Chemical Safety Management FAQs

Below is a list of frequently asked questions that relate to chemical safety management.

Please scroll down the list to locate the FAQ you need.

Chemical safety management - air and health monitoring

The purpose of these FAQs is to guide workers and supervisors in the requirements for monitoring, where it is required, to ensure no worker at the workplace is exposed to a substance or mixture in an airborne concentration that exceeds the Workplace exposure standard.

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  • When do I need to conduct air monitoring?

    Air monitoring should be conducted:

    • If there is reasonable grounds to question that the level of exposure will exceed the exposure standards;
    • If the level or concentration of contaminants is to be determined;
    • To check the effectiveness of control measures, such as ventilation/extraction; or
    • To determine if maintenance or further controls are necessary.
  • What are exposure standards that are applicable for air and health monitoring?

    These are published concentrations for hazardous chemicals determined by Safe Work Australia which the workplace must ensure are not exceeded (SafeWork SA/Australia’s publication Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants. Workplace exposure standards for airborne contaminants.  (These are also available within the Safework Australia Hazardous Chemicals Information System database.

  • What is health monitoring and when is it required to be conducted?

    Health monitoring is testing the person’s health status, as they are either potentially or actually exposed to certain substances.

    Health monitoring must be undertaken if the worker is carrying out ongoing work which may expose the worker to hazardous chemicals and there is significant risk to the worker’s health from exposure to the hazardous chemicals listed in Schedule 14 table 14.1, column 2 and Schedule 10 table 10.1-10.3 (WHS Regulations 2012 (SA).

    Health monitoring must also be undertaken if a risk assessment identifies that any worker could be exposed to any hazardous chemical with significant risk to the worker’s health, and

    • There are valid ways of detecting the effects on worker’s health; or
    • There is a valid way of determining biological effects; and
    • If the exposure standard has been exceeded.

    If health monitoring is required, the worker must be informed before being engaged to undertake the work and before commencing the activity.

  • Which chemicals potentially require health monitoring because they may cause risk to health?

    • Acrylonitrile
    • Inorganic arsenic
    • Benzene
    • Cadmium
    • Inorganic chromium
    • Creosote
    • Crystalline silica
    • Isocyanates
    • Inorganic mercury
    • 4,4’ Methylene bis (2-chloroaniline) (MOCA)
    • Organophosphate pesticides
    • Pentachlorophenol (PCP)
    • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH)
    • Thallium
    • Vinyl chloride
    • Lead
    • GHS Toxicity category 1A and 1B (Refer to the Safety Data Sheet)
    • GHS Carcinogens Category 1A, 1B and Category 2 (Refer to the Safety Data Sheet)
    • Other hazardous chemicals e.g. Antimony, Beryllium, Carbon disulphide, Cobalt, Cyclophosphamide, Ethyl benzene, Nickel, Styrene, Toluene and Xylene.
  • What do I do if I am working with any of the substance listed in "Which chemicals potentially require health monitoring because they may cause risk to health?"

    Conduct a risk assessment to determine if there is a significant risk to your health.

    The level of risk to workers from exposure to hazardous chemicals depends on the hazards as well as the frequency, duration and amount of exposure (the dose).

    To determine the level of risk, it is necessary to draw together the information gathered about the hazardous chemical used and the way it is used in the workplace.

    This will involve considering:

    1. The nature and severity of the hazard for each hazardous chemical.  This information should be available from the label and the safety data sheet (SDS) in most cases.
    2. The degree of exposure of workers, taking account of:
      • actual processes and practices in the workplace where the chemicals are used.
      • the quantities of chemicals being handled.
      • work practices and procedures and the way individual workers carry out their daily tasks.
      • whether existing control measures adequately control exposure.

    The outcome from this assessment is either a significant risk to health (high or very high) or not a significant risk to health (low or medium).  If there is a significant risk this means that workers are likely to be exposed at a level that could adversely affect their health and health monitoring is required.

    1. If there is not a significant risk to health, then you will not be required to conduct health surveillance.
    2. If there is a significant risk to health the follow the HSW Handbook Chapter Hazard Management for appropriate approvals and contact the HSW team to assist in implementing a health monitoring system in accordance with the requirements of WHS Regulations 2012 (SA).
  • Who is required to pay for air and/or health monitoring?

