Hazardous Substances are those which may have an adverse effect on the health of people in both the short and long term. Hazardous Substances are classified and dealt with under the Dangerous Substances Act 2004 in the ACT.
Businesses and workers using substances in the workplace will normally identify hazardous substances from the supplier's label and MSDS.
Hazardous substances are classified by the manufacturer or importer in accordance with the Approved Criteria for Classifying Hazardous Substances [NOHSC:1000 (2004)].
Substances which have an exposure standard listed in the Adopted National Exposure Standards For Atmospheric Contaminants In The Occupational Environment [NOHSC:1003 (1995)] may also be considered hazardous substances.
Dangerous goods classification is different from hazardous substance classification, in particular, because it does not consider adverse effects from long term exposure. Classification is done using the United Nations Global Harmonised System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).
In many cases substances may be both a hazardous substance and a dangerous good, although this can be for differing properties of the substance. A substance classified under both systems will require familiarity with duties and obligations under both sets of legislation. These are generally designed to be complimentary.
There is now ACT legislation which covers the transport of dangerous goods by road where multiple parties have individual liability for transport in accordance with the Australian Dangerous Goods Code 7. Click here for further information.
Work Health and Safety Act 2011
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 requires businesses to provide a healthy and safe working environment, safe plant and equipment, health and safety information along with training, adequate safety clothing and equipment.
It also requires suppliers of hazardous substances to provide adequate information to businesses of any health and safety risks associated with the use of the product, and indicate what control measures are needed to eliminate such risks to employees.
The Act requires workers to use all personal protective equipment in a correct and safe manner (as instructed by the person conducting the busienss or undertaking (PCBU)) and to co-operate with the PCBU to fulfil their duties and not to endanger themselves or others.
There are a number of Codes of Practice adopted under the Act applicable in the ACT which can be found on the WorkSafe ACT website.
Dangerous Substances Act 2004
The Dangerous Substances Act 2004 requires a person in control of premises where dangerous substances are to be handled commercially to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the premises (including any plant or systems at the premises for handling the substance) are safe to handle the substance.
The Dangerous Substances Act requires suppliers of a dangerous substance in the ACT to ensure that the substance is correctly packaged and labelled before it is supplied to anyone and to ensure that safety information is prepared as required.
Codes of Practice adopted under the Dangerous Substances Act and applicable in the ACT.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
The Work Health and Safety Act requires manufacturers of chemical substances to supply to you adequate information such as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).
MSDS provide details on health hazards, precautions for use, safe handling and first aid information as well as chemical data. These sheets also provide information on storage and disposals procedures.
Specific MSDS should be supplied for each chemical in use within the workplace and are available from chemical manufacturers/suppliers.
All containers of hazardous substances used at work, including those delivered to and those produced within the workplace, must be appropriately labelled. A correct label of a hazardous substance used at work may not be defaced, modified or altered.
Wherever possible store chemicals in the original containers with labels intact. If labels come off always re-label the container. When chemicals are decanted into smaller containers they must be labelled appropriately. Never store chemicals in drink or food containers.
The Role and Use of PPE
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) protects a worker’s body from hazards and includes a wide range of clothing and safety equipment. PPE includes boots, face masks, hard hats, ear plugs, respirators, gloves, safety harnesses, high visibility clothing, etc.
When can PPE be used?
Personal protective equipment is the least effective way of controlling risks to health and safety and should only be used as a temporary measure until better control methods are put in place. Employers must first try to eliminate or remove hazards in the workplace. Where this is not possible or practicable, other control methods should be used, such as substitution, isolation, engineering or administrative controls.
If there is still exposure to risk after these control measures have been tried, then suitable PPE should be provided. PPE can also be used effectively in conjunction with other measures to adequately reduce the level of risk.
For further information on PPE refer to our Guidance Note on Personal Protective Equipment”.