Toxic smoke and chemical spill shuts Melbourne CBD street

The need to handle chemicals safely in the workplace has again been emphasised after a university fire at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Melbourne’s CBD. Toxic smoke was seen pouring from the windows of Building 10 shortly after 2am last Sunday resulting in the closure of a city street.


When emergency services were called to the scene they discovered a cabinet containing unknown and dangerous chemicals on fire. Although the blaze was quickly extinguished, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and police remained cautious about any possible chemical spillage and subsequent residue that may have been lingering in the air. Traffic control and the safe removal of chemicals from the scene was conducted until late Sunday morning.

When emergency services respond to fires and chemical spills at workplaces using, storing and handling hazardous chemicals, the responders need to know the potential hazards involved at such incidents.  For effective and efficient emergency action, they need information about the type, quantity and locations of the hazardous chemicals stored at the workplace.

Placards are a means of alerting the emergency services and other persons to the presence of hazardous chemicals and providing information about them. They are an important part of an overall safety management strategy for workplaces storing or handling hazardous chemicals.

Chemical-related incidents like the RMIT fire are by no means isolated events.  On 6 September 2013 eighty children were evacuated from a childcare centre after a staff member had used a cleaner designed for dishwashers to hand-clean cooking equipment and resulted in dangerous fumes entering the building’s ventilation. See our blog for more information.

In December 2011 SafeWork Australia introduced a Code of Practice ‘Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals –

If you are unsure about what you need to know or what you need to do, how to handle or store chemicals and/or how to train your staff in use of the chemicals, please contact us for more information.

Safety Services Australia +61 2 9634 5912 or email