4.1 Hazardous Substances

Substances (chemicals and chemical products) are covered by the general duties under the OHS Act. In addition, Victoria has specific legislation covering both hazardous substances and dangerous goods in the workplace. Hazardous substances are covered by the OHS Regulations, and Dangerous Goods are covered by the Dangerous Goods Act and Regulations.

A hazardous substance is one which is:

  • listed in the Hazardous Substances Information System (as published by Safe Work Australia on its internet site) and the concentration of the substance or its ingredients equals or exceeds the concentration cut-off levels listed on the HSIS that relate to health effects; or
  • meets the criteria for a hazardous substance according to the Approved Criteria for Classifying Hazardous Substances; or
  • meets the criteria for hazard classification set out in Part 3 (Health Hazards) of the GHS.

The lists can be accessed from the Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS) website.

The regulations do not apply to:

  • food (as per the Food Act 1984); therapeutic goods (as per the Victorian Therapeutic Goods Act 1994); cosmetics; tobacco or products made of tobacco; or toiletries and toilet products UNLESS the use of the substance is related to a work activity
  • any culture or preparation of pathogenic micro-organisms or other material capable of causing disease in humans (as per the Health Act 1958); radioactive materials (as per the Radiation Act 2005); or asbestos

Division 2 - manufacturers and suppliers
Division 3 - employers and self-employed persons

Division 2 - Duties on manufacturers and suppliers

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)

Manufacturers and suppliers must:

  • Determine whether a substance is a hazardous substance before it is first supplied to a workplace (4.1.4)
  • Ensure that an MSDS is prepared before the substance is first supplied to a workplace (4.1.5)
  • Review and revise the MSDS as often as necessary to ensure the information is current and accurate AND at least every 5 years (4.1.7)
  • Provide a copy of the the current MSDS
    • to any person to whom the substance is supplied on or before the substance is first supplied; and
    • to that person when it has been reviewed; and
    • to any employer who intends to use that hazardous substance in a workplace, on request.
      (4.1.8) Note: 4.1.8 does not apply to retailers or retail warehouses if the substance is supplied in a consumer pack; nor if the hazardous substance is supplied to a vehicle as fuel.

The information required on an MSDS must include: (4.1.6)

  • The product name of the substance; and
  • The name, address and telephone number of manufacturer in Australia, or of the importing supplier of the substance; and
  • An Australian telephone number where information can be obtained in an emergency; and
  • The date of preparation or last review of the MSDS; and
  • A statement that the substance is hazardous; and
  • The hazard classification of the substance (as per HSIS, the Criteria, or the GHS); and
  • The risk phrase and safety phrase for the substance; and
  • The chemical name and proportions of each of the ingredients (the level of information required differs according to whether the substance is a Type I, II or III ingredient); and
  • First aid measures in the event of an incident or exposure involving the substance; and
  • Relevant health hazard information; and
  • Precautions to be followed in relation to the safe use of the substance, including engineering controls and PPE; and
  • Precautions for the safe storage and disposal of the substance; and
  • The exposure standard if any for the substance or its ingredients; and
  • The physical and chemical properties of the substances (or ingredients) including any hazardous decomposition products that may be generated during use; and
  • Information on the health effects of the substance or its ingredients.

NOTE: as of July 1, 2014, an MSDS may now be an 'SDS' - Safety Data Sheet - if prepared in accordance with equivalent legislation.

Labels

Manufacturers and importing suppliers must label any container that contains a hazardous substance before it is supplied to a workplace. (4.1.9)

The label must be in English (though it is permissable to have other languages AS WELL), legible and firmly secured, and must contain:

  • the product name; and
  • the name, address and telephone number of manufacturer in Australia, or of the importing supplier of the substance; and
  • the chemical name for each ingredient (or generic name if it is a Type II ingredient that is commercially confidential)
  • any relevant health and safety information, including risk phrases and safety phrases, unless the container is so small that it is not practical to provide that information; and
  • the word "hazardous" clearly and prominently displayed.

Other labellling systems if labelled in accordance with equivalent legislation, or the GHS, or for certain substances (ie for agricultural, veterinarian, therapeutic goods and poisons or controlled substances) are recognised (4.1.10).

