Overview of Hazardous Chemicals

This is the first in a series of video blogs on how to manage hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

The first thing we’ll talk about is why do we need to manage hazardous chemicals in the workplace?  We want to make sure that no workers are injured or exposed to illnesses when using chemicals in the workplace.

There is a fair bit of legislation in Australia about managing hazardous chemicals, you will need to refer to that legislation for full details as these are just overview videos to give you some direction in how to go about it.

This first session is an overview of managing hazardous chemicals in the workplace.



The first thing we need to do is identify, when we bring a hazardous chemical into the workplace, whether or not it IS a hazardous chemical.  We do that by obtaining information from the manufacturer, importer, supplier - wherever you got the chemicals from.  You do that through the label on the actual chemical itself or through the safety data sheet.  If you cannot determine it from either of those then you should be contacting the manufacturer to determine whether it has actually been defined as a hazardous chemical.

If you determine that it is NOT a hazardous chemical you need to take no action whatsoever except to follow what is on the can or on the bottle or on the label, there is no need to record risk assessments or do anything of that nature.  However, if it is found to be a hazardous chemical then you need to conduct a risk assessment.  The depth of the risk assessment will be relative to the risks that are associated with that risk assessment.  Things that you need to consider: -

how are you going to store this hazardous chemical?

could there be risks associated with that storage?

would it be incompatible with other substances?

could a spill cause a problem?


So, you need to look at the processes for storage.  You need to look at how you are going to use the hazardous chemical and in using the hazardous chemical the things we to consider are: -


how are we going to control it in the workplace?

do we need to prepare standard work procedures for example?

do we need to train our workers in the use of these hazardous chemicals?

or do we need to put a more detail control or a control which actually controls the workplace, such as putting ventilation systems in place.


We need to look at the emergency procedures that may occur – we need to look at whether a fire can occur and if there is a potential for a fire what do we need to do to control that fire.


If there is a spill, we need to look at whether we are going to be exposing workers to the exposure to the spill or if we are going to be exposing the environment to the spill.


Finally, we need to consider what first aid is required.  Does the hazardous chemical require specific responses to first aid, do we need to carry certain gels, do we need to have an eye wash process in place?  We need to consider all that as part of first aid.


We then need to look at transport.  How are we going to transport the materials? If we are transporting, for example, gas cylinders on the back of vehicles, do we need to look at how that is going to be transported?


Finally, we need to look at disposal.  How do we get rid of a substance if we no longer want or need to use the rest of it?  Can it be disposed through the normal waterways, through the sewerage system or do we need to bring in a disposal company to dispose of that substance.


All those things will be considered in the risk assessment, and all of those topics will be looked at in more detail in future and further sessions on the whiteboard.


And finally, one of the things that will be looked at in each of those sessions is the recording and record keeping.  What sort of records do we need to keep? Do we need to keep registers?  Do we need to have safety data sheets? Do we need to keep the risk assessments?  What do we need to keep for emergency plans?  What do we need to keep for emergency services such as manifests?  Each of those will be discussed in future video blogs in this series.

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