Every year around 600-900 people die prematurely from workplace-related disease, including from exposure to hazardous substances, so if you are one of the many businesses that use, store or handle hazardous substances, then you need to know how to manage the risks associated with them.
From December 1, 2017, the regulations around hazardous substances in the workplace transferred from the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 and regulations to the Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations.
WorkSafe advises if you are complying with the current hazardous substances law, then you may not need to change a lot. However, it is a good time for all businesses to review their processes for keeping people safe around hazardous substances.
Some of the key requirements include:
There is a new mandatory requirement to keep an inventory of all of your hazardous substances used, handled, manufactured or stored in the workplace, including hazardous waste.
Safety Data Sheets:
Safety Data Sheets are a key source of information about managing your hazardous substances. You must have a Safety Data Sheet for all hazardous substances in your workplace, regardless of the quantity you hold (some exceptions apply).
Information, instruction, training and supervision:
The Regulations have specific requirements around providing information, instruction, supervision and training to make sure workers know how to safely use, handle and store the hazardous substances in their workplace.
You should be managing your risks to avoid an emergency, but it’s equally important to plan for one. The Regulations set out specific requirements for this. This includes understanding procedures to deal with emergencies.
Labelling containers of hazardous substances (including hazardous waste):
There are new requirements for making sure that hazardous substance containers in the workplace are labelled, including process vessels; as well as maintaining the labels on hazardous substances supplied to you.
These continue to be an important part of hazardous substances management, as they warn other people in the workplace and emergency services that hazardous substances are on site.
Storing hazardous substances safely is an important part of protecting you and your workers. The safety data sheet will tell you how to store the substance and which other substances and materials it should be kept away from. There are new requirements for class 6 and 8 substances, consult WorkSafe’s Guide to Storing Class 6 & 8 Hazardous Substances for more information.
Focus on risk assessment and elimination or minimisation:
It is important to manage the risks associated with hazardous substances and to review what you have in place to keep people healthy and safe. Eliminate risks if reasonably practicable and minimise risk where elimination is not possible.
For detailed information on the changes, refer to WorkSafe's guidance here. There's also a handy hazardous substances calculator which helps create your inventory and tells you the controls you need to put in place.
Until December 1, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 and regulations remain in force.
If your work deals with hazardous substances, consider enrolling your workers in our Passport Plus – Worker Health course, a four-hour course which covers how hazardous substances, noise and behaviour can have a serious impact on health.