    It is the responsibility of the School to coordinate and pay for air or health monitoring (refer to section 370, 371, 373 and 374 WHS Regulations 2012 (SA) for specific requirements), however where the monitoring relates to a specific research project the School can require the research project to bear the cost.

    Contact the HSW Team for specifics on who can conduct air or health monitoring.

  • What does the School need to do with the health monitoring report?

    1. Supply a copy to the worker as soon as practicable.
    2. Contact the HSW team if illness or injury is indicated or corrective actions are required. The HSW team will need to report to SafeWork SA if test results indicate contraction of an injury or illness from activities involving hazardous chemicals.
    3. Implement any remedial action recommended by the health monitoring report to prevent further and future illness/injury to workers.
    4. File the report.  The University is required to keep a confidential record.  The School is responsible for obtaining and storing these records.  The most appropriate place to store these records is in the University’s record management system/office.  Contact records management if you require assistance.
    5. Maintain confidentiality.
  • Where to I obtain more information about air and health monitoring?

    If you require further information, please contact a member of the HSW Team

Chemical safety management - cryogenic substances

The purpose of these FAQs is to guide workers and supervisors in general precautions and emergency responses for cryogenic substances. This information should be read in conjunction with the HSW Handbook Chapter Chemical Safety Management.

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  • Why do cryogenic substances warrant special care?

    A cryogenic substance is extremely cold (usually has a boiling point below –90°C).  Working with cryogenic substances exposes workers to a number of potential hazards including cold-contact burns, frostbite, suffocation, lung disorders and general body cooling.  These liquids can produce large volumes of gas when they vaporise and may create oxygen-deficient conditions.  The vapours themselves may also cause cold-contact burns.

  • What level of information, instruction and training is required for cryogenic substances?

    All workers who are directly involved with cryogenic substances must be fully informed by their supervisor/person in control of the area, of the associated hazards and control measures to be followed. The level of information/instruction is to be in accordance with the Provision of HSW information, instruction and training HSW Handbook chapter (i.e. level 2 instruction). The individual records are to be kept on file (hard or electronic copy).

  • Is there anything I need to consider before handling and transporting cryogenic substances?

    • Ensure appropriate control measures are put in place by the School/Area including emergency/contingency arrangements.
    • The Supervisor/Person in control of the area is to ensure that all workers who handle cryogenics are provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment.
    • Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) including insulated gloves, eye protection (face shield) and closed-in shoes during transfer of cryogenic substances. Lab coats that provide total cover are to be worn. Avoid clothing that can trap spilled liquid against the skin. Do not handle dry ice with bare hands. NEVER place gloved hands into liquid nitrogen.
    • Only use containers and trolleys that have been specifically designed for transportation.
    • Minimise boiling and splashing of cryogenic substances during transfer to containers (use Dewar flasks and liquid withdrawal devices).
    • DO NOT travel in lifts when transporting cryogenic substances (even when stored in a Dewar flask).
    • Do not drop the container.
    • Liquid nitrogen and dry ice must not be transported by road in an enclosed vehicle, use a utility or outside cab.
    • NEVER place cryogenic substances in a sealed or sealable container.
    • Biological specimens packed in cryogenic substance, to be transported by road, are required to be packed in accordance with the Australian Code for transport of Dangerous Goods by road or rail, which includes venting holes and cryogenically suitable containers.
    • If chemicals are being transported by post, refer to Australia Post Guidelines
    • If biological samples packed in a cryogenic substance are to be transported by air refer to CASA guidelines
    • Mixing liquid oxygen with flammable material greatly increases the flammability risk of the material. Mixing liquid oxygen and grease will result in an explosion or fire.
    • For handling of other types of cryogenic substances refer to the following: Ammonia (refer to Australian Standard 2022); and Chlorine (Australian Standard 2927); For other gases refer to the manufacturer’s instruction for handling
  • How should I store cryogenic substances?

