Toxic substances include any chemicals, mixtures and articles that can pose a significant risk to health and safety if not managed and handled correctly. The substances may induce adverse health effects or present physical hazards or both.
Examples of toxic substances that can cause adverse health effects include:
- Toxic chemicals – when ingested or inhaled
- Chemicals, such as acids, that cause skin damage when unprotected skin is exposed
- Carcinogens such as asbestos that have a long term impact when exposed
Examples of chemicals that can immediately injure people or damage property include:
- Flammable liquids
- Compressed gases including those held at low temperatures
Businesses and research laboratories have specific duties under WHS regulations to manage the risks to health and safety associated with generating, handling, transporting and storing hazardous chemicals in the workplace. These include:
- Ensuring correct labelling of containers and pipework and lockable storerooms, using approved warning placards and displaying safety signs.
- Maintaining a register of toxic substances and notifying the appropriate regulator if manifest quantities of hazardous chemicals are stored.
- Identifying any risk of physical or chemical reaction of toxic substances and ensuring their safe containment and stability.
- Ensuring workplace exposure standards for toxic substances are not exceeded.
- Providing information, training, instruction, safe handling equipment (e.g. gloves) and supervision to workers, and where relevant, providing health monitoring.
- Providing a precautionary spill containment system for toxic substances
- Obtaining the current safety data sheet (SDS) from the manufacturer, importer or supplier of the toxic substance.
- Controlling ignition sources such as naked flames, and being aware of the accumulation of flammable and combustible substances.
- Providing fire protection equipment, firefighting equipment and emergency and safety equipment, such as alarms, neutralising substances, breathing apparatuses and hazmat suits.
Businesses must also manage risks associated with using, moving, storing or disposing of toxic substances at a workplace. These risks should be minimised and reviewed periodically, taking into consideration the following:
- The hazardous properties of the toxic substance.
- Any potentially hazardous reaction (chemical or physical) between the substance and another chemical or mixture.
- The nature of the work to be carried out with the hazardous chemical.
- Any structure, plant or system of work that is needed in the use, handling, generation or storage of the toxic substance.
Failure to manage the risks associated with hazardous chemicals is a breach of model WHS laws.
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Expertise in Action
Employers are required to take reasonable steps to manage health and safety risks associated with toxic substances and dangerous goods for workers.
If an incident involving toxic substances occurs within a workplace, a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) response team may be required to respond. A response team is comprised of hazardous material experts who specialise in detecting, containing and removing any release or potential release of hazardous substances in order to control or stabilise an incident.
Our experts in this area are specialists in the analysis, treatment, storage, transport, disposal of and containment of toxic substances. They can offer opinions on the appropriate response in the event of an incident and also provide opinions in legal cases involving dangerous goods.
For some fields of expertise we have some sample sections of de-identified reports. Please contact our office if you are interested in a sample.
The overall cost of expert opinion depends on the services required. Some of the key factors that affect the cost of advice include:
- The need for a view or inspection of a location
- The quantity of documentary material to be reviewed
- Whether there are reports of other experts to be reviewed and commented on in detail
- Whether there is a need for conferences with the expert either in person or by telephone/Skype