In anticipation of the forthcoming Hazchem conference 2019, ACOR Associate Amanda Wyle has initiated the conversation to explore how GHS might affect operations for your business.

The West Australian recently reported that hazardous substances were widespread at WA childcare centres

Childcare centres in WA have recently come under the spotlight following news that 162 centres were served with improvement notices, many failing to meet best practice with regards to the storage and handling of hazardous substances. The center attended by my children did not escape scrutiny and like many parents across Australia, my first reaction was to consider the extent of the risk and how these red flags might be rectified.

The perceived increase in hazardous chemicals has come about from the introduction of the Globally Harmonised System (GHS), a new classification system introduced in Australia on 1 January 2012 under Work Health Safety laws, with a transition period of five years.  The GHS classification and labeling of chemicals place a specific duty of care on persons in relation to the correct handling and storage of workplace hazardous chemicals.  The system also re-classifies many everyday products meaning that more chemicals are now classified as hazardous.

In the instance of the childcare centre, their hazardous chemical stock was limited to insect spray, cleaning products and disinfectant, i.e. off the shelf products that many people have at home under their kitchen sink, laundry or garden shed.  This does not mean more chemical hazards have been created, just chemicals being re-classified. A solution still needs to be addressed with regard to compliance with new GHS regulations.  If you remove these products off-site altogether then it suddenly becomes a very expensive alternative to operate the facility using external cleaning and pest management contractors. Updated training for staff to bring everyone up to date with compliance offers the best value solution.

I’m often recommending that clients provide training to their staff on dangerous goods regardless of the industry whether it be warehousing, swimming pools, laboratories, chemical manufacturers or mining.  Work health and safety regulations place a specific duty of care in relation to the correct handling and storage of workplace hazardous chemicals but it’s not fair to single out childcare centres. As an accredited dangerous goods consultant, I was able to help the centre in the form of a staff training package that was verified and endorsed by the WorkSafe team but hazardous substances are prevalent across every industry that stores and handles everyday chemicals.  This presents a growing conundrum for businesses affected by the adoption of GHS.

The 2nd HAZCHEM Conference will be held in WA at the Mercure Hotel on the 20th & 21st November which will consider some of these issues and how to better integrate GHS into Australia’s WHS laws.  I look forward to hearing people’s experiences so we can advocate safer workplaces whilst minimising disruption to businesses. For more information on the event please see below:

Title: Translating hazardous chemical classification
Date: November 14, 2019