    • Internal storage is only to be considered after exhaustive investigation has shown that there is no suitable outdoor location. If this is the case, the vessel shall be placed on a level floor as far away from normal work locations as is practicable. The area where cryogenic liquids are stored must be ventilated to prevent the accumulation of gas or vapour.
    • Cryogenic substances must not be stored in an unventilated or small room (e.g. cold room) because of the risk of oxygen depletion and asphyxiation. Oxygen monitoring and other controls may be required in all other rooms. Contact the HSW team for advice.
    • Only store in a suitable container designed to hold cryogenic substances, i.e. use high quality Dewar flasks, with protective covers- not standard “Thermos” flasks. NEVER use a sealed or sealable container.
    • Pressure relief valves are required on containers since large volumes of gas formed from these liquids may cause explosions if not vented correctly. Regular inspection of these valves is required in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
    • Do not store dry ice or liquid nitrogen in screw-top containers (pressure will build and may cause an explosion due to the lack of venting).
    • Using or storing large quantities in basement laboratories and basement storage areas is not advisable.

    For specific requirements for indoor and outdoor installations (including ventilation) refer to AS 1894 “The storage and handling of non-flammable cryogenic and refrigerated liquids.”

  • Identification of cryogenic and refrigerated liquids and equipment

    Storage vessels and equipment used for cryogenic and refrigerated liquids must be clearly marked to show the liquid for which the vessel or equipment is designed and used. The marking is to be in accordance with AS 1319 “Safety signs for the occupational environment” and the Worksafe Australia Guidance note for placarding stores for dangerous goods and specified hazardous substances.

  • What should you do in the event of an emergency with cryogenic substances?

    First Aid

    • A suitable first aid kit and instructions e.g. Safety Data Sheet (SDS) must be provided/accessible.
    • All staff, who handle cryogenic substances, are to be provided with information in the appropriate first aid procedures as part of their Level 2 instruction (refer to the HSW Handbook Chapter Provision of HSW Information Instruction and Training).
    • In the event of a spill onto the body, quickly remove any clothing that has come into contact with cryogenic liquids, but take care not to remove clothing which is frozen to flesh.
    • Do not rub the skin; in the event of skin contact, gently flush the area with large quantities of room temperature tap water (do not apply hot water or any other form of direct heat).
    • It is important that qualified medical attention be sought as quickly as possible.
    • Refer to AS 1894 The storage and handling of non-flammable cryogenic and refrigerated liquids (1997) for a complete medical treatment guide for cryogenic liquids.

    Spills or leaks

    If a spill with a cryogenic liquid cannot be contained then the area should be evacuated immediately and the Emergency Services contacted. Advise Security (ext 35444), your Warden and follow their instruction/Emergency Procedures for evacuation.

    The potential hazards associated with some cryogenics are:

    • Extreme Cold: Cryogenic liquids and their associated cold vapours and gases can produce effects on the skin similar to a thermal burn. Brief exposures can damage delicate tissues, such as the eyes. Prolonged exposure of the skin can cause a cold burn and frostbite.
    • Asphyxiation: When cryogenic liquids form a gas, the gas is very cold and usually heavier than air; even if the gas is non-toxic, it displaces air. Oxygen deficiency (i.e. asphyxiation) can cause death and is a serious hazard in confined spaces.
    • Toxicity: Each gas can cause specific health effects. See SDSs for information about the toxic hazards of a particular cryogen.
    • Adhesion: Plastic, carbon steel, and rubber can become brittle and break if using them with a cryogenic material.
    • Physical Hazard: Without adequate venting or pressure-relief devices, pressure can build up and cause serious physical hazards including an explosion.
    • Flammability: Flammable gases such as hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide, and liquefied natural gas can burn or explode so therefor should be kept away from possible ignition sources.
  • Where do I obtain further information on cryogenics?

    Contact your local HSW team.

Chemical safety management - cyanide

The purpose of these FAQs is to guide workers and supervisors in general precautions, storage and emergency responses for cyanides. The information should be read in conjunction with the Chemical Safety Management chapter of the HSW Handbook.

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  • Are there any reference materials I should read before working with cyanides?

