Know your Hazardous Substance Basics!
Our WHS legislation in most Australian jurisdictions has specific requirements for managing hazardous substances, however it’s our experience that in too many workplaces these basics are often misunderstood or not practiced; here are some examples:
You need to make a register (list) of all chemicals used in the workplace – no, just list the hazardous ones used in excess of household quantities for purposes inherent to the workplace activities.
You need to obtain and make available the SDS (MSDS) for all chemicals used in the workplace – no, just the hazardous ones, although you may need to access an SDS to determine whether the substance is hazardous or not.
Not ensuring that the SDS is less than five (5) years old.
Not ensuring that the SDS complies with Australian content and layout requirements (e.g. COP Preparation of Safety Data Sheet for Hazardous Chemicals); chemical suppliers can be particularly guilty of this when importing from overseas.
Assuming that providing the SDS at the workplace is enough, and not undertaking and documenting a hazardous substance risk assessment as required.
The above situations may unfortunately lead to unacceptable safety risks in the storage, handling and use of hazardous substances in your workplace – not to mention breaches of legislated WHS requirements.
If you’re not completely sure whether your workplace is doing the right thing, I’d suggest asking someone who knows!