Managing risks of hazardous chemicals

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (“Act”) sets out some key duties and includes addressing risks of injury, illness or death caused by hazardous chemicals.

Many work places are home to hazardous chemicals.

In the past year I know of at least two incidents involving injuries caused by exposure to chemicals in a work place that resulted in the Magistrates Court issuing fines of $50,000 to the responsible entities for breach of the Act.

Depending on the category of the offence, fines can be as much as $1.5 million.

The first was a catering company that instructed a teenage employee to use cleaning product, but did not enforce the wearing of closed in shoes.

The worker’s foot came into contact with the undiluted product and caused severe burns requiring repair by skin graft.

The second took place at a school.

A teacher was undertaking science experiments in front of students for “science week”.

The experiments involved the use of sodium hydroxide.

Unfortunately, a bottle containing the chemical exploded and sprayed out over students in the front row.

Many students came into contact with it, but a grade 1 student received burns to her face, neck and abdomen.

For guidance on how to manage the risks created by hazardous chemicals you can access the “Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace Code of Practice 2013” online.

Until next week – Keep it Legal!

Katie Caldow

*The legal information in this article is of a general nature only and not intended to be legal advice to rely upon.

Walker PenderManaging risks of hazardous chemicals