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Hazardous Substances Compliance Code 2018

Posted by Ian Good on 11 September 2018

The new Hazardous Substances compliance code issued by WorkSafe is a very useful document for employers and employees to understand how to comply with the Part 4.1 of the OHS Regulations 2017, and to meet the expectations of the regulator.

However, there are two things that I still struggle with, availability of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and evidence of risk control measures.

The latter is a standard obligation placed on employers to control risks across a wide spectrum of hazardous aspects of the workplace. The compliance code provides a step by step guide to identifying hazards, consideration of the routes of exposure, and the controls that could be put in place. My only concern is there is no requirement to provide evidence that this has been done. The only evidence, or lack of evidence I find is that there are unsuitable or no controls for managing the health risks. I am not expecting full on risk assessments, as they can deliver little additional information and, in my experience, are generally parked in a draw or electronic folder that never sees the light (or virtual light) of day. There should be a record that:

  1. The employer, or designate, has reviewed the hazardous substance, and noted anything special they have to consider (specific hazard or control) outside their 'normal' work practices; and
  2. Employees have reviewed the hazardous substances SDS and its label, if available, and considered any impact it will have on them and others from the work they will do. This could then be transposed into a safe system of work such as JSA/SWMS or general instructions where the material is stored or used.

This record could readily be added to the register with additional columns to state that if there is anything special that needs to be communicated or additional controls implemented it may be found with the SDS.

The question of availability is a constant question I field when on site. WorkSafe have decided to use three levels of compliance obligations with three verbs, including a phrase 'needs to'.

'Must' is obvious, and so is 'should', but there is now the verb 'needs to', which is stated to indicate a recommended course of action in accordance with duties and obligations under Victoria's health and safety legislation.

The register needs to be kept in a central location and a readily accessible copy needs to be in each relevant work area. Based on this course of action, each business's complete register would have to be duplicated and distributed across the multiple work areas no matter how large or small. That is silly.  The wording should be changed to 'readily accessible copies of SDS for the relevant work area'.  The actual physical location would depend upon the level of risk, the suitability of existing controls and the value that access to the SDS provides.

Author: Ian Good
Tags: Ian Good

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