MSDS FAQ and Legal Requirements
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  • What is a (Material) Safety Data Sheet?
  • What are the Globally Harmonised System and the Nationally Harmonised Workplace Health and Safety Legislations?
  • How do safety data sheets prepared in accordance to the GHS differ from those prepared before the GHS was implemented?
  • Who is required to classify a chemical as according to the GHS?
  • Can Material Safety Data Sheets not conforming to the GHS be used for my chemical management procedures?
  • Do the GHS and Nationally Harmonised WHS Legislations affect my manifests and placards?
  • In the case of agricultural and veterinary products why is it necessary to have Safety Data Sheets as well as product labels?
  • Who should have SDS?
  • How can an SDS for a particular substance be obtained?
  • What are an employer's* duties in relation to SDS?
  • Is an online SDS considered to be sufficiently accessible?
  • Do SDS show information for non-active constituents in the formulation?
  • Can I get generic SDS for the products I store?
  • Does an SDS expire?
  • What is the format of an SDS?
  • How do I know if my chemicals are hazardous substances or dangerous goods?
  • What do I have to do if I keep and use agricultural or veterinary chemicals which are hazardous substances?
  • More Information

Legal requirements relating to chemicals aim to protect people, property and the environment both on and off the premises and can be summarised as follows:

Federal Laws, Codes and Standards
  • Duty of care under common law which means that activities must be carried out in a safe manner so as not to cause harm or injury to the user, other people, animals or the environment. A breach of a duty of care may amount to negligence.
  • Transport of Dangerous Goods: The Model Subordinate Law for the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous by Road and Rail (ADG Code) covers the classification, marking and transport of dangerous goods and is picked up by State and Territory Transport of Dangerous Goods legislation.
  • Safe Work Australia standards and codes of practiceNational standards and codes of practice for the safe storage and handling of hazardous substances and dangerous goods are used as model legislation by the States and Territories and are useful guidance material. The National Code of Practice for the preparation of SDS provides guidance for suppliers of hazardous substances.
  • Australian Standards may be picked up or referenced in legislation to mandate or recommend prescribed requirements to meet legislated outcomes. Examples include:

    • AS2507: The Storage and Handling of Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals
    • AS1940: The Storage and Handling of Flammable and Combustible Liquids
    • AS4452: The Storage and Handling of Toxic Substances.
State and Territory Laws and Codes
  • Control of use legislation exists at the State/Territory level, for example the Pesticide Act 1999 in NSW, the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992 in Victoria and the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 2002 in South Australia. This legislation mandates the use of pesticides, which are registered and then only according to the label. Depending on the state/territory there may be requirements for chemical users to be trained, to notify neighbours and to maintain records. In Victoria some agricultural chemicals are classified as ‘restricted use’ and require an agricultural chemical use permit (ACUP).
  • Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) legislation: all Australian jurisdictions have committed to adopting the new model work health and safety legislation. The work health and safety laws in each State and Territory contain the same basic requirements although they may vary in detail. These requirements include:
    • obtaining SDS for hazardous substances,
    • maintaining a product register of stored chemicals
    • identifying hazards and assessing risks,
    • having controls in place to eliminate, or if not possible, to minimise or manage risks,
    • periodically reviewing hazards and risks.

    WHS legislation also has requirements for matters such as employer/employee consultation, first aid and amenities.
  • Environmental legislation which aims to prevent pollution of the soil, water and air. In all States and Territories laws cover environmental harm or pollution whereby materially or significantly harmful pollution may result in prosecution. There are variations in the extent to which waste is regulated. In Victoria there is clear prohibition of the disposal of waste on premises. The classification of agricultural and veterinary chemicals as waste in New South Wales (hazardous waste), Queensland (regulated waste) and South Australia (listed waste) mandates the removal of obsolete chemicals in an approved manner.
  • Health legislation which regulates the supply and storage of schedule poisons. Signal headings on the label are determined by the Poisons Schedule and have specific requirements. For example Schedule 7 poisons, (signal heading DANGEROUS POISON) must be kept away from public access and records need to be kept by the reseller on the person to whom the S7 has been sold. Schedule 6 poisons (signal heading POISON, on the label), have prescribed storage requirements to be kept out of reach of children, typically 1.2m above floor level.
  • Transport of dangerous goods legislation applies to the transport of dangerous goods and picks up the requirements of the ADG Code. There are exemptions which may apply to the transport of dangerous goods from the reseller to the premises.

Good OH&S is Good Management

A key feature of a cost-effective operation is to have comprehensive and actively working OH&S systems in place. Costly incidents are avoided by having such things as employer/employee consultation, incident reporting processes and OH&S risk management processes.

There are penalties for breaches of OH&S Legislation

Users who do not comply with OH&S and WHS (Work Health and Safety) legislation may be served warning notices and in the case of subsequent offences may be penalised. The penalties for breaching these legislation can include monetary fines and imprisonment for individuals in cases where a serious breach has been determined.

Use your Chemical Caddy subscription to:
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  • Identify your chemical hazard classification criteria
    • Identify, list and quantify your Hazardous Substances, Dangerous Goods, Minor Storage and Schedule Poisons so that you can manage their respective risks and control processes.
  • Support your workplace information and training obligations
    • Supply of information, induction and ongoing training is mandatory under Work Health and Safety legislation if you are an employer. Safety Data Sheets (SDS) should be used as an integral component of any workplace training system. Chemical Caddy contains a large number of SDS for a wide range of products.
  • Work out your hazardous substances obligations
    • Many chemicals are classified as hazardous substances, in which case people who are exposed to them through use, storage or handling have specific legislated duties, both as employers and employees. Employers must ensure that an SDS for each hazardous substance in the workplace is available to their employees, that the SDS is up to date* and that it is readily accessible to emergency personnel.

      *Note – manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals have an obligation to ensure that SDS are reviewed, revised and kept up to date. This should be done at intervals that do not exceed five years.
  • Identify and quantify hazardous products – storage and handling
    • Regulations for storing and handling of hazardous chemicals as according to the new WHS (Work Health and Safety) Regulations depend both on the quantities involved and whether or not a single class or mixed classes of hazardous chemicals are kept.
  • Determine if your hazardous products exceed 'Minor Storage' quantities?
    • If your storage exceeds 'Minor Storage' quantities it will have significant implications to the construction requirements for your storage area.
  • Identify and quantify Dangerous Goods – transport
    • There are exemptions for transporting small quantities of dangerous goods. Use Chemical Caddy to ensure your purchases stay within these limits to avoid the need for licensing and placarding and possible increased vehicle insurance. Alternatively use Chemical Caddy to create placards for the transport of dangerous goods.
  • Use Schedule Poisons headings and quantities to enhance your hazard identification and risk assessment process
    • Signal headings on the label have specific requirements. For example Schedule 6 poisons (signal heading POISON, on the label), have prescribed storage requirements to be kept out of reach of children, typically 1.2m above floor level.