It is a legislative requirement to manage the risks associated with all chemicals stored and used in DEECD schools and workplaces. The majority of these chemicals will be classified as Dangerous Goods and/or Hazardous Substances (DGHS), the handling and storage of which are controlled by specific legislation, regulations and codes. As the phrase indicates, DGHS are materials that can cause serious harm to the health of humans and can cause property and environmental damage. In fact there are some materials that are so risky that they are completely banned from all DEECD schools and workplaces (refer to Guidance Sheet 3 Prohibited and Restricted Chemicals (PDF - 187Kb)). Even if a chemical is not a dangerous good or hazardous substance, the risks associated with the storage and use of that chemical will still need to be effectively controlled.
Dangerous goods are items or substances that may present an immediate safety hazard through exposure to their explosive, flammable, radioactive, corrosive or toxic properties.
They are easily recognisable by the diamond shaped sign displayed on the substance label. They are designated into nine classes according to their immediate physical or chemical effects.
For further information please refer to Guidance Sheet 2 Dangerous Goods Classification System (PDF - 415Kb).
Hazardous substances are classified on the basis of their health effects, both short and long term. They can enter the human body in a number of ways including inhalation, ingestion and contact through the skin and mucus membranes such as the eyes. The level of subsequent risk depends upon both the substance itself and the nature of the work being done with it.
Please note that not all products used in the workplace would be classed as a hazardous substance. For further information on classification go to the Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS) web page. A comprehensive list of hazardous substances can be found in the List of Designated Hazardous Substances.
Examples of types of hazardous substances (depending on their concentration) include:
- caustic substances
- agricultural type products
- solvents and thinners.
Note: Dangerous Goods can also be classified as Hazardous Substances.
Where would these issues be relevant?
DEECD locations and venues where DGHS may be found can include:
- laboratories and science areas
- photography dark rooms
- technology and automotive areas
- art classrooms and store rooms
- cleaner’s storeroom and maintenance sheds/rooms
- kitchen cupboards
- gas storage tanks
- swimming pools.
What do you need to do?
All DEECD schools and workplaces are required to obtain Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all chemicals stored and used on site. The MSDS must be kept in the same location where the chemicals are stored to provide information on how to manage the risk associated with their use and in the event of an incident or emergency. MSDS must also be stored in a central location. The MSDS will provide information on:
- classification e.g. if the chemical is classified as a dangerous good, hazardous substance or both
- health effects
- First Aid
- fire fighting information
- storage requirements
- handling guidelines
- spill management responses.
MSDS can be obtained from the manufacturer or supplier of the material upon request or from Chemwatch. The MSDS must have been issued within the last 5 years.
The use and storage of chemicals on site must be considered through the development of Safe Work Procedures (SWP) which must be reviewed annually or immediately following an incident. (Refer to DEECD's Safe Work Procedure).
In developing the SWP the following factors must be considered:
- potential hazards associated with each chemical
- appropriate storage and handling requirements
- whether local exhaust ventilation is required
- the type of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, glasses, face masks etc that may be required and
- spill management responses.
Specifically workplaces need to:
- identify all chemicals in the workplace in consultation with the Health and Safety Representative(s) (HSR) and employees;
- obtain and review MSDS (must be issued within the last 5 years) for each chemical;
- record all chemicals on DEECD's Chemical Register or similar and make the register available to employees;
- utilise the OHS Purchasing Checklist (Word - 476Kb) in accordance with the OHS Purchasing Procedure (PDF - 140Kb) to ensure risks are understood and controlled before they are introduced into the workplace and request for MSDS to be supplied with the purchased chemicals;
- ensure SWP (including controls) are established for chemicals in accordance with the DEECD Chemical Management Procedure to reduce the risk to employees as far as possible in consultation with the HSR and employees. Risk controls may include, but are not limited to:
- provision of appropriate storage areas (e.g. flame proof chemical cabinets, acid cabinets, locked storage rooms, fire risk dangerous goods are stored at least 5 metres away from ignition sources etc)
- ensuring that the safe storage of particular combinations of substances occurs in accordance with the Segregation of Dangerous Goods Chart;
- provision of appropriate fire detection and fire fighting equipment is available
- ensuring appropriate emergency management procedures are in place for chemicals stored and used on site (e.g. fire wardens, evacuation points etc)
- ensuring that appropriate ventilation (mechanical and natural) is in place for the safe use and storage of chemicals (e.g. fume cupboards, exhaust fans). More detailed information can be found in Guidance (PDF - 243Kb) and Sheet1: Chemical Storage (PDF - 243Kb)
- storing minimal quantities of chemicals on site (e.g. quantities sufficient for quarterly use)
- provision of spill kits/containment areas (e.g. drip trays, shelving/cabinets with built in spill retention
- providing training and instruction to relevant employees in the safe storage and use of chemicals in the workplace;
- ensuring appropriate manual handling techniques are employed when transporting and storing chemicals (e.g. utilisation of trolleys, storage of frequently accessed and heavy items between knee and shoulder
- provision of PPE (gloves, goggles, lab coats/overalls etc).
- ensure fire risk dangerous goods are stored at least 5m from any potential source of ignition or heat and other combustible matter or refuse unless stored in specialised chemical cabinets
- ensure that containers that chemicals are decanted into are clearly labelled unless they are for immediate use. It is also recommended that the date of the purchase is recorded on each chemical container to allow the monitoring of the age of stock and the use of older materials first
- ensure chemical containers and their seals or stoppers are checked regularly for deterioration and replaced as necessary
- investigate incidents, review risk controls and keep records of process for 5 years
- regularly review the chemicals held in storage and correctly dispose of those no longer required
- ensure safe disposal of any chemicals in the workplace (for advice on the correct disposal of specific chemicals contact your local Council, Water, Municipal and/or Environment Protection Authority
- ensure hazardous substances contained in an enclosed system (such as pipe or piping system) are identified and labelled. Suitable means of identification includes colour coding (AS 1319 - Safety Signs for Occupational Environment) and labelling (AS 1345 - Identification of the Contents of Piping, Conduits and Ducts)
- Ensure mandatory placarding is in place for chemicals whose quantities exceed the Placarding requirements as listed in schedule 2 of the Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2000 (e.g. storage of more than 500 litres of a flammable gas such as LPG Gas Tanks)
- monitor and review the safety systems to make sure the risk is being appropriately managed.
Legislation, Guidelines and Codes of Practice
Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.
Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007
Dangerous Goods Act 1985
Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2000
- Dangerous Goods Storage and Handling Code of Practice 2000
- Hazardous Substances Code of Practice 2000
- AS 1319 - Safety Signs for the Occupational Environment
- AS 1345 - Identification of the Contents of Piping, Conduits and Ducts
DEECD OHS Advisory Service 1300 074 715