A supplier (other than an importing supplier) must ensure that the container is which a hazardous substance is supplied is labelled with the manufacturer's or the importing supplier's label (4.1.11)

If an MSDS or label does not disclose the chemical name of an ingredient, and a registered medical practitioner requests it to assist with the management of a patient, then the manufacturer or the importing supplier must immediately disclose it. (4.1.12)

Division 3 - Duties of employers and self-employed persons

Prohibited hazardous substances

Various substances can be prohibited for certain uses under either Schedule 2 of the National Model Regulations for the Control of Hazardous Substances or Schedule 5 of these regulations.  Employers and self-employed persons must ensure that these are not used in the workplace for those uses (4.1.13). 

Currently these substances are:

  • amosite asbestos - except for removal and disposal, and where it occurs naturally
  • chrysotile asbestos - except for removal and disposal (etc), bona fide research or analysis, or in non-asbestos mining
  • crocidolite asbestos - except for removal and disposal, and where it occurs naturally
  • materials containing more than 1% crystalline silica for abrasive blasting

The duties of employers and self-employed persons under this division apply to:

  • substances that have been determined under regulation 4.1.4 or equivalent legislation to be hazardous substances that are supplied to the workplace, AND
  • to any substances listed on the HSIS that are produced or generated at a workplace from non-hazardous substances. 

The duties do not apply to lead metal, lead alloys or inorganic lead compounds in a prescribed lead process under Part 4.4 (Lead) of these regulations. (4.1.14)

Material Safety Data Sheets

Employers must:

  • ensure a current MSDS is obtained on or before the first occasion that a hazardous substance is supplied to the workplace (4.1.15)
  • ensure that the current MSDS is readily accessible to any employee who may be affected by the substance (4.1.17)
  • ensure that the information in a current MSDS is not altered (4.1.18)

Labels (4.1.19 - 4.1.20)

Employers must:

  • ensure a container in which a hazardous substance is supplied is labelled with the manufacturer's or importing supplier's label
  • ensure that the label remains legible and is not removed, defaced or altered
  • ensure that if a hazardous substance is decanted into a container at the workplace the container is clearly labelled with the product name OR if this is not practical, then some other means is used to identify the substance UNLESS the decanted substance is consumed immediately and the container is then immediately -
    • cleaned so that it is not a risk to health; or
    • neutralised, etc so that any residue is not a risk to health
  • ensure that a container remains labelled until it is -
    • cleaned so that it is not a risk to health; or
    • neutralised, etc so that any residue is not a risk to health

Identification of hazardous substances

Employers must:

  • ensure that a hazardous substance in a pipe, piping system, process vessel, or any other plant in a manufacturing process is identified to employees who may be exposed to the substance (4.1.21)
  • ensure that containers of waste produced or generated in a workplace from a hazardous substance are identified (4.1.22)

Register of hazardous substances (4.1.23)

Employers must ensure that a register of all hazardous substances supplied to the workplace is prepared and maintained.  The register must be accessible to any employee who may be exposed to any of these substances.  In addition to this, Section 69 of the OHS Act places a duty on the employer to allow OHS reps access to any information on actual or potential hazards at the workplace. Consequently, reps must have access to the register.

The register must contain:

  • a list of the product names of all the hazardous substances supplied to the workplace; and
  • a copy of the MSDS for each substance.

Note: 4.1.23 does not apply to retailers or retail warehouses if the substance is supplied in a consumer pack intended for retail sale and not intended to be opened at the workplace.

Control of risk (4.1.24)

1 - An employer must eliminate any risk associated with hazardous substances, so far as is reasonably practicable. 

2 - If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, then the employer must reduce that risk by following the following order of control:

  1. substituting the substance with a less hazardous one; or in a less hazardous form; or
  2. isolating employees from the source of exposure to the substance; or
  3. using engineering controls; or
  4. combining any of the above risk control measures

3 - If the employer has complied with the above control measures (1 & 2), and a risk still remains, then the employer must use administrative controls (eg limiting the amount of time an employee is exposed) to further reduce the risk.

