Hazardous chemicals information, instruction and training

Article published in the Regulator | Issue 1: 2017

Since 2014, NOPSEMA inspections have found many operators have implemented comprehensive systems for managing the risk of workforce exposure to hazardous chemicals and, furthermore, are continuously improving these systems. However, over the same period, 12 different operators (across 15 facilities) were issued 63 recommendations relating to deficiencies in the provision of adequate hazardous chemical information, instruction and training.  A summary of some of the observed implemented systems and the deficiencies are shown in the table below.

Summary of observed findings

Implemented systems

Deficiences

  • Appropriately identifying and labeling hazardous chemicals.

  • Substituting chemicals for less hazardous alternatives.

  • Modifying activities and automating systems to reduce personal exposure.

  • Performing health risk assessments for hazardous chemicals and their associated handling activities.

  • Providing up-to-date (no older than 5 years) Safety Data Sheets (SDS) in either hardcopy or on an electronic database.

  • Providing personal protective equipment to the workforce that is appropriate for handling hazardous chemicals.

  • Lack of training for members of the workforce in handling hazardous chemicals including those providing supervision.

  • Inconsistently identifying hazardous chemicals contained or being transferred in pipework.

  • Inadequately segregating incompatible chemicals.

  • Irregular auditing of hazardous chemicals.

  • Deficiencies in the implementation of procedures for managing hazardous chemicals.

  • Failing to maintain a chemical inventory which accurately reflects the quantity and location of the hazardous chemicals stored on the facility.

  • Failing to test fire deluge systems in chemical storage areas e.g. paint stores.

In considering the above findings, NOPSEMA reminds operators of the requirement to take all reasonably practicable steps to provide all members of the workforce (in appropriate languages) with the information, instruction, training, and supervision necessary for them to carry out their activities in a manner that protects the health and safety of persons at the facility. This includes those members of the workforce who use hazardous chemicals and those who supervise others using hazardous chemicals.

Operators should be aware that chemical manufacturers and suppliers have adopted the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals and, as of 31 December 2016, chemical manufacturers and suppliers are required to determine the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import and provide a label with a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement, and precautionary statement for each hazard class and category. Your information, instruction and training should therefore cover the updated GHS and be relevant to the chemicals at the facility.

Further information regarding the GHS system is available on the Safe Work Australia website and via their recently published ‘Are you GHS ready’ seminar.