Hazardous Substances – Registers & Risk Assessments

In this blog we will look at some of the legislative requirements for hazardous substances as detailed in the Western Australian OSH Regulations.

Firstly OSH Regulation 5.13 requires Employers to keep a register of hazardous substances. This register must contain, as a minimum, a list of the hazardous substances and the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for those substances.

So how to determine if a substance is hazardous? The easiest way to do this is to check the SDS. SDS, previously called a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), is a document that provides information on the properties of hazardous chemicals and how they affect health and safety in the workplace. Section 2 of the SDS will detail if the substance is deemed hazardous or not. It is important to ensure that the SDS is Australian and that the substance has been deemed hazardous by the Australian regulatory body, Safe Work Australia (previously ASCC and NOHSC).

Safe Work Australia also maintains the Hazardous Substances Information Service (HSIS). Here you can search for hazardous substances using their name or Chemical Abstract Service Registry Number (CAS Number). See the link: http://hsis.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/HazardousSubstance

 

Hazardous Subtances

 

Once hazardous substances have been identified, OSH Regulation 5.15 requires that the Employer assess the risk of exposure to that substance. Many factors can affect the risk that a hazardous substances poses. Consideration should be given to how the substance is used, the environment the substance is used in and the volume of substance used etc. Consider the following examples:

Some correction fluids are hazardous substances. The risk posed to someone who applies a drop every now and then differs greatly to an Employee that manufactures correction fluid and is working with large volumes of the substance.

The environment a substance is used in can also affect the risk. Think about hazardous substances that present an inhalation risk, such as ammonia. The risk may be significantly increased where chemicals such as these are used in a confined and poorly ventilated area.

Hazardous substances that are used in enclosed dispensing systems may present a lower risk than those that are required to be decanted by hand.

These examples demonstrate the importance of examining the contextual factors in which the hazardous substance is used when undertaking a risk assessment.

For further guidance see: NATIONAL CODE OF PRACTICE FOR THE CONTROL OF WORKPLACE HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES [NOHSC:2007(1994)]