Harmonised WHS laws attempt to bring Australia in line with the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). This means changes to existing chemical classification, labelling and Material Safety Data Sheets (now called SDSs). Whilst chemical manufacturers, importers and suppliers have until 2017 tom achieve compliance, changes that impact on workplaces have already begun to occur, including those states which have not yet adopted WHS. To help you understand the new laws, we have summarised the key changes.
- In general, hazardous chemicals are substances that were previously classified as hazardous substances and/or dangerous goods. Hazardous chemicals can cause harm to human health or the environment, or cause damage to property.
- Most obligations are focused on manufacturers, importers and suppliers. Manufacturers of chemicals will need to ensure that chemicals are correctly classified, labelled according to the GHS rules and have a compliant Safety Data Sheet (SDS).
- As per current laws, employers will need to ensure they have the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) available in the workplace and that substance containers remain correctly labelled, when in the workplace.
- The hazard indication symbols on packages have changed. Workplaces will need to train workers who use chemicals to recognise the new chemical labelling. Note that some chemicals already have the new labels- so you will need to train all workers that handle chemicals to recognise the new symbols (nine different hazard pictograms, see Table 1). Workplaces in states that have not yet adopted WHS laws will receive chemicals with the new labels and will need to train workers to understand the labelling system.
- Existing building placards and shipping/transport packages with dangerous goods class diamonds remains the same.
- Consumer products i.e. those available in supermarkets for domestic use, and are labelled appropriately don’t require an SDS or need to have the product included in the chemical register.