The updated Victorian Dangerous Goods Regulations: What you need to know
The Victorian Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations have been updated. Noel Arnold & Associates explains the changes.
Victoria last rewrote its Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations in 2000, forming the basis for the National Standard for the Storage and Handling of Workplace Dangerous Goods [NOHSC: 1015 (2001)].
In Victoria, regulations must be rewritten after 10 years, a sunset clause that ensures that in an area where technological progress is particularly important, the regulations are kept up to date and can reflect new technologies.
Come 2010, the regulations were due to expire. At this point, the Council of Australian Governments had agreed to develop the new National Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation, which would replace Dangerous Goods (DG) for Storage along with much else, so the regulations were allowed to be extended for a single year to 2011. Come 2011, WHS was not ready but had a clearly defined start date of 2012. Victoria took the unusual step of developing interim regulations, separately approved to see out the year until introduction of WHS.
Forward to May 2012, and the Victorian State Budget speech contained in its final paragraph the statement that Victoria would postpone indefinitely introduction of WHS as it offered “little benefit… to offset the $3.4 billion of estimated costs”. This left dangerous goods regulation in a quandary and it seems unlikely Victoria will extend the interim regulations beyond their 30 November 2012 expiry date.
Within a compressed timeframe stakeholders were asked to provide public comment (public comment closed on Thursday 11 October 2012) on new regulations. The stated approach was to align where practicable to the requirements of the WHS Regulations for Storage and Handling of Hazardous Chemicals, so that terminology aside, the benefits of harmonisation of regulation across Australia are not completely lost. These benefits would apply to Victorian businesses as well.
CHANGES IN THE REGULATIONS
Primary among the harmonisation requirements for chemicals is recognition of the new chemical classification system for labels and safety data sheets, the Globally Harmonised System (GHS). Over the next five years, not just Australia but most of the world will adopt and enact this system for classification and labelling, and with most of our chemicals originating overseas, this period will change the landscape of workplace labelling. For Victoria not to make this explicit may not be providing the best practice legislation.
The proposed approach in the dangerous goods regulations is to recognise that safety data sheets (SDS) written to GHS Classification are acceptable. This essentially affects only section 2 of the SDS, and those who use dangerous goods would be going down to the unchanged depths of section 14 in any case.
For labels, it is to recognise GHS labelling on inner packagings, which already comply with the Australian Dangerous Goods (ADG) Code (7th Edition), and aren’t visible in transport anyway.
Both changes will assist in clarifying compliance.
SUMMARY OF THE CHANGES
(Note that references to WHS below refer in general only to Part 7.1, Hazardous Chemicals)
Added to align with WHS
- Recognition of both third and fourth revisions of GHS. WHS is based on revision 3 explicitly, and has thus built in its own obsolescence.
- C1 retained as terminology for regulated combustible liquids, but redefined as flash point in the range 60 to 93ºC.
- Goods of flashpoint >93ºC may be declared C1. A separate provision added to the regulations, beyond the powers in the act to make declarations about DGs.
Removed to align with WHS
- Requirement to document risk assessment is removed. In practice, all but the simplest risk assessments should be documented in any case. The WHS Code of Practice for Hazardous Chemicals identifies that it may not be necessary.
- Site exceeding Manifest Quantities Notification period extended from two to five years.
- Requirement for retaining records of training received is removed. This requirement was a duplication of that in the OHS Regulations, so documentation of training should be retained.
- Placarding of retail outlets such as petrol stations exempted, as this is obvious to the emergency services.
Retained, differing from WHS
- Fire protection quantities: requirement to “have regard to” the written advice of the emergency services authority is retained.
CHANGES NOT RADICAL, BUT SUPPORT MATERIAL MISSING
The changes proposed are not revolutionary, radical or even particularly significant. What is missing at this stage is the support material which is going to help people make this transition in storage and handling. This is missing nationally and in those states that have changed to WHS as well.
What is a storeman or worker to do when first faced by organic peroxide featuring the flame pictogram, generally accompanied by the corrosive pictogram? The fear that they will be placed with the ‘other flammable liquids’ or ‘the other corrosives’, and thereby spark a serious incident has been the dangerous goods experts concerns about GHS all along.
It should be noted that Australia is out of step with the rest of the world, in crediting our workers with enough intelligence to be capable of recognition of an organic peroxide DG diamond, given suitable training.