Some chemicals may produce health effects that can happen straight away like poisoning and burns, or cause long-term health conditions, like nerve damage, lung damage or cancer. Others can present a physical hazard like fires, explosions and corrosion.
Agricultural and veterinary chemicals (AgVet) are regulated by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). This also includes specific labelling requirements to warn users of health and safety risks associated with the AgVet chemical. Some agricultural pesticides pose such serious risks to health and safety that they are banned. These pesticides must not be used in Australia.
Some hazardous chemicals used in agriculture may have a workplace exposure standard (WES). A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure that workers and others in the workplace are not exposed to levels of airborne contaminants above their WES. See the workplace exposure standards (WES) list.
As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) you have a duty to keep yourself, your workers and your workplace safe from risks associated with using hazardous chemicals at work.
You must eliminate or minimise risks so far as is reasonably practicable, and you must ensure that no one is exposed to a hazardous chemical in a way that exceeds the maximum exposure limit. You may need to conduct air monitoring to determine the level of concentration of these chemicals in the air.
Your PCBU has a duty to keep you and your workplace safe from risks associated with using hazardous chemicals at work.
Your PCBU must ensure that no one is exposed to a chemical in a way that exceeds the exposure standard, and may need to conduct air monitoring to determine the level of concentration of chemicals in the air. You also have a duty to take reasonable care of your safety and that of others in the workplace.
Further information about chemical hazards can be found in the Hazardous Chemical Information System. Hazardous chemicals will also have WHS labels, and more detailed information about the chemical’s hazards and how to handle them safely can be found in the safety data sheet (SDS), including any personal protective equipment that may be needed, and details on how to safely store them.
A current SDS for all hazardous chemicals you have at the workplace must be obtained and kept as part of your workplace’s hazardous chemical register. A hazardous chemical register is a record of all hazardous chemicals at the workplace and includes a copy of the current SDS for the hazardous chemical. You may need to have a more detailed record known as a manifest if you use or store hazardous chemicals above their manifest quantity.
Similarly, if you store hazardous chemicals in large quantities or above the placard quantity, you will need to display placards to warn workers and others at the workplace of the hazardous chemicals you have on-site.
For more information:
- Understanding safety data sheets – Fact sheet
- Model Code of Practice: Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals
- Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
- Hazardous chemicals
- Classifying chemicals
- Labelling hazardous chemicals
- Model Code of Practice: Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals
- Model Code of Practice: Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace
- Video – managing chemical hazards using the hierarchy of controls
- Video – farm safe, live safe