AUST – Work Place Safety Assessors advise that the Safety requirements under the new work health safety laws are broadly consistent with the previous legislation, but some changes may be needed in workplace systems and training, to meet obligations under the new laws. These new laws are based on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

This article addresses areas affected by the GHS, under the work health safety laws including classification, packaging, storage and handling, labelling, registers, control of risks and health monitoring.

Global Harmonized System

Dangerous goods and hazardous substances have long been regulated separately, but the legislative frameworks for these two groups of chemicals have now been aligned into a single system to be used around the world. The GHS is a single internationally agreed system published by the United Nations, and chemical safety requirements under the new work health safety laws are based on this system.

Main changes – Work Health Safety

Legal requirements for hazardous substances and dangerous goods are now incorporated into a single set of rules for the use, handling and storage of workplace hazardous chemicals under the work health safety laws. They apply in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth. In the other jurisdictions, chemical safety requirements under pre-model work health safety laws continue to apply. However, in organisations operating in jurisdictions where GHS-based chemical safety requirements are not likely to be implemented during 2013, understanding and using the GHS-based system will still be required because many products will inevitably be sourced from or sold in jurisdictions and countries using the GHS. The intention is for these work health safety rules to be adopted across Australia. The main changes under the GHS-based laws are:

  • The work health safety laws regulate ‘hazardous chemicals’, including both hazardous substances and dangerous goods
  • The primary duty holder is the ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU), a broader category than ‘employers’
  • No specific requirement for written risk assessments (though these may still be advisable)
  • Changes in labelling
  • ‘Safety data sheets’ (SDS) replace ‘material safety data sheets’ (MSDS)
  • More substances require placarding.

Implications for workplaces work health safety organisations will have to arrange appropriate training in preparing or using the new labels and SDS. Workplace work health safety systems such as registers, placards, manifests and safety signs need to be reviewed and updated for compliance with the new work health safety laws and a Chemical Storage Audit may have to be considered.

Work Health Safety Legislation

Refer to our Work Health Safety Legislation Table for further statutory information on safe occupation of a building including Confined Space Audits and Asbestos Register Audits.