    Please refer to the Guide for preventing and responding to cyanide poisoning in the workplace 2013. This guide includes information on the hazards of cyanides, routes of exposure, workplace exposure standards, biological monitoring for cyanides, controlling the risks, storage, disposal, responding in an emergency, first aid and cyanide emergency kit contents.

  • Why do cyanides warrant special care?

    • Hydrogen cyanide gas and cyanide salts are among the most rapidly acting of all known poisons. Even small concentrations are extremely hazardous. Cyanide salts are odourless when dry and when damp they may have a slight odour of bitter almonds. A person's sense of smell must not be relied on as a warning signal to detect it’s presence as the sense of smell easily fatigues and not everyone can smell it.
    • Hydrogen cyanide gas is highly flammable and in liquid form is both highly volatile and flammable.
    • Exposure of cyanides to strong oxidisers such as nitrates and chlorates may cause fires and explosions.

    Onset of symptoms after exposure is very rapid (within a few minutes). Symptoms and signs of mild cyanide poisoning include headaches, giddiness, nausea and vomiting (if the cyanide has been ingested). The person has difficulty breathing, a sense of suffocation and a feeling of general weakness with heaviness of arms and legs. This may then be followed by seizures, loss of consciousness and cardiac arrest.

  • What should be considered before starting any experiment with cyanides?

    • Refer to the Guide for preventing and responding to cyanide poisoning in the workplace 2013 and the Safety Data Sheet.
    • Consider eliminating the use of cyanides.
    • Complete a risk assessment, in accordance with the Hazard Management handbook chapter. 
      (This includes sign off by a supervisor if completed by a HDR student.)
      • Complete a safe operating procedure (which includes emergency procedures and the distance to the nearest hospital);
      • Provide proficiency based instruction prior to any work commencing.
    • Check facilities
      • Emergency showers and eye-wash facilities must be available within the immediate work area where cyanide compounds are handled.
      • Cyanides must not be used in an open laboratory.  Work with cyanides must be contained in a fume cupboard with fully functional extraction rate (i.e. fully compliant cupboard).
      • Warning signs must be posted around the immediate work area.
    • Personal Protective Equipment
      • Wear impervious gloves (e.g. PVC) at all times when handling cyanides.
      • Wear a protective apron, rubber boots and face shield whenever there is the possibility of being splashed with a cyanide compound.
      • Handle gloves and other protective equipment carefully and safely.  
      • Wash equipment immediately after use and store clean items well away from cyanides.
      • Use the appropriate respiratory equipment for the concentration of cyanide dust or gas that may be in the air. This should comply with Australian Standard AS 1716 Respiratory protective devices.  If there is any possibility of high concentrations of hydrogen cyanide gas, use self-contained or air-supplied breathing apparatus.
      • Respiratory equipment should be kept in order and ready for use at all times.  Do not store the equipment where cyanides are used or stored.
  • What general rules should be used when handling cyanides?

    • Do not work with cyanides alone or after hours
    • Cyanides must only be handled by a person who has been assessed as proficient (see note).
    • Do not mop up perspiration with either the sleeves of overalls or with fabric which is kept in the areas where cyanides are used or stored.
    • Remove pervious clothing immediately if wet or contaminated. This clothing should be stored safely in closed containers until laundered or disposed of via chemical waste. Under no circumstances should this clothing be taken home.
    • Do not touch the nose, eyes or mouth when handling cyanides.
    • Do not eat, drink or keep food, drinks or utensils in areas where cyanides are in use.
    • Hands and face must be washed well before eating, drinking or smoking and before using toilet facilities.
    • Decontamination of the work area is required on completion of work and any unused cyanide compound must be returned to a locked cupboard.
  • How should I store cyanides?

    • Keep workplaces dry (reaction of cyanides with water can produce the highly toxic and flammable gas hydrogen cyanide).
    • Prevent contact with acids or acid fumes as hydrogen cyanide may be produced.
    • Prevent contact with strong oxidising agents (e.g. nitrates, nitrites, peroxides and chlorates).
    • Small quantities of cyanides should be stored separately in a locked poisons cupboard.
    • Do not store respiratory equipment, clothing or other protective equipment where cyanides are kept.
    • For large quantities please contact the HSW Team for advice.
    • Please also refer to the Guide for preventing and responding to cyanide poisoning in the workplace 2013.
  • What should you do in the event of an emergency with cyanides?

