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OH&S Update - Are you GHS Ready?

Chemicals are an integral part of most, if not all, car care businesses. From foams and soaps to tyre and glass cleaners, chemicals are used throughout day to day operations.

Workplace hazardous chemicals are substances, mixtures and articles used in the workplace that can be classified according to their health, physical and chemical (physicochemical) hazards. Health hazards are hazards like skin irritants, carcinogens or respiratory sensitisers that have an adverse effect on a worker’s health as a result of direct contact with or exposure to the chemical, usually through inhalation, skin contact or ingestion. Physicochemical hazards generally result from the physical or chemical properties, like flammable, corrosive, oxidising or explosive substances.

Manufacturers, importers, suppliers and users of hazardous chemicals have duties to manage the risks associated with hazardous chemicals in the workplace. This includes ensuring the safe use, handling and storage of chemicals, as well as specific duties under the model Work Health and Safety Regulations. Further information can found in the model Code of Practice: Managing the risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

The Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) standards require employers to inform and train their workers about potential hazardous chemicals at the workplace. Thus, it is imperative for every car wash owner/operator to know these rules and regulations, not just to avoid OH&S fines and sanctions, but for the safety, health and knowledge of their employees & customers.

Recently OH&S standards have changed to the new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) which is targeted at giving workers an increased understanding. The new GHS standard contained two significant changes: requiring the use of new labelling elements and a standardised format for Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), formally known as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs).

The GHS is a system used to classify and communicate chemical hazards using internationally consistent terms and information on chemical labels and Safety Data Sheets..

The GHS provides criteria for the classification of physical hazards (e.g. flammable liquids), health hazards (e.g. carcinogens) and environmental hazards (e.g. aquatic toxicity).

Australia has adopted the 3rd revised edition of the GHS under the model work health and safety laws. A copy of this edition can be downloaded from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe website.

In Australia, the GHS is supported by:
the model Code of Practice: Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals.
the model Code of Practice: Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals

The GHS was created by the United Nations to create a single worldwide methodology for chemical classification, labelling and safety data sheets (SDS). The system ensures that users are provided with practical, reliable and easy to understand information on chemical hazards, and can take the appropriate preventive and protective measures for their health and safety.

The GHS is expected to provide significant trade benefits to industry as well as improved health and safety outcomes by introducing internationally consistent assessment criteria, labels and SDS for hazardous chemicals.

The GHS has updated the way in which information about the hazards of chemicals and any precautions necessary to ensure safe storage, handling and disposal, is conveyed to users of chemicals. The GHS uses pictograms, signal words, and hazard and precautionary statements to communicate this information.

Please note that the GHS does not change your general duties relating to the management of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

The GHS became mandatory on 1 January 2017.

© Prowash Australia
Author: Liz Reisman
Date Published: 15 March 2017