Hazardous Chemical Sustances (HCS)

What is a HCS? 

Means any toxic, harmful, corrosive irritant or asphyxiant substance, or a mixture of such substances for which:

  • an occupational exposure limit (OEL) is prescribed; or 
  • an occupational exposure limit is not prescribed (RL), but which creates a hazard to health
  • This includes substances like chemicals, corrosives and pesticides that could have a harmful effect on the human body. Physical contact with the skin and eyes, inhalation and absorption of these chemicals may have a diverse affect on the human body. 

Workers exposed to chemicals at work may NOT be exposed to levels of chemicals exceeding the occupational exposure limit (OEL).

“OEL” or “occupational exposure limit” means a limit value set by the Minister for a stress factor in the workplace as revised from time to time by notice in the Government Gazette.

The Hazardous Chemical Substance Regulations of the OHS Act address this matter. 

Practical aspects to consider

Using chemicals or other hazardous substances at work can put people’s health at risk, causing diseases including asthma, dermatitis or cancer.

Practical aspects to consider include:

  • What do you do that involves hazardous substances?
  • How can these cause harm?
  • How can you reduce the risk of harm occurring?     
  • Is any person allergic to a substance?
  • First aid procedures.

Material safety data sheet (MSDS)

It is a document that contains information on the potential health effects of exposure to chemicals, or other potentially dangerous substances, and on safe working procedures when handling chemical products. 

It is an essential starting point for the development of a complete health and safety program. It contains hazard evaluations on the use, storage, handling and emergency procedures related to that material. 

The MSDS contains much more information about the material than the label and it is prepared by the supplier. 

It is intended to tell:

  • what the hazards of the product are;
  • how to use the product safely;
  • what to expect if the recommendations are not followed;
  • what to do if accidents occur;
  • how to recognize symptoms of overexposure;
  • and what to do if such incidents occur.
  • A copy of the relevant MSDS must be placed on file and ready for inspection.

Exposure of employees to substances hazardous to health should be prevented, or where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled. 

This is a fundamental requirement of the Regulations for Hazardous Chemical Substances. 

Material Safety Data Sheets will be available at ……..

Prevention and control of exposure

Exposure of employees to substances hazardous to health should be prevented, or where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled. This is a fundamental requirement of the Regulations for Hazardous Chemical Substances. 

Exposure can occur by inhalation, ingestion or absorption through the skin, but inhalation is usually the main route of entry into the body. Tables 1 and 2 of Annexure 1 of the HCSR list the occupational exposure limits which should be used in determining the adequacy of control of exposure by inhalation, as required by the HCS Regulations.

Duties of the exposed persons

Any person who may be exposed to a Hazardous Chemical Substance (HCS) must obey lawful orders or instruction supplied by the employer with regard to:

  • the prevention of HCS’s being released.
  • the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment.
  • the wearing of monitoring equipment to measure personal exposure.
  • reporting for health evaluations and biological testing.
  • cleaning up and disposal of HCS’s.
  • housekeeping, personal hygiene, environmental and health practices.