Chemicals of security concern

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Facilities managers can help keep Australia safe from terrorism by being aware of national security risks and knowing about chemicals of security concern. The Chemical Security Coordination Unit of the Attorney-General’s Department provides the following advice.

There are over 40,000 chemicals approved for use in Australia, the majority of which are
used for their legitimate purposes by industry and households across the country every day. Unfortunately, terrorists are interested in using some of these chemicals to cause harm and destruction.

The Australian Government has identified 96 chemicals that are of security concern as they can be used as ingredients to make bombs or toxic weapons. Of the 96 chemicals, there are 11 considered more high risk as they are readily available and can be used to make homemade bombs. The 11 high risk chemicals include: hydrogen peroxide, potassium nitrate, potassium chlorate, nitric acid and nitromethane. Security sensitive ammonium nitrate (SSAN) is also a high risk chemical, but is already regulated by states and territories.

What is the threat?

Overseas, terrorists continue to use commonly available chemicals to make bombs. Australians remember the tragic scenes in Bali in 2002 after homemade car bombs were detonated outside nightclubs, killing 202 people, including 88 Australians, and injuring many. More recently, athletes and spectators were killed and injured in the Boston Marathon bombings in the US. Two homemade bombs were used in the Boston bombings and were made from ingredients including explosive powder, likely from commercially available fireworks. We don’t want these kinds of attacks to happen in Australia. Authorities have been successful in detecting planned terrorist attacks in Australia before they could occur and over 20 people have been convicted of terrorism-related charges in Australia.

What can I do?

Facilities management professionals are in a unique position to identify and report suspicious behaviours around chemicals of security concern. If your buildings and precincts have any chemicals of security concern on-site, you are best placed to make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Threats can also come from trusted insiders within organisations, so it’s important your organisation has strong employee and contractor checking procedures in place to ensure people can be trusted.

You can help prevent terrorist attacks using chemicals and homemade explosives from happening in Australia
by referring to the voluntary National Code of Practice for Chemicals of Security Concern. The code contains practical suggestions on steps businesses can take and implement to ensure their chemicals are kept safe.

Simple tips from the code include:

● putting good employee and contractor checking practices 
in place to lower the risk of chemicals being stolen or 
diverted by trusted insiders

● educating staff about chemicals of security concern to 
ensure high levels of personnel security awareness

● limiting physical access to chemicals to people who need 
to access them, and

● putting theft and diversion procedures in place so staff know what to do if chemicals of security concern go missing.
Australia is a safe and resilient country. Our law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies continue to prevent, detect and disrupt terrorist activity. Having an alert and vigilant facilities management industry provides another important line of defence in our fight against terrorism.

Find out whether you have chemicals of security concern on your premises.

Visit for a list of the 96 chemicals of security concern and to download a copy of the National Code.

Remember – if you notice anything suspicious involving chemicals of security concern, report it to the National Security Hotline on 1800 1234 00 or

Every piece of information helps, and you can remain anonymous.

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