Hazardous Chemical Information System (HCIS)



What is the Hazardous Chemical Information System (HCIS)?

HCIS is a database of chemical classifications and workplace exposure standards. It allows you to find information on chemicals that have been classified in accordance with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) or which have an Australian Workplace Exposure Standard.

What are hazardous chemicals?

Hazardous chemicals are substances, mixtures and articles that can pose a health or physical hazard to humans. Health hazards are the properties of a chemical that cause adverse health effects. Examples of chemicals with health hazards include poisonous (toxic) chemicals, chemicals which cause skin corrosion (such as acids) and carcinogens (chemical that cause cancer). Exposure to these chemicals usually occurs through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact.

Physicochemical hazards are physical or chemical properties that can result in immediate injury to people or damage to property. Examples of chemicals with physicochemical hazards include flammable liquids, compressed gasses and explosives.

For legal purposes, the Work Health and Safety Regulations define a hazardous chemical as any substance, mixture or article that satisfies the criteria for a hazard class in the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals but not a substance, mixture or article that satisfies the criteria solely for one or more of the following hazard classes:

  • a) acute toxicity—oral—category 5;
  • b) acute toxicity—dermal—category 5;
  • c) acute toxicity—inhalation—category 5;
  • d) skin corrosion/irritation—category 3;
  • e) serious eye damage/eye irritation— category 2B;
  • f) aspiration hazard—category 2;
  • g) flammable gas—category 2;
  • h) acute hazard to the aquatic environment—category 1, 2 or 3;
  • i) chronic hazard to the aquatic environment—category 1, 2, 3 or 4;
  • j) hazardous to the ozone layer.

What is the GHS?

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is an international system used to assess a chemical’s hazards. It also sets out the rules for communicating those hazards through labels and safety data sheets. The GHS was developed by the United Nations to be a single worldwide method that ensures that users of chemicals are provided with practical, consistent and easy to understand information.

In Australia, the GHS is supported by:

What are Workplace Exposure Standards?

Workplace exposure standards are airborne concentrations of particular chemicals that must not be exceeded. A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure that a worker is not exposed to airborne contaminants above the workplace exposure standard.

The publication Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants contains key information about how exposure standards are applied and interpreted under the Work Health and Safety Regulations. Further guidance on their interpretation is available in the Guidance on the Interpretation of Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants.

Monitoring of airborne chemicals with exposure standards may be necessary where:

• it is unclear whether or not the exposure standard has been or may be exceeded, or
• monitoring is necessary to determine whether there is a risk to health.