • Certain substances can be classified as BOTH dangerous goods and hazardous substances. For instance, gasoline is flammable (dangerous good) and can cause health problems with prolonged exposure (hazardous substance).

So some intricacies that apply to specific products: 

  • The same product can be classified as a DG or non-DG, depending on its dispensing method. Case in point is the CRC 5-56 Multi-Purpose Lubricant. The 5-56 aerosol is DG, but the 5-56 spray bottle (non-pressurized) is non-DG. 
  • Even air is considered a DG when aerosol-dispensed, as is the case of this CRC Air Brush (Dust & Lint Remover).


More on dangerous goods

DGs can be corrosive, flammable, explosive, spontaneously combustible, toxic, oxidising or water-reactive. Products are classified as such based on the immediate physical or chemical hazards of the material, which can include fire, explosion, corrosion or poisoning. They generally can cause harm to a person, property or the environment, mainly because of their inherent properties: 

  • Do they contain toxic substances? 
  • Do they react (or cause reaction) when exposed to other substances and chemicals? 
  • Are they combustible/flammable?

Common examples of dangerous goods: 

  • Aerosol-dispensed chemicals
  • Aerosol-dispensed gas
  • Asbestos (refer to our guide on asbestos hazard management)
  • Compressed gas cylinders
  • Corrosives
  • Fireworks
  • Liquified petroleum gas
  • Non-flammable gas (even if they’re non-toxic)
  • Petroleum products

In Australia, we categorise DGs into nine classes, as detailed in page 42 of this copy of the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road & Rail: 

  • Class 1: Explosives 
  • Class 2: Gases 
  • Class 3: Flammable liquids 
  • Class 4: Flammable solids; substances liable to spontaneous combustion; substances which, on contact with water, emit flammable gases 
  • Class 5: Oxidising substances and organic peroxides 
  • Class 6: Toxic and infectious substances 
  • Class 7: Radioactive material 
  • Class 8: Corrosive substances 
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles, including environmentally hazardous substances 

There are even products classified as high consequence dangerous goods (HCDG).

DGs are regulated for transport by road, rail, air and sea, and they must adhere to specific packaging, labeling and placarding requirements.

The Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road & Rail (ADG Code) sets out the requirements for transporting dangerous goods by road or rail. You may need a license or some sort of authorisation when you intend to transport DGs above certain permissible quantities.


More on hazardous substances

Hazardous substances can have immediate effects on human health, such as:

  • Burns
  • Dizziness
  • Inhalation risks
  • Irritation
  • Poisoning
  • Vomiting 

However, they can have long-term negative effects as well, such as:

  • Birth defects 
  • Cancer 
  • Dermatitis and other skin irritations
  • Diseases of internal organs 

Of course, that depends on how often, how long and how much of the product the person was exposed to, and whether there was (regular or occasional) direct or indirect exposure to it.

Common examples of hazardous substances:  

  • Chemical cleaning products
  • Liquified petroleum gas
  • Paint
  • Pesticides
  • Petroleum products

In Australia, we categorise hazardous substances according to the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). According to Safe Work Australia (SWA), it was created by the United Nations to be a single, global method to "classify chemicals" and "communicate chemical hazards through labels and safety data sheets (SDS)".

Note: If you are dealing with hazardous chemicals, we recommend you to check out these important reminders from SWA, which covers:

  • Why is it important to safely store hazardous chemicals?
  • Storing hazardous chemicals safely
  • Storing the chemical in a safe container
  • Using underground storage
  • Storage and handling systems
  • Storing chemicals in bulk
  • Flammable substances, asphyxiants and combustible dusts


Key points to remember

  • DGs and hazardous substances must be handled and used with extra care: As we always say, err on the side of caution. Careful is better than sorry. 
  • Some products are classified as both: Therefore, the rules which apply to DGs and hazardous substances both apply to them. 
  • Always refer to Safety Data Sheets (SDS): They must be supplied by product manufacturers and suppliers. On our product listings, you’ll see them in the “Resources” drop-down section on the right side of the page, together with other relevant information (eg technical data sheets & catalogues). 

Too much information? Contact us via chat, and we’ll help you with your purchase.


AIMS’ Note on Buying Industrial Supplies

  • Breadth and depth of brands and categories: Go with a supplier that offers a wide range of reputable brands across multiple categories and sub-categories.
  • Bulk purchase discounts: For large orders, check if you can take advantage of volume leverage. Some suppliers offer business accounts* that give you access to special pricing (volume discounts), preferential support and even credit eligibility (subject to supplier approval, terms and conditions).
  • Product and service information: Evaluate the completeness and usefulness of data in their online product listings. Prudent suppliers will include as much useful information as possible to help you assess and compare products. In terms of service info, the supplier’s FAQs (if any) will give you a good idea of their standard policies*, processes and commitments.
  • Promotions: Check for ongoing promotional campaigns so you can get the best prices. Many suppliers run regular discount-based promos. Some can point you to government-hosted rebate programmes like the SafeWork NSW $1000 Small Business Rebate.
  • Safety compliance: Make sure the product in question meets Australian safety standards and regulations, especially if there are relevant compliance requirements or work health and safety (WHS) laws that apply to your business or state. Look for relevant certifications and markings where necessary.
  • Supplier reliability: Choose reputable suppliers with a proven track record of delivering quality products and reliable customer service.
  • Warranty and support: Check warranty terms and after-sales support* options, as this can be crucial in case of product defects or performance issues.
  • Lead time and availability: Confirm product availability and estimated delivery times to avoid delays in your projects.
  • Returns: Familiarise yourself with the suppliers returns and exchange policy in case you receive incorrect or damaged items.
  • Delivery: Clarify delivery terms, including estimated delivery times, shipping costs and who handles insurance during transit (where applicable).

*Need help with a purchase decision? Contact us directly via chat or send an email to sales@aimsindustrial.com.au.

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