Chemical management

It is a legislative requirement to manage the risks associated with all chemicals stored and used in RMIT University schools and workplaces. The majority of these chemicals will be classified as Dangerous Goods and/or Hazardous Substances (DGHS), the handling and storage of which are controlled by specific legislation, regulations and codes. DGHS are materials that can cause serious harm to the health of humans and can cause property and environmental damage. Even if a chemical is not a dangerous good or hazardous substance, the risks associated with the storage and use of that chemical will still need to be effectively controlled.

Dangerous Goods

Dangerous goods are items or substances that may present an immediate safety hazard through exposure to their explosive, flammable, radioactive, corrosive or toxic properties.

They are easily recognisable by the diamond shaped sign displayed on the substance label. They are designated into nine classes according to their immediate physical or chemical effects.

Hazardous Substances

Hazardous substances are classified on the basis of their health effects, both short and long term. They can enter the human body in a number of ways including inhalation, ingestion and contact through the skin and mucus membranes such as the eyes. The level of subsequent risk depends upon both the substance itself and the nature of the work being done with it.

Please note that not all products used in the workplace would be classed as a hazardous substance. For further information on classification go to the Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS) web page. A comprehensive list of hazardous substances can be found in the List of Designated Hazardous Substances.

Examples of types of hazardous substances (depending on their concentration) include:

  • acids
  • caustic substances
  • disinfectants
  • agricultural type products
  • solvents and thinners

Note: Dangerous Goods can also be classified as Hazardous Substances.

For more information, please refer to the Chemical Management Procedure.

InfoSafe Chemical Management System

Infosafe can be accessed by RMIT staff and students at MSDS Online, and is a database designed to assist with the management of chemicals used in RMIT activities and to meet the strict requirement of the Dangerous Goods and Hazardous Substances regulations.

Infosafe provides:

  • Access to original supplier MSDSs
  • A customised inventory of Dangerous Goods and Hazardous Substances for all storage locations
  • Advice on segregation and placarding
  • A Workplace Risk Assessment module
  • Infosafe Label module

Where would these issues be relevant?

Locations and venues where DGHS may be found can include:

  • laboratories
  • workshops
  • art studios
  • cleaner’s storeroom and maintenance sheds/rooms
  • kitchen cupboards
  • chemical/gas storage areas.

What do you need to do?

Purchasing

All chemicals shall be assessed for risk prior to being purchased or obtained. Manufacturer’s or supplier’s Material Safety Data Sheets shall be obtained for all chemicals prior to assessment. Where possible, proposed new chemicals should be researched, assessed and trialed prior to purchase. The Responsible Manager or their nominated representative/s and the Health and Safety Representative for the area must carry out the assessment.

Chemical Register / InfoSafe

A register of all chemicals used/stored on site shall be generated by the Schools and Work Units.

The InfoSafe Electronic Chemical Management System contains a register of all chemicals used in each Faculty or Service unit as well as provide access to current manufacturer material safety data sheets, maintain a permanent record of risk assessments, generate substance labels, local hazardous substances registers and provide dangerous goods manifests for emergency services as required.

The Chemical Register must be updated when the following elements occur:

  • New chemicals are introduced into the workplace
  • Existing chemicals are no longer in use or being stored, must be deleted.
  • The details of any revised or updated Material Safety Data Sheet must be entered.

Chemical hazard identification and risk assessment

It is the duty of the Responsible Manager or their nominated representative to ensure that all hazards associated with chemicals that are used, and stored, within their area, and transported to and from the area, are identified and assessed for risk.

Reference should be made to the following where applicable:

  • Material Safety Data Sheets
  • Labels
  • Consultants’ reports
  • Information supplied from the supplier and/or manufacturer

The chemical risk assessment for Storage and Handling shall be undertaken using the Chemical Risk Assessment Form: Risk assessments should be carried out by someone who is trained in health and safety hazard and risk management.

Risk assessments can be carried out using the Infosafe system and utilising the Manufactures Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

The Chemical Risk Assessment shall include risk control options that follow the Hierarchy of Control. Where applicable, the risk controls that have been introduced shall be communicated to all staff, students, visitors and contractors who may be exposed to the chemicals.

Chemicals that have not met the requirements of the Risk Assessment must not be stored or used on site.