Hazardous Chemicals: Understanding Your Duties.
The Model Work Health and Safety Act places specific obligations on duty holders to ensure the health and safety of workers. This includes amongst other requirements the effective management of hazardous chemicals. Following is information on systems that a Safety Consultant can assist in developing and implementing to ensure compliance to the WHS Legislation.
Hazardous chemicals are those substances, mixtures or articles classified under a hazard category in the “Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals” (GHS). The Model Work Health and Safety Legislation further defines the requirements relating to the Hazardous Chemicals.
Create a Hazardous Chemicals Register
If not already in place there must be a process to initially identify and list all hazardous chemicals used, stored, or produced in the workplace. The outcome of this process is a Hazardous Chemicals Register. You can record the name of the chemical; the storage locations and volumes to assist in identifying Placard or Manifest levels of these chemicals. The Specific quantities for these two levels of chemicals are in the Model Work Health and Safety Regulation Schedule 11 for ‘Placard and Manifest Quantities’.
NOTE: There are specific requirements for a duty holder when these quantities exceed the quantities in the WHS Regulation, to ensure that the placing of signage; keeping of certain records and notifications are completed by the Business in a timely manner.
Hazardous Chemicals Risk Assessment
A competent person should complete a risk assessment to determine the exact risks associated with the chemicals considering the following,
- the hazardous properties of the hazardous chemical;
- any potential hazardous chemical or physical reaction between the hazardous chemical and another substance or mixture, including a substance that may be generated by the reaction;
- the nature of the work to be carried out with the hazardous chemical;
- any structure, plant or system of work—
- that is used in the use, handling, generation or storage of the hazardous chemical; or
- that could interact with the hazardous chemical at the workplace.
This risk assessment can be in the form of either of the following,
Basic Risk Assessment: Is completed by simply reviewing the available information including the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) labels and current workplace controls to determine if the risk from the chemical is considered controlled as far as reasonably practicable.
Generic Risk Assessment: Where an assessment is made by a competent person in one workplace where the chemical is used and then applied to others considering they are identical in all aspects of use. This is not recommended when there are high risk chemicals being used. Some chemicals are stated as being carcinogenic by the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) and should undergo a detailed risk assessment.
Detailed Risk Assessment: Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment for each chemical, considering factors like toxicity, flammability, and exposure levels. Chemicals that fall into this category include carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxicants or sensitisation that require more stringent controls. As a note there are also restricted or prohibited chemicals listed in the Model Work Health and Safety Regulation Schedule 10.
The Model Code of Practice Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace is a useful reference for persons interested in the duties under the Model WHS Act and the Model WHS Regulation. Understanding that this code applies to all types of work and all workplaces covered by the WHS Act.
Hazardous Chemicals Documentation/Procedures
Once the risk assessment is completed a better idea of the safe storage and handling requirements plus any emergency planning and response systems will be identified. Where a significant risk is identified further investigation will be required that may require the assistance of a person with specialist skills in this area. A safety consultant can assist in this process.
When the systems relating to the management of the Hazardous Chemicals has been created and implemented workers should be trained in the systems to assist in maintaining any control as identified.
Hazardous Chemical Safety Audits and Inspections
A series of regular Safety Audits and Inspections should then be undertaken either internally or externally through a Safety Consultant with skills in this area. The result of these audits will produce a report that can assist in identifying that the chosen methods to control the hazardous chemicals is working as planned, or not. Where non compliances are identified improvements can be made from the recommendations in the report.
These Safety Audits can be targeted to specific parts of the business; identified high risk areas or the entire workplace. Apart from the Model Legislation, SafeWork Australia also has a range of information on the topic. By implementing these practical steps, businesses, schools, and colleges can proactively manage hazardous chemicals.
For more information on Hazardous Chemicals Safety Audits and training please contact us or peruse the other training courses on offer. If you are interested in our WHS Consultancy services, you can contact David, Andrew or Mark to discuss your Health and Safety Issues.
We have qualified and certified Safety Consultants that can assist you in your business and offer a range of WHS consulting services along with general and specific health and safety training courses.
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