A client of mine started squirming when I asked about their “hazardous chemicals”. It seems this is a term which sounds just a little scary to some. So what is a hazardous chemical?
Under the WHS Regs, a hazardous chemical means a substance, mixture or article that satisfies the criteria for a hazard class in the GHS, which is the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.
By this definition, it can be anything from acetone through to paint, ink, glue or oil.
So how do you figure out if you are using hazardous chemicals in your business? Simply pick up one of the products in your tool shed and look at it.
Here’s one that is in mine: Diggers Mineral Turpentine. Is this a hazardous chemical? Yep – check out the red diamond – “Flammable Liquid, 3”. This is a major identifier and it is a legal requirement for hazardous chemicals to have this diamond clearly shown on the packaging. You can see the other haz chem symbols / pictograms by following the Worksafe QLD link below.
So what do you need to do?
There are a number of requirements as outlined on the Safe Work Australia link below, but unless you are dealing with particularly large quantities (you can check here), the main things are:
- Ensure your hazardous chemicals are labelled correctly. A good way to do this is to keep them in their original container rather than decanting, as most products you buy meet the legal requirements for labelling.
- Make a register of your hazardous chemicals, where they are kept, how much etc.
- Get the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the product and ensure it’s less than 5 years old. I typed my product’s name into Google, along with SDS, and hey presto there it was. Save a copy.
- Ensure workers who use the product are familiar with the contents of the SDS, particularly the storage, use, first aid measures and spill measures. There are some Youtube clips such as this one which can help you make sense of what seems like a pretty complicated document.
So make it your mission to get your hazardous chemicals under control this week.
Other useful sources: