Transporting dangerous goods

What are dangerous goods and hazardous substances? What are the risks in transporting domestic quantities of dangerous goods? How do I transport them safely?

Find out more with Is it hazardous or dangerous? - information sheet (PDF 157 kb)

What are dangerous goods?

As we drive around Western Australia, we are used to seeing placarded and labelled trucks and trains transporting dangerous goods. This transportation meets strict guidelines and is administered under Western Australia's dangerous goods safety legislation.

However, some of these chemicals are sold on a domestic and small business scale. Everyday objects such as gas cylinders, pool chemicals and petrol cans can be purchased through retail outlets, hardware stores, garden centres and agricultural suppliers in small containers. This means members of the general public can be responsible for transporting some of these dangerous goods.

Some commonly used dangerous goods for household and small business purposes are:

  • aerosols—hairsprays, spray paints, insect bombs and lubricants
  • LP gas—cylinders for barbecues, butane lighters and camp oven canisters
  • pool chemicals—chlorine
  • petrol—drums of fuel and jerry cans.

All dangerous goods are required to be packaged in containers that have met standards for being leak proof and withstanding falls from height. Each dangerous goods package must be marked with the:

  • proper shipping name, UN number and packing group
  • Australian manufacturer details
  • labelled with a dangerous goods diamond.

Handy tip: Due to their physical, chemical or acute toxicity properties, dangerous goods can present an immediate hazard to people, property and the environment. A hazardous substance can also be classed as a dangerous good and can have an adverse effect on peoples' health following exposure, due to poisoning, carcinogenic elements and substances that cause burns.

Why do we call them ‘dangerous goods’?

A dangerous good is one where because of its physical, chemical or acute toxicity properties, present an immediate hazard to people, property or the environment. A hazardous substance (can also be classed as a dangerous good) is one that, following exposure, can have an adverse effect on health e.g. poison, carcinogen, substances that cause burns.

What are the risks of transporting dangerous goods?

Transporting packages of dangerous goods can introduce the risk of:

  • vapours and dusts accumulating in enclosed vehicles
  • solids settling out as the container is vibrated, which can cause liquids to splash against the lid seal
  • gas cylinders venting as the temperature rises
  • packages sliding or becoming airborne when the vehicle is cornering and braking
  • chemical reactions if packages open and contents spilling onto adjacent packages and mix.

How do I transport dangerous goods safely?

If you are a courier, tradesman, agricultural worker or member of the public, the answer is simple – separate and ventilate.

Dangerous goods transport hazard overview - template - 306 Kb

This overview highlights the potential issues associated with the transport of dangerous goods in a variety of packaging modes. Primarily, the template is a prompting mechanism for operators to use in evaluating their control of transport hazards.

Never mix dangerous goods as they could react dangerously, and always keep them ventilated.

Segregation principles

One control measure to segregate dangerous goods where you suspect two chemicals may be incompatible is to place one of them into a plastic drum, pail or sealed container to prevent mixing.


Flammable gases (Division 2.1) such as LP gas and aerosol lubricants

These should be separated from Class 4 substances such as sulphur and Class 5 substances such as organic peroxides.


Flammable liquids (Class 3) such as petrol and ethanol

These should be separated from Division 4.2 substances such as activated charcoal and Class 5 substances like epoxy hardeners.


Dangerous when wet solids (Division 4.3) such as aluminium phosphide and magnesium powder

These should be separated from: all liquids and solutions.


Oxidising substances (Class 5) such as calcium hypochlorite or solid pool chlorine

These should be separated from all other classes.


Acids (Class 8) such as hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acid

These should be separated from alkalis (Class 8) including bleach and caustic soda.

Want to know more?

The Department has prepared guidance information for the public, tradespersons, agricultural workers and couriers on common hazards who may be unaware of the hazards associated with what they are transporting.

Find out more about the classes of dangerous goods with Is it hazardous or dangerous? - information sheet (PDF 157 kb)