    • In all cases of cyanide exposure, even if the casualty appears to recover quickly, they should be taken to the nearest medical facility for assessment and monitoring by a registered medical practitioner.
    • Follow the protocol from your risk assessment, safe operating procedure and safety data sheet
    • Please refer to the Guide for preventing and responding to cyanide poisoning in the workplace 2013.
  • Where do I obtain further information on working with cyanides?

    If you require further information, please contact a member of the HSW team.

Chemical safety management - emergency safety shower and eyewash testing

The purpose of these FAQs is to guide the University on the testing requirements for emergency safety showers and eyewash facilities.

It is important to note: Emergency eyewash, shower, drench hose and combination units are not substitutes for primary personal protective equipment (e.g. face shield, eye protection, protective clothing). Emergency equipment is a contingency arrangement should there be an accidental exposure to a flying particle or chemical splash/spill.

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  • Which Australian standard outlines the testing requirements for emergency safety showers and eyewash facilities?

    AS 4775 (2007) “Emergency eyewash and shower equipment and testing regimes” sets out the requirements for the regular testing of the University’s Emergency Safety Showers and Eyewash facilities.

    The standard provides information that assists the University in meeting its WHS obligations and to protect the health and safety of students and employees in the event of an emergency.  Regular testing ensures that emergency equipment is operational and the water is clear of contamination in the event that someone has been exposed to hazardous materials which may cause injury to the eyes or body e.g. a chemical spill.

  • How often are plumbed emergency showers, eyewash's and shower/eyewash combination units to be activated?

    AS 4775 (2007) “Emergency eyewash and shower equipment and testing regimes” requires weekly activation for a period long enough to verify operation and ensure that clean flushing fluid is available. The intent is to ensure that there is a flushing fluid supply at the outlet of the device, to clear the supply line of any sediment build-up that could prevent fluid from being delivered to the outlet of the device and to minimize microbial contamination due to stagnant water. The Faculty Executive Manager/Faculty Executive Director (delegate) or Head of Branch (delegate) are responsible for ensuring the regular testing and activation of equipment in their area(s) of responsibility in accordance with the First Aid Management HSW Handbook chapter..

    In addition to the above, all units are inspected annually under a contractual arrangement managed by Facilities Management (all campuses), to ensure conformance with the annual testing requirements of AS 4775 (2007). A tag is permanently attached to each shower unit, and the test is marked following the successful completion of the inspection.

  • Can the frequency of the testing of plumbed emergency showers, eyewash’s and shower/eyewash combination units be varied?

    Yes. The frequency of the testing can be varied based on a documented risk assessment (consult with your local HSW Team regarding this process).

    If varied, the frequency of testing is to be authorised by the The Faculty Executive Manager/Faculty Executive Director (delegate) or Head of Branch (delegate) in consultation with workshop/laboratory technical officers and/or the Supervisor/Person in control of the area.

    NOTE: Whatever the frequency of testing, it is essential that a systematic and verifiable testing routine of all safety showers and eyewash stations in your area of responsibility is in place.

  • What is to be included during a test of plumbed emergency showers, eyewash’s and shower/eyewash combination units?

    In addition to activating the equipment it is recommended that the tester:

