If your business carries any quantities of flammable liquids (and operates out of NSW) this blog is for you. We outline the key legislation and regulatory documents you need to comply with, and direct you to some essential documented resources.
‘Harmonised’ WHS Legislation
Let’s get started by helping you understand the legislative framework that governs safety at all NSW workplaces. Maybe you’ve heard the buzzword ‘harmonised’ and wondered what that actually means, you aren’t alone. In early 2012, WHS legislation right across Australia was harmonised — meaning each of the 7 states and 2 territories began adapting their WHS laws to a consistent model WHS Act and Regulation developed by Safe Work Australia.
So even though each of the states issues and administers their own work health and safety laws — by adopting harmonised legislation — WHS compliance and enforcement are effectively the same no matter where your business operates in Australia.
Example: Section 39 Provision of information, training and instruction, is exactly the same in the Model WHS Regulations as well as the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 which operates in NSW. The clauses are identical, and the penalties are the same.
Nationally harmonised WHS legislation means that safety standards are uniform, and enforcement is consistent in every state that adopted the Model WHS Legislation. This makes compliance and administration more efficient for workplaces as well as government.
Work health and safety in NSW
Work health and safety in the state of NSW is administered and enforced by SafeWork NSW. The nationally harmonised legislation we mentioned earlier was officially adopted statewide in January 2012 and is administered through the following state laws:
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011 - the mainframe of WHS legislation in NSW and sets the mandatory obligations of everyone who owns, works, or interacts with a workplace. Under the WHS Act you must ensure that the flammable liquids you carry at the workplace do not risk the health and safety of your workers, other people, and the surrounding environment.
- Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 - the WHS Regulation in NSW set out the licences, records and documents, warning placards, labels, chemical restrictions and other hazard controls that help you fulfil your obligations under the WHS Act. Two specific requirements of the Regulation that especially relate to flammable liquids are implementing risk controls (according to the Hierarchy of Controls) and addressing fire and explosion hazards.
Relevant Codes of Practice in NSW
WHS Codes of Practice are official guides to minimising specific risks or workplace hazards. The following Codes of Practices are approved under WHS legislation in NSW and may apply to your workplace if you use, handle or store Class 3 Flammable liquids:
REMEMBER: Codes of Practice are also harmonised to national standards.
- Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace - requirement to identify the hazards associated with each of the flammable liquids present at the workplace, then assess their potential to create a fire, explosion, or health hazard. This Code of Practice also outlines in detail your obligation to eliminate (or minimise) chemical hazards as far as possible.
- Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals - requirement to ensure packaged flammable liquids (as well as portable containers) have correct labels.
- First aid in the workplace - requirement to install safety showers and eyewash stations in areas where workers handle flammable liquids that are corrosive or otherwise hazardous to the skin and eyes.
- Confined spaces - requirement to ensure vapours from flammable liquids don’t create asphyxiation, fire, or explosion hazards.
- Spray painting and powder coating - requirement to manage the increased risk of fires and explosions because of the amount of solvent vapour in the air.
- Managing the work environment and facilities - requirement to ensure the physical aspects of the work environment are compatible with the flammable liquids you have onsite. For example: having good lighting so workers can read chemical labels; having sufficient ventilation so workers aren’t affected by fuel vapours or fumes; having somewhere for workers to store their personal items so they don’t inadvertently bring potential ignition sources (ie, mobile phones) into flammable liquids storage areas.
- Construction work - requirement to ensure flammable liquids are stored safely and correctly so they don’t create flammable or explosive atmospheres on construction sites.
It is important to remember that you must abide by an approved Code of Practice that applies to your industry or employment sector — unless you have another proven way of managing the flammable liquids their hazards.
Other compliance documents
In NSW there are other compliance documents that will dictate how your workplace uses, handles, and stores flammable liquids. These include:
- Australian Safety Standards - are guidance documents that provide information about specific chemicals, hazards, installations, machinery and industries. As a minimum you should be consulting AS1940:2017 –- The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids.
- Workplace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants - sets the limits for chemical concentrations in the breathing zones of workers.
- Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG Code) — details labelling, signage, segregation and transport requirements for Class 3 Flammable Liquids and other Dangerous Goods.
- Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) — issued by the chemical manufacturer and outlines the hazards, chemical properties, handling and storage information for the chemical.
IMPORTANT: Some of these documents are specified in the WHS legislation and compliance is mandatory. Eg, Workplace Exposure Standards, ADG Code, Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). Check the SafeWork NSW website for legislation, Codes of Practice and other guidance materials.
This blog was only an introduction to flammable liquids safety and compliance — maybe you need more information about meeting your obligations under the WHS Act and Regulation in NSW? Why not download our free eBook free eBook Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors to learn more about how a compliant flammable liquids safety cabinet can help you reduce your compliance risk. Download and read it today by clicking on the image below: