The Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety(1) stated that the ‘majority of premature deaths are from work-related diseases due to occupational cancer, from exposure to hazardous substances such as asbestos and arsenic, and diseases of the respiratory system and ischaemic heart disease’. They also recognised that the HSNO legislative framework was ‘confusing and difficult for organisations to apply’. These ideas were the key drivers to lift requirements governing hazardous substances from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and move them under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2016 (HSWA).
The HSWA (Hazardous Substances) Regulations came into force 1st December and form part of the second tranche (grouping) of regulations under HSWA. They will impact on the approximately 150,000 businesses which use, handle, manufacture and store hazardous substances.
To date, the level of knowledge about, and compliance with the 21 HSNO regulations has been very low. Integrating these requirements into the new regime alongside other sources of work health and safety risks will simplify the process for business, and should lead to higher levels of compliance.
So, although one of the aims is to make complying with requirements simpler for companies, this is still a large and complex document, as a printed document it is 570 pages.
Some of the key changes are:
Inventory - A thorough list of hazardous substances held at each site (including hazardous waste)
Safety Data Sheets – Must be readily available to workers
Training - All workers being exposed to hazardous substances require training and the regulations set a higher expectation than under the General Risk and Workplace Management (GRWM) Regulations, with a greater focus on competency
Duties apply to a wider group of PCBUs including designers, importers and suppliers
Instruction on which classifications of class 6 and 8 substances requires PPE
The regulations apply a risk management focus to the management of hazardous substances, calling on PCBUs to identify and understand the risks posed, and then apply the hierarchy of controls. Additionally, the removal of the Approved Handler requirements for some substances has led many employers to believe that training and competency requirements are less stringent, however the regulation’s requirements in this area are far more comprehensive.
These regulations are likely to have a significant impact on a wide range of organisations, and I believe many are still unaware of the implications.
Avid Plus will provide information and tools to assist PCBU’s understand and make changes to accommodate the regulations. Procedures and forms needed are also available from Avid Online. If you would like further information on the changes to hazardous substance management contact us.