hazardous materials

Hazardous materials (HAZMATs) can pose a threat to the surrounding community and environment if not handled correctly. Make sure you know what to do if you are threatened by a hazardous material and if a HAZMAT warning is issued in your area.

What are hazardous materials?

Hazardous materials (HAZMAT) are substances that are capable of causing loss of life, injury to a person, or damage to the health of a person or to the environment.

Every year emergency services respond to a range of HAZMAT incidents. These can involve explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids and gases, poisons, corrosive substances, radioactive materials and infectious materials.

Dangers of hazardous materials

Exposure to some hazardous materials will cause serious injury or be fatal for both people and animals. HAZMATs can also damage buildings, homes, property, and the environment.

Effects vary depending on the type of substance and the level of exposure.

Exposure usually occurs through breathing it in, skin contact or swallowing it. Serious health effects include headaches, nausea or vomiting, blistering skin and rashes. Chronic health effects include asthma, dermatitis, nerve damage or cancer.

Did you know? DFES responds to almost 1,000 hazardous situations each year?

Know your risk

HAZMAT incidents can happen during the production, storage, transportation, use or disposal of materials. You are at risk when chemicals are used unsafely or released in harmful amounts where you live, travel, work or play.

Containing uncontrolled hazardous materials is a complex and challenging task requiring a range of different response methods to ensure everyone’s safety.

Did you know? The most common HAZMAT incident DFES responds to involves chlorine?

What to do if you encounter a HAZMAT incident

  • Leave the area if safe to do so and warn people in the immediate vicinity.
  • Call 000 and ask for fire services. Once connected the operator will ask you:
    • What the address and location of the hazard is.
    • If you know what the hazardous material is and its United Nations number.
    • Estimated amount of material involved.
    • Form of material (solid, liquid, gas).
    • If any people are affected or injured.
  • Follow the direction of the emergency service operator.

Community HAZMAT preparation

It is a good idea to be prepared and know what to do if a HAZMAT warning is issued or you find yourself in danger from a hazardous material. These preparatory steps could also help keep your household safe if faced with other hazards.

Prepare an emergency plan so your household knows what to do.
Prepare an emergency kit

Business HAZMAT preparation

Businesses must have an Emergency Management Plan that covers managing the risks associated with using, handling, generating and storing hazardous materials. For information on developing a plan please visit the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety website.

HAZMAT alerts and warnings

If a HAZMAT incident threatens the community, DFES will provide alerts and warnings on Emergency WA.

  • Avoid the area if possible.
  • If you are already in the area you may be told to evacuate or remain inside, out of the smoke or fumes, depending on the potential risk.  
  • If you have medical concerns, contact your doctor or call Health Direct on 1800 022 222.
  • The incident has been controlled or contained and you will no longer be impacted by smoke or fumes. If you evacuated, you may now return home.

How to stay informed

It’s important you know how to access different information sources to stay up to date if a HAZMAT incident occurs near you.