As an employer, you have a general duty under the OHS Act to make your workplace safe, as well as the following duties in relation to hazardous substances:
You must eliminate any risks associated with hazardous substances in your workplace.
If it's not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, you must reduce the risk, as far as reasonably practicable, by:
- using a less hazardous substance or a safer form of the substance, or
- isolating employees from exposure, or
- using engineering controls.
You must review (and, where necessary, revise) your risk controls if things change and there is likely to be an increase in the risk to health, if medical reports show there is a problem or at the request of a health and safety representative.
You have a duty to consult employees and health and safety representatives when identifying hazards and deciding on control measures. For more information, see consultation.
Some hazardous substances are prohibited for specific purposes, such as the use of abrasives containing crystalline silica for abrasive blasting. If any of the hazardous substances you use are scheduled carcinogens, you must hold a licence to use them.
Obtain and provide information on hazardous substances
Employers are required to:
- keep a register of all hazardous substances supplied to your workplace
- obtain a current Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each hazardous substance
- keep the MSDS accessible to employees
- not alter the information on an MSDS
- ensure that containers in which hazardous substances are supplied are labelled
- identify containers of waste.
Identify hazardous substances in plant
You must ensure that hazardous substances contained in a piping system, process vessel or plant that forms part of a manufacturing process are identified to anyone who may be exposed to them. You can do this by using a colour-coded sign system which follows the Australian Standard AS 1345 for Identification of Contents of Pipes, Conduits and Ducts.
Conduct atmospheric monitoring and health surveillance
Employees must not be exposed to an atmospheric concentration of a hazardous substance that exceeds any relevant exposure standard. If there is uncertainty about whether the exposure standard could be exceeded, you must carry out atmospheric monitoring, provide the results of the monitoring to employees and keep a record of the results and give the results of the monitoring to the employees involved.
You must also provide health surveillance for employees exposed to certain hazardous substances and keep a record of the results.
If your worker has a work-related injury or illness, you have duties under the Victorian workers compensation legislation, one of which is to ensure their safe return to work. The employer's obligations include:
- appoint a return to work coordinator,
- develop and implement a return to work plan, and
- support and monitor your worker when they return to work.