Hazardous Substances (HS) and Dangerous Goods (DG) are very broad but critically important topics in EHS Management, and require very close attention by management and employees in landscaping and gardening (L&G) activities. The topic is too large to cover in this article, but it is vital that the suggested reading (below) is referenced when considering specific HS and DG as hazards in the SWMS.
L&G contractor EHS Management Systems must address the health, safety and environmental issues of any HS and DG management requirements involved in their operations, including a detailed Risk Assessment, Safety Data Sheets (SDS), Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS), Safe Operating Procedures (SOPs), Employee training and competency, and waste management to ensure that their operations do not place the local community or environment at risk of harm.
- Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act) 2004
- Dangerous Goods Act 1985 (DG Act)
- Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (OHS Regulations) 2017
- Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2012
Safework Australia-Model Codes of Practice:
- Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals – Code of Practice. Agricultural and veterinary (agvet) chemicals must meet the labelling requirements of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994.
- Managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace – Code of Practice
Hazardous substances may be operationally defined as “those that, following worker exposure, can have an adverse effect on health.”
If your work involves hazardous substances, there are specific duties and obligations you need to comply with under the Regulations. The degree of hazard depends on the concentration of the chemical. Common hazardous substances in the workplace include: acids, caustic substances, glues, heavy metals (including mercury, lead, cadmium), pesticides, weedicides, fertilisers, petroleum products, solvents. Exposure to these substances without appropriate PPE may cause conditions ranging from minor skin irritation to serious injury or death.
Dangerous goods are substances that are corrosive, flammable, combustible, explosive, oxidising or water-reactive, or have other hazardous properties. Dangerous goods can cause explosions or fires, serious injury, death and large-scale damage. There are nine classes of Dangerous Goods. Some examples of dangerous goods that may apply to L&G activities are: Gases (Class 2), Flammable Liquids (Class 3), Oxidising Substances and Organic Pesticides (Class 5), Toxic and Infections Substances (Class 6), Corrosive Materials (Class 8).
Biological hazards can cause serious health risks, through contact with animals, animal matter or animal products, potting mixes, soils, or through direct transmission from bites, or contact with toxic fungi, etc. This is a very broad, but important topic, which is worth following up and considering as a hazard in the development of the site-specific SWMS. Some examples of biological hazards related to L&G activities are:
- Mould and fungi – can cause a wide range of health problems, for example anaphylaxis, ringworm, tinea, ‘mushroom workers lung’, asthma.
- Stinging insects, bugs, spiders – skin irritations, poisoning.
- Animal and bird droppings – exposure to bacteria and viruses.
- Tetanus – a particularly dangerous biological hazard, potentially leading to death if not diagnosed and treated early. It is everywhere, in soil, dust and animal waste, or contracted from insect bites, animal bites, scratches, or a tiny crack in the skin. Ensure Tetanus vaccinations of workers are up to date to ensure protection.
- Hazardous plants – Some plants that landscape workers encounter are poisonous, can cause allergic reactions or asthma in some people, or can be hazardous in other ways. These plants can cause severe rashes and even life-threatening reactions, for example asthma or allergic reactions. Training of employees should include recognition of hazardous plants and first aid treatment.
Control of Hazards:
In the development of site-specific SWMS the HS and DG items proposed for the tasks need to be carefully considered, and reviewed with the aim to eliminate or mitigate the risks using the Hierarchy of Controls, with appropriate PPE being the last resort. There are many highly dangerous pesticides and weedicides which, these days, could be replaced by less dangerous products that can be just as effective.
Both the employers and the workers (employees and sub-contractors) are responsible for their own and others’ safety on and outside the worksite by following some basic rules:
- Maintain records and SDSs for the hazardous materials you use.
- Inform workers about the locations of SDS information, emergency spill equipment, and emergency numbers.
- Train workers on the safe use and storage of hazardous substances and dangerous materials.
- Provide safe storage facilities and workplace labels for hazardous substances and dangerous materials.
- Supply workers with the appropriate PPE for the job (specified in the SWMS), and remind them frequently about the PPE they are required to wear. For example, at Pre-Start Meetings, Tool Box meetings.
- Provide adequate supervision after training.
- Follow safe work procedures for handling and storing hazardous materials.
- Adhere to SWMS control requirements. For example, wear appropriate PPE.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
Employers who provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees are also legally required to ensure the PPE is fit-for-purpose, well maintained and used by workers.
PPE should be chosen for the specific application adhering to Australian safety standards, and workers trained in their correct use. For example:
- Gloves, selected for the job at hand. When choosing chemical gloves, factors such as the type of chemicals, their concentrations and the exposure time must be considered.
- Protective overalls, Tyvek suits, etc. when handling/spraying chemicals.
- Rubber steel-capped boots.
- Goggles, face shields. Choosing eye protection should include reference to the type of hazard, the impact rating of the PPE, the type of lenses, and whether spectacles, goggles or a face shield are appropriate for the task.
- Dust masks and respirators (for applications ranging from cutting treated pine to working with compost and chemicals).
To ensure the company’s site-specific hazards are adequately addressed in the EHS Management Plan documentation, it is recommended that site management consult a suitably experienced EHS Adviser.
EHS Matters, advertising in this publication, can provide a free quotation for any consulting support services required in developing an EHS Management System. Contact Arved Matt on 0407 771 782).