What are our reporting obligations to SafeWork NSW and/or the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in relation to hazardous materials and substances (e.g. lead and hydrocarbons) found at our workplace?
Chapter 7 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (NSW) (Regulations) sets out your general health and safety obligations for the use, handling and storage of hazardous chemicals, including lead. You will only be required to notify the regulator regarding hazardous chemicals in the workplace in limited instances (see below). The reporting obligations do not relate directly to the ‘removal’ of hazardous chemicals, but the handling for removal may trigger reporting obligations.
The Regulations require a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to notify the regulator in writing if it uses, stores or handles in the workplace a Schedule 11 hazardous substance in a quantity that exceeds the ‘manifest quantity’ set out in Schedule 11 (Reg 348). Schedule 11 is accessible at www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/regulation/2011/674/sch11.
There are otherwise requirements for you to maintain a register (Reg 346) or a manifest of specified chemicals (Reg 347).
The regulations do not require you to notify the regulator if you are removing a hazardous chemical.
A PCBU must notify the regulator in writing if the PCBU carries out lead processes at their workplace and there is a risk that the work is likely to cause the blood lead level of a worker carrying out the work to exceed:
a. for a female of reproductive capacity: 10μg/dL (0.48μmol/L); or
b. in any other case: 30μg/dL (1.45μmol/L) (Reg 403).
A PCBU has a general obligation to notify the regulator of any notifiable incidents, as that term is defined in the Work Health and Safety Act (NSW) (WHS Act). This section could foreseeably include an incident that involves a hazardous chemical.
Part 3 of the WHS Act deals with incident notification. Among other notification requirements, if there is a ‘dangerous incident’, a PCBU must notify the regulator immediately after becoming aware of it. A dangerous incident is defined as “an incident in relation to a workplace that exposes a worker or any other person to a serious risk to a person’s health or safety emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to”, among other things:
a. an uncontrolled escape, spillage or leakage of a substance, or;
b. an uncontrolled escape of gas or steam (s 37).
The EPA NSW website – www.epa.nsw.gov.au – has further information on your environmental reporting obligations.
Transporting Hazardous Goods
The Australian Dangerous Goods Code sets out the requirements for transporting dangerous goods, including hazardous chemicals, by road or rail. The Code is accessible at the National Transport Commission (NTC) website – www.ntc.gov.au.