Determination process for major hazard facilities

Information for operators of sites that store dangerous goods to understand how a major hazard facility is determined.


Definition of major hazard facility

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations), Part 5.2 - Major Hazard Facilities, provide the framework for determining a major hazard facility (MHF).

A MHF is either:

  1. a site at which Schedule 14 materials are present, or likely to be present, in a quantity exceeding the threshold quantities outlined in Schedule 14 of the OHS Regulations, or
  2. a site determined by WorkSafe to be a major hazard facility, based on a number of factors

Notifying WorkSafe

To ensure all MHFs are properly identified, you must notify WorkSafe if you operate a dangerous goods facility where certain hazardous materials (most commonly dangerous goods) are present or likely to be present in excess of 10% of the major hazard threshold quantities. These quantities are set out in Schedule 14 of the OHS Regulations.

This process allows WorkSafe to get a complete picture of large scale dangerous goods facilities operating in the state and assess which facilities meet the criteria of being a MHF.


Understand the MHF notification process

The information contained in a notification submitted under regulation 360 will help inform WorkSafe when deciding if a facility is to be determined to be a MHF.

Alternatively, regulation 364 of the OHS Regulations allows WorkSafe to, on its own initiative; determine that a facility is a MHF at which Schedule 14 materials are present, or likely to be present, in a quantity exceeding 10% of their threshold quantity even without a notification under regulation 360. WorkSafe may become aware that a facility meets this criterion through:

  • sources of information such as notifications submitted in accordance with the Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2012
  • applications for planning permits that are referred to WorkSafe for comment
  • reports of an incident at a facility involving Schedule 14 materials
  • information WorkSafe receives from independent parties

WorkSafe's determination process

Where a facility falls below the automatic threshold for being a MHF but above 10% threshold, WorkSafe may determine this facility to be a MHF, requiring it to obtain a MHF licence and comply with Part 5.2 of the OHS Regulations to operate.

To determine whether a site is a MHF, WorkSafe will conduct a formal inquiry in line with the requirements of regulation 362.

In doing so, WorkSafe must:

  • give written notice to the operator of its intention to conduct an inquiry as well as the reasons for conducting the inquiry
  • invite the operator to make submissions in relation to the inquiry within 14 days of the date of the notice

A WorkSafe inquiry may include:

  • an assessment of the notification information provided by the operator of a facility under regulation 360 of the OHS Regulations
  • a review of the facility’s risk profile
  • an inspector attending the facility to inspect, examine and make enquiries in relation to the Schedule 14 materials

WorkSafe may also seek submissions from other parties, such as the site’s health and safety representatives (HSRs), emergency services, municipal councils and other relevant government agencies.

WorkSafe will consider these submissions and all relevant information before making a determination, and any adverse information will be put to the operator to allow for comment, clarification or correction.

Matters WorkSafe takes into consideration

WorkSafe may determine that a facility is a MHF if there is a potential for a major incident to occur at the facility, having regard to all or any of the following matters:

  • The quantity or combination of Schedule 14 materials present, or likely to be present, at the facility. This may include whether any inherently unstable or incompatible materials are present in significant quantities.
  • The nature of the activities within the facility involving those materials or increasing the likelihood of serious incidents at the facility. For example:
    • hazardous work processes involving unstable chemical reactions, materials stored in large or closely grouped tanks, and the potential for such materials to generate toxic by-products
    • incident history at the facility, a record of regulatory non-compliance or history of control measure failure under test conditions
  • Land use and activities in the area surrounding the facility including:
    • Proximity of the Schedule 14 materials to populated areas: If the site's occupied buildings, employees in other neighbouring industries are close to the areas where Schedule 14 materials are present, the potential outcome of a major incident may be more severe.
    • Proximity to residential areas versus industrial areas: The possible consequences of an incident in a facility could be more severe if it is close to residential areas, compared with an industrial area. It is possible that sleeping residents would be less able to respond and/or escape.
    • Proximity to 'sensitive land uses': A more extreme example of the above factor is if the facility is close to institutions such as hospitals, aged care or child care facilities, or other places where prompt and safe evacuation may be difficult.
    • Proximity to other hazardous facilities: If the facility is located close to any MHFs or to other facilities where significant quantities of hazardous materials are present, or to major infrastructure projects, there is potential for escalation to a major incident.
  • A final factor that WorkSafe may take into consideration before determining a facility is the relative risk compared to other facilities that have been determined to be MHFs.

Informing operators of the outcome

Once the inquiry is completed, WorkSafe must send the operator a written notice with:

  • the determination
  • the reasons for the determination, and
  • the date on which the determination takes effect

Note: The OHS Regulations do not specify a time frame in which the inquiry must be completed.

Facility is determined to be a MHF

A facility which is determined by WorkSafe to be a MHF is taken to be registered as such under Part 6.2 - Registration of the OHS Regulations, from the date on which the determination takes effect.

Once registered, the operator must comply with the OHS Regulations Part 5.2- Major Hazard Facilities, so far as is reasonably practicable in addition to Victoria’s other health and safety laws.

A key obligation is the need to submit a Safety Case outline within 90 days of registration. To understand what you need to do, refer to our Prepare a safety case outline webpage.

Facility is not determined not to be a MHF

The facility does not need to be licenced as a MHF to operate. WorkSafe will inform the facility operator of the outcome of the determination inquiry. Victoria’s Occupational Health and Safety laws and Dangerous Goods Laws will continue to apply.

Determination inquiry – example case study

ABC Chemicals Pty Ltd manufactures explosives at a facility in regional Victoria. The site stores and handles a variety of dangerous goods including Division 1.1 and 1.3 explosives, Division 4.3 flammable solids and Division 5.1 oxidisers. ABC Chemicals calculates its aggregate threshold quantity to be 0.71 based on the materials present at the facility and submits a notification to WorkSafe in line its duties under regulation 360.

After reviewing the information received from ABC Chemicals in the notification, WorkSafe decides that a more detailed review is warranted even though the site is below 100% aggregated threshold quantity for Schedule 14 materials. WorkSafe initiates a formal determination inquiry. The inquiry follows the process detailed in R362 and gathers relevant information from various stakeholders, including a submission from ABC Chemicals.

Key considerations in WorkSafe's inquiry for this case study include:

  • existing regulatory controls under the Dangerous Goods (Explosives) Regulations 2011
  • the facility handles particularly sensitive and energetic explosives.
  • the type of operations within the facility that involve those materials (including mixing, drying and pressing operations, or static storage only)

The surrounding Land Use initially appears to be suitable. However, through the inquiry process WorkSafe also becomes aware that nearby state critical infrastructure could be impacted by a major incident at the facility.

After consideration of the information in all submissions as well as all relevant matters, WorkSafe determines the facility to be a MHF. This decision was reached due to the nature of materials and site activities, as well as the potential for very serious consequences from major incident at the facility. Once determined, WorkSafe notifies ABC Chemicals of its decision and registers the facility as a MHF.