If you manufacture or import chemicals, have you updated all your Safety Data Sheets to comply with the new classification system?

Australia is progressing to a new classification system developed by the United Nations. This system is presently in place across a number of countries and is planned for implementation in Australia by January 2017. Manufacturers and importers should be commencing the implementation process of this change to ensure that their safety data sheets and other labelling will be consistent before this date.

Was your workplace built before 2004? Do you have an Asbestos Management Register Plan?

If the workplace is a building that was constructed after 31 December 2003; and no asbestos has been identified at the workplace; and no asbestos is likely to be present at the workplace from time to time, there is no need to have a register. Buildings that fall outside this requirement must still either state the location, type, condition of the asbestos or state that no asbestos or ACM is identified at the workplace.

Do you realise that if you pour a chemical into a container and then head off to lunch, you may have broken the law?

Decanted Hazardous Chemicals must be labelled unless the chemical is used immediately after it is put in the container. In addition, the container must be thoroughly cleaned immediately after the hazardous chemical is used, handled or stored so that the container is in the condition it would be in if it had never contained the hazardous chemical.

If you use methylated spirits to clean your copier, does this need to be included in your Hazardous Chemicals Register?

Chemicals which are generally for domestic use and considered safe in the home may present greater risks in the workplace depending on the manner and quantities in which they are used. This is particularly relevant, for example, where domestic cleaning chemicals are purchased from a supermarket and used in a workplace environment. You should always follow label directions. However, if you are using a domestic chemical in a manner different to normal household use, you should also obtain the SDS in order to determine the level of risks to workers and the appropriate controls. The SDS should contain more detailed information on hazards and risks, for example on incompatibilities with other chemicals and risks from use in enclosed areas.

Hence, if the chemical is a domestic chemical used for a domestic purpose i.e. dish washer chemical, then an SDS is not required and it does not need to be included in the register. For the methylated spirits however, it’s use is commercial and therefore an SDS would be required and it needs to be included in the Register. Refer WHS Regulations s344 (4).

Do you know your duty of disclosure if you are selling second-hand plant?

As a seller of second hand plant you must ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, that any faults in the plant have been identified. The seller must then ensure that the person to whom the plant is supplied is given written notice:

(a) of the condition of the plant; and
(b) of any faults identified under subsection (1); and
(c) if appropriate, that the plant should not be used until the faults are rectified.

This requirement does not apply to plant to be used for scrap or spare parts. In this instance the supplier of plant to be used for scrap or spare parts must, before the plant is supplied, inform the person to whom the plant is supplied, either in writing or by marking the plant, that the plant is being supplied for scrap or spare parts and that the plant in its current form is not to be used as plant.

You can no longer rely on the competency of equipment hire companies… you share the responsibility of failure!

The supplier of the plant has a duty to ensure the plant is maintained to the manufacturer’s specification, and provide adequate information about the plants operation i.e. the manufacturer’s handbook.

Hiring plant transfers the duty for the plant to the hirer. The need, suitability and performance requirements of the plant are to be assessed prior to the plant being provided for the workers to use. Workers must also be trained or assessed as competent to operate the plant by the employer before being allowed to operate it. At this time any hazard identified must be reduced to a reasonably practical level.

What constitutes ‘High Risk Work’?

A number of activities that generally relate to construction work have been listed as being high risk work. They are deemed high risk as the risk associated with the safe use and handling operation of the equipment that they relate to, impacts on many workers in workplaces. The high Risk activities include:

  • the erection of scaffolding,
  • dogging and rigging work,
  • crane and hoist operation,
  • reach stackers,
  • forklift operation, and
  • pressure equipment operation .

A person or persons carrying out this work must be appropriately assessed and licensed by the Regulator. The specific list can be found in the WHS Regulation Schedule 3 with the regulations Part 4.5 offering the specific application of the licences.

How long do you need to keep training records?

Records of any sort offer a level of proof of a particular event occurring and are used in both common and statute law cases as a defence to a claim or a charge. The legislation details some mandatory record retention times such as 2 years for confined space training, however as a general rule, training records should be kept for the full term of employment of the worker. As a common law claim can occur 3 years from the time of the incident, it is also prudent to maintain the records for a minimum of 3 years after a worker has ceased working for the employer.

Risk of falls is very broad… are you covered?

Falls are a major cause of death and serious injury in Australian workplaces. Fall hazards are found in many workplaces where work is carried out at height, for example stacking shelves, working on a roof, unloading a large truck or accessing silos. Falls can also occur at ground level into holes, for example trenches or service pits.

There are various factors that contribute to the risk of slips and trips. Slips usually occur when there is a loss of grip between the shoe and the floor. This commonly occurs when there is a contaminant between the shoe and the floor. Trips occur when a person’s foot hits a low obstacle in the person’s path, causing a loss of balance. Often, the obstacle is not easily visible or noticed.

In order to manage risk under the WHS Regulations, a duty holder must:

  • identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could give rise to the risk
  • eliminate the risk so far as is reasonably practicable
  • if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk – minimise the risk so far as is reasonably practicable by implementing control measures in accordance with the hierarchy of control
  • maintain the implemented control measure so that it remains effective
  • review, and if necessary revise, risk control measures so as to maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.

Have you at lease identified areas in your workplace were a person may fall or has fallen.

What are adequate first aid facilities?

This is a subjective requirement best dealt with following a risk assessment and deciding on what is reasonably practical in the given situation. Factors to consider in determining your first aid requirements include the size, layout, location and type of work conducted at the workplace. For example, Office workers may only need access to band aids and cold compresses where a maintenance workshop would include many additional bandages and first aid equipment.