Pure chemicals and composite substances used in the workplace have the potential to cause sickness or other adverse biological effects in an individual. Short term or long term exposure to a hazardous substance can lead to both acute and chronic adverse effects. Effects such as allergies and acute illness can usually be identified and dealt with within minutes (or days) of exposure to a hazardous substance. Situations in which the effects of exposure are delayed or gradual, while no less important, are more difficult to address because there is often a lack of obvious causality.

Substances that cause cancer (carcinogens) commonly have a latency period of 20-30 years and other hazardous substances are poorly disposed-of through excretory pathways, leading to an accumulation of the substance within the body and gradual ill health. This is exemplified by the industrial uses of lead compounds, which have been proven to affect blood forming, nervous and kidney systems upon long term exposure. It is clear that minimisation of exposure to such compounds is highly desirable to avert long term health effects.

Section 4 of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations, 1995, pursuant to the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act (1986) is devoted to the use of hazardous substances in the workplace. The main focus of this section is on identification of hazardous substances, and the assessment and control of exposure to substances that have adverse health effects on persons at work in all workplaces throughout South Australia.

Flinders University is committed to ensuring that:

  • all areas of the University comply with legislation
  • staff and students working with hazardous substances have received all requisite training, are aware of the potential hazards involved and follow established procedures.

Flinders University will take all reasonable steps to minimise exposure of employees, students and visitors to all hazardous substances used on the premises. In addition, facilities and procedures will be established to reduce exposure to any hazardous substance to as low as reasonably achievable and in any case, below the Exposure Standards for Atmospheric Contaminants in the Occupational Environment (National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC)) as updated from time to time.

Also see the University’s Workplace Substances Management Procedures.

Legislative framework

The University recognises the requirements of the following legislation and codes of practice:

  1. Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations, 1995 (referred to as the Consolidated Regulations), in particular, Part 4: Hazardous Substances
  2. Approved Code of Practice for the Preparation of Material Safety Data Sheets
  3. Approved Code of Practice for the Control of Workplace Hazardous Substances
  4. Approved Code of Practice for the Labelling of Workplace Hazardous Substances