Hazardous chemicals are substances, mixtures and articles that pose a risk to health and safety if managed incorrectly.  

Thousands of hazardous chemicals are used in construction and are commonly found in paints, glues, solvents, fuels, gases or building materials, such as fibre cement sheeting or render.

Some hazardous chemicals are considered so harmful that you’re required to monitor the health of your workers, under health and safety regulation. Information about health monitoring is available on the WHSQ website.

Planning and risk assessment

Before allowing hazardous chemicals onto site, you need to implement the following:

Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

Safety Data Sheets provide information on the safe use, PPE requirements and emergency information related to a chemical.

Obtain Safety Data Sheets (SDS) from chemical manufacturer or suppliers of all materials and products you intend to use on your site. You need to make the SDS available to anyone who will be working with, or exposed to, the chemical on the worksite.

Hazardous Chemicals Register

You should ensure there is a Hazardous Chemicals Register in place that records all hazardous chemicals used by the business.

Emergency plans

Put emergency plans in place to deal with the risk of fire, explosion or spillage caused by a hazardous chemical. All workers should be trained in these procedures in case there is an emergency incident.

Control measures

Hierarchy of Controls

Use the following Hierarchy of Controls to determine what level of control you need to manage the risks associated with handling, generating or storing a chemical on the worksite.

  • Elimination – Does the chemical need to be used? Can a generator be refuelled offsite? Can mechanical fixings be used instead of glue?
  • Substitution – Substitute the chemical for a less hazardous chemical, for example use water-based paint instead of oil-based paint
  • Engineering – Use ventilation ducts and fans to remove odours and improve ventilation when using epoxy resins in confined rooms. Also use class M or H dust extractors when using dust-generating equipment on products containing silica
  • Administrative – UseSafety Data Sheets and train workers in the safe use, handling and storage of hazardous chemicals. Always correctly label containers used to store hazardous chemicals. Rotate a task among workers to limit exposure to a chemical
  • Personal protective equipment – Refer to relevantSafety Data Sheets for the required PPE, which may include wearing safety glasses, gloves, oversuits or respirators.

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