WHAT ARE HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES?
Hazardous substances are substances that can harm people’s health. They may be solids, liquids or gases. In the workplace, they are often in the form of fumes, dusts, mists and vapours.
A substance is defined as hazardous if:
- It is listed on the national Hazardous Substances Information System and the concentration of the substance or its ingredients equals or exceeds the listed concentration cut-off levels
- It meets the criteria set out in the national Approved Criteria for Classifying Hazardous Substances.
Employers are required to:
- Keep a register of all hazardous substances supplied to your workplace
- Obtain a current Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each hazardous substance
- Make the SDS accessible to employees
- Not alter the information on an SDS
- Ensure that containers in which hazardous substances are supplied are labelled
- Identify containers of waste.
Whether you are an employer, a manufacturer or a supplier, you need to gather as much information as you can on all the substances that you deal with to establish a register of all the hazardous substances used in your workplace. You then need to ensure you have the necessary information about them to enable you to determine whether they are hazardous, carcinogenic or even prohibited. Safety data sheets (SDS) are the main information source regarding a substance. They contain information about the product contents, potential health hazards, first aid treatment, precautions for use, safe handling information and an Australian contact point. Manufacturers or importing suppliers’ labels also provide useful information. Labels of hazardous substances contain warnings, information on the ingredients, risk and safety information and contact details. You can also refer to the Hazardous Substances Information System internet resource to identify hazardous substances generated from non-hazardous substances and to check whether ingredients contained in a substance are hazardous. Employers are also required to ensure that employees are not exposed to airborne contaminants at dangerous levels and should refer to a substance’s SDS and the National Exposure Standards for more information. Ongoing health surveillance and atmospheric monitoring will enable you to identify the presence of any health risks resulting from your use of hazardous substances.