4 - If the employer has complied with the above control measures (1, 2 & 3), and a risk still remains, then the employer must ucontrol the risk by providing appropriate personal protective equipment.

Review of risk control measures (4.1.25)

The employer must review and if necessary revise the risk control measures:

  1. before any changes to the systems of work likely to result in changes to the risk; or
  2. if the employer gets advised by a medical practitioner (under regulation 4.1.30) that adverse health effects have been identified by the health surveillance; or
  3. after occurance of any notifiable incident under Part 5 of the OHS Act that involves a hazardous substance; or
  4. if, for any other reason, the risk control measures do not adequately control the risks; or
  5. after a request from an OHS rep.

A rep may make a request for a review if the rep believes 'on reasonable grounds' that
  1. any of the circumstances (a) - (d) exists; or
  2. the employer has failed to
    1. properly review the risk control measures; or
    2. take account of any of the circumstances in 1(a) or (b) when reviewing or revising the risk control measures.

4.1.26 Exposure standard

The employer must ensure that an employee is not exposed to an atmospheric concentration of a hazardous substance supplied to or generated in the workplace above the exposure standard (if any) of the substance or its ingredients.

4.1.27 - 4.1.29 Atmospheric monitoring

The employer must ensure that atmospheric monitoring - checking the levels of contaminants in the air - is carried out if an exposure standard for a hazardous substance or any of its ingredients exists and

  1. there is uncertainty as to whether the exposure standard is or may be exceeded; or
  2. atmospheric monitoring is necessary to determine whether there is a risk to health.

The employer must provide the results of the monitoring to any employee who has been, or may be, exposed, and must keep records of the monitoring for 30 years (unless the Authority determines otherwise).

4.1.30 - 4.1.32 Health Surveillance

The employer must provide health surveillance for an employee if that employee is exposed to certain hazardous substances (as listed in Schedule 3 of the National Model Regulations for the Control of Workplace Hazardous Substances [pdf] - except asbestos) if that exposure may have a hazardous effect.

Note: these regulations have now been superseded by the National Model WHS Regulations 2011 - however Victoria has not yet adopted these. Schedule 14 of these regulations lists the requirements for health monitoring. Health monitoring is also required for asbestos and lead.

The employer must ensure:

  1. the surveillance is performed under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner; and
  2. a report is prepared by the medical practitioner and given to the employee; and
  3. the report includes:
    1. any indications or adverse health effects identified; and
    2. any recommendations for the employer with regard to ensuring the employee is not exposed to the substance for a specified period of time; and
    3. an interpretation of the results

If the report contains recommendations under (c)(ii) above, then the employer must provide a copy of the report to the Authority.

The employer must keep records of the any health surveillance report for a period of 30 years (unless otherwise determined by the Authority).

Note: Under the Model WHS Regulations, the duty is to undertake 'health monitoring'. While Victoria (as at February 2013) has not implemented the national model WHS Act or Regulations, guidance produced by Safe Work Australia (SWA) should still be considered.

SWA Guidance on Health Monitoring for Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals.

  1. Guide for persons conducting a business or undertaking intended for persons conducting a business or undertaking who are required under the Work Health and Safety Regulations to provide health monitoring for workers. The regs have specific duties on a PCBU to provide health monitoring to workers who use hazardous chemicals, including workers who are exposed to lead and asbestos.
  2. Guide for Workers which explains that health monitoring - monitoring of a person to identify changes in the person's health status because of exposure to certain substances - may include:
    • consultation, for example, answering questions regarding previous occupational and medical history or lifestyle, for example dietary, smoking and drinking habits and discussing with the worker how this may affect their health;
    • a physical examination, for example skin checks or a spirometry (lung function) test;
    • clinical tests, for example, urine or blood samples; and 
    • X-rays.

See Also:

Last amended June 2015

AskRenata

Please send in your occupational health and safety questions to Renata. We will respond within a few days.

Ask a question

Safetynet

Please complete the form below to subscribe to the SafetyNET Journal email newsletter.

Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).

Your details

BE TRADES HALL TRAINED

Have you had your initial training yet? Want to do a refresher course? Register online!

OHS Training