7_Hazardous_Substances Health and Safety Information Bulletin 13: Hazardous Substances

What is a hazardous substance?

A hazardous substance is any substance that has one or more inherent hazardous property. This includes flammability, explosiveness, toxicity, and the ability to oxidise.

 These substances include:

  • Chemicals
  • Products containing chemicals
  • Fumes
  • Dust
  • Vapours
  • Mists
  • Gases and asphyxiating gases
  • Biological agents
  • Germs that cause diseases

Who is at risk?

  • Those exposed for longer periods of time to a substance considered ‘hazardous to health’ are generally more at risk than those exposed for short periods or to less hazardous substances
  • Certain occupations may expose workers to hazardous substances depending on their work activity. For example, cleaners are often exposed to hazardous substances in cleaning products like bleach and other solvents
  • Exposure to chemicals can lead to a variety of short and long-term health effects such as poisoning, skin rashes and disorders of the lung, kidney and liver

Reducing exposure to hazardous substances

  • Perform the task without using hazardous substances, if possible
  • Substitute hazardous substances with less hazardous alternatives (for example, use a detergent in place of a chlorinated solvent for cleaning)
  • Isolate hazardous substances in separate storage areas
  • Thoroughly train employees in handling and safety procedures
  • Provide personal protection equipment e.g., gloves
  • Regularly consult with employees to maintain and improve existing safety and handling practices

Labels and safety data sheets for hazardous substances

Manufacturers and importers of hazardous substances are required by law to provide warning labels and Safety Data Sheets with their products.

Employers must ensure that the Safety Data Sheets for each hazardous substance used in the workplace is available to employees and that a central register of hazardous substances is established.

The Safety Data Sheet lists important information on handling the product safely, including:

  • Potential health effects
  • Precautions for use
  • Safe storage suggestions
  • Emergency first aid instructions
  • Contact numbers for further information