This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is intended to provide general information only and highlight important issues.  It is not intended as a complete and exhaustive guide to GHS implementation in Australia.  While every effort has been made by the author to make the information in this FAQ as accurate as possible, it may contain errors, omissions or information that was accurate at the time of publication but which has subsequently become outdated (by market place or industry changes or conditions, new laws or regulations, or other circumstances.)  Accord does not accept any liability or responsibility for any loss, injury or damage to persons or property which may arise as a result of the use of this FAQ or reliance of the information contained in this Guide.  If you do not agree with these terms, you should not use this FAQ.

These questions been compiled over time, from questions raised with the industry and by industry since the start of GHS implementation in Australia (since 2012).  The answers have been compiled with input from relevant stakeholders and experts in the area, and refer to the relevant regulation in the Model Work Health and Safety Regulations where possible. 

Scope 

Regulation 328 sets out the scope of application of GHS and details exemptions.  There are no exemptions dependent on pack size.  The exemptions relate to product types.
Cosmetics and toiletries are exempt from GHS labels in sub-regulation 335(6).  This exemption is not dependent on pack size.

However, if a cosmetic formulation is NOT in its final supply container e.g. cosmetic formulation in a bulk container waiting for packaging into smaller containers for distribution, it is still considered to be in its manufacturing stage.  The bulk container in the example requires a GHS label.

Classification

There is a plan to adopt the 6th edition of GHS after the full implementation of the 3rd edition of GHS i.e. after 1 January 2017.  There will be regulatory impact assessment and consultation prior to the introduction of the 6th edition of GHS.
If the evidence to support the product DG classification was based on previous system of hazardous substances classification, then this needs to be updated to reflect the new GHS classification.

There are multiple methods for GHS classification.  Animal tests/animal test alternatives for the product and mixture calculations are just two of the options available.  Other options include:

  • read across from similar products e.g. if a product containing 20% of a corrosive substance x is not corrosive based on animal test/animal test alternative, then other products containing substance x at or below 20% are also not classified as corrosive, provided that there are no other substances in the product that may contribute to the corrosion hazard, and
  • expert judgement based on similarity to other substances, formulation, mixture e.g. if a sodium salt of a surfactant is classified as not irritating at concentrations below 20% in a reputable classification database (e.g. HCIS) then a decision may be made that the potassium salt of the same surfactant is also not irritating at concentrations below 20%.

SDS

Lithium ion batteries are not hazardous chemicals and SDS are not required in those jurisdictions where the Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations have been implemented (including the section on hazardous chemicals).

In the jurisdictions where the old system of hazardous substances and dangerous goods have been maintained i.e. Victoria, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, SDS may be required for both dangerous goods and hazardous substances.

While the Victorian regulations allow the acceptance of the 3rd or 4th edition of GHS, Victoria has stated that an SDS will be required for storage and handling of substances that are dangerous goods but are not classified as hazardous chemicals (see sub-regulation 20(1)(b), Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2012 (Vic))

Sub-regulation 330(4) states that the manufacturer or the importer (not the retailer) must provide the current SDS to anyone that is likely to be affected by the hazardous chemical and asks for the SDS.  This includes consumers.

SDS do not have to be provided to 3rd party SDS writers that have not been engaged to write the SDS by the manufacturer, importer or the customer, as they are not likely to be affected by the hazardous chemical.

Where an SDS is available on a website, this is considered sufficient, unless the customer specifically requests a hard copy.

Labelling

For corrosives, severe eye irritants and flammable liquids, there are significant concerns that the end user with only basic training, and relying heavily on pictograms, may not be able to distinguish the difference between products that are:

  • hazardous chemicals but not dangerous goods e.g. flammable liquids under GHS but does not sustain combustion and therefore are not dangerous goods, or
  • corrosive to metals but not corrosive to skin and eyes, or
  • severe eye irritants but are not corrosive to skin and eyes and not corrosive to metal i.e. are not dangerous goods.

When providing training, it is recommended that risk assessment process be highlighted as an important step to risk management.  This includes reading and understanding the hazard statement(s) and not simply relying on pictograms and signal headings.

Dangerous goods mark and label are relevant for transport of dangerous goods i.e. on packages that are visible during transport.  GHS is used for workplace storage and handling scenarios i.e. product containers and packages that are visible at a workplace.

Where a container is both the workplace storage container and a package that is used for transport e.g. intermediate bulk containers, drums and pails, then both DG and GHS requirements apply.  The Labelling Workplace Hazardous Chemicals Code of Practice recommends that where an equivalent DG class label is used, the corresponding GHS pictogram be omitted from the label.

The Model Work Health and Safety regulations exempts therapeutic goods (within the meaning of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989) that are in a form intended for human consumption, for administration to or by a person or use by a person for therapeutic purposes, and is labelled in accordance with the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 or an order made under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (see sub-regulation 335(5)).

The definition of therapeutic goods in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 details the goods that are under the remit of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and excludes goods that are not.    Therefore, products that are under the remit of the TGA are exempt from GHS labelling.

There is no minimum size requirement other than that they must be legible.  The decision on whether a label is legible will depend on pragmatic consideration of the size of the package and the space available on the label.

There is a recommended minimum pictogram size in the Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals CoP, but it is not mandatory (refer to the table in section 4.2 of the CoP).

Yes, this is currently the case.  SWA is starting a discussion with the relevant policy people in the Department of Health to allow workplace labelling where the use is predominantly workplace.  Industry will be consulted once these discussions develop into options for consideration.
In Australia, GHS pictograms can have black borders (see section 2.4 of the Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Chemicals CoP, under sub-heading “Hazard pictograms”).

However, other countries may require GHS pictograms with red borders.  If you are exporting products, you must check the export country GHS implementation requirements.

Storage and Handling

This is a question under discussion at the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) Technical Working Group.  There is a need to review the wording of the current regulatory requirements relating to storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids, including Australian Standard 1940.  While AS 1940 is no longer referenced in the regulation, it is still regarded as a best practice document.

SWA and relevant regulators will consult with stakeholders on this issue, consider the impact on stakeholders including the need to update storage facilities, equipment, licencing, etc. before making a decision.

Until such time, status quo applies.

Compliance & Enforcement

Consideration of an alternative supplier is an option.  If this is not possible, then another option may be to remind the supplier of their obligation to provide GHS information by 1 January 2017 and to offer to provide assistance if required.  After 1 January 2017, the supplier will be non-compliant, and a relevant regulator may be able to offer further assistance.
The SafeWork NSW approach to compliance and enforcement is set out in the National Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

The first step to seeking compliance is to provide information, education and training for industry and to encourage compliance.  This can escalate to infringement notices, enforceable undertakings and court proceeding in cases of fraud, deliberate attempts to mislead, etc.

For the first six months of 2017, the focus will be on education.  In mid-2017, a targeted compliance audit programme is planned.

The WHS regulation will be the basis for all compliance determination.  However, the CoP may be used in court as a demonstration of best practice.
All inspectors are trained to understand the requirements of the WHS regulations.  Inspectors are also aware of the National Compliance and Enforcement policy.

October 2016