    • visually inspect the equipment to ensure that there are no broken parts, pipe damage, leakage etc;
    • ensure that the water flow is effective and continuous;
    • operate the shower for long enough to verify operation and relieve the unit of any rust and other pipe build-up. Flush the unit until the water runs clear;
    • ensure that any plumbed and self-contained eyewash unit, remains activated, without the use of the operator’s hands. In accordance with AS 4775 (2007) “Emergency eyewash and shower equipment and testing regimes” the equipment is to deliver flushing fluid to the eyes for a minimum of 15 minutes. Where the fluid supply to plumbed equipment is time-limited, this is to be clearly indicated and quantified by prominent signage adjacent to the equipment. (Noting that a risk assessment is to be conducted if the equipment is time-limited, to ensure that the 15 minute time-frame is sufficient, based on the nature of the hazardous materials at the location.);
    • ensure each shower has a highly visible emergency sign;
    • ensure that problems identified during the inspection and testing are reported immediately to the Faculty Executive Manager/Faculty Executive Director (delegate) or Head of Branch (delegate) in consultation with the Supervisor/Person in control of the area. The equipment should be tagged out of operation where necessary in accordance with the Tag out and Lock out procedure in the Plant/Equipment safety management Handbook chapter; and
    • ensure that there is unobstructed access to the emergency equipment.

    It is suggested that activation of the equipment should be done by a workshop/laboratory technical officer/person in control of the area.

  • Are testing records for plumbed emergency shower/eyewash unit required?

    Keeping records of testing helps demonstrate compliance activities are conducted in accordance with the
    AS 4775 (2007) “Emergency eyewash and shower equipment and testing regimes” .
    The person in control of the area should maintain a logbook (or equivalent) of the periodic tests and activation which identifies:

    • Item
    • Location
    • Date tested
    • Any issues
    • Name of tester

    It is suggested that the testing record be located either adjacent to the unit or in a central area where several units are located on the same floor.

  • Where there are no drains in some areas, how can the water be managed when testing a plumbed emergency shower/eyewash unit?

    Periodic function testing should take into account water and drainage issues associated with location and plumbing restrictions. An emergency shower test sock and water catchment system (e.g. bucket on a trolley, or bin that can then be wheeled to the disposal area) should be used to minimise the creation of water hazards and minimise manual handling.

  • Are plumbed emergency shower/eyewash units connected to the building/local area emergency alarm system?

    Yes. Each time a plumbed emergency shower/eyewash unit is activated an alarm will activate and alert Campus Security. A Security Officer will be despatched to check on the area.

    To prevent unnecessary Security responses to a test, areas are to contact Security Office on ext 35990 prior to the test. This will enable Campus Security to isolate the alarm in Security office prior to activation.

  • Where can I find more information on Emergency Safety Shower and Eyewash Testing?

    If you would like more information about Chemical Safety Management chapter of the HSW Handbook please contact your local HSW contact.

Chemical safety management - fume cupboards

The purpose of these FAQs is to provide general guidance and information to workers and supervisors on the use of fume cupboards to meet the requirements of the Chemical Safety Management handbook chapter.

Note: For the purpose of this information sheet, fume hoods and cabinets have the same meaning as fume cupboards.

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  • When do I need to use a fume cupboard?

    Fume cupboard use is required when any activity has the potential to create airborne hazards from chemical fumes or harmful substances.  Fume cupboards are engineered and tested to provide adequate protection against airborne/vapour hazards for most processes, if they are used correctly.

    A fume cupboard should also be used when a safety data sheet identifies ventilation is required. Conducting a risk assessment in accordance with the Hazard Management handbook chapter will help identify whether the use of a fume cupboard is an effective control in reducing the residual risk of an activity.

  • How do I determine which type of fume cupboard I should use?

    Consider the activity that you are undertaking and decide which of the following types of fume cupboards is the most appropriate:

    • Floor mounted (walk-in) fume cupboards are used for large scale work, requiring more space for set up of apparatus or large volumes of volatile chemicals that cannot be performed in a bench top fume cupboard.
    • Bench mounted fume cupboards are used for smaller scale, bench top activities that allow work to be enclosed by pulling down a vertically sliding sash on the front of the fume cupboard. These can be fitted with scrubbers or traps for particular chemical fumes where required by a safety data sheet (SDS). There are different types of bench mounted fume cupboards, including:
      • Downdraft fume cupboards are used when an activity generates fumes that are heavier than air.
      • Variable air volume fume cupboards maintain a constant face velocity irrespective of the sash position. This reduces the volume of conditioned air that is exhausted through the fume cupboard.
      • A bypass fume cupboard provides continuous air flow across the work surface even when the sash is closed and a relatively constant air volume regardless of sash position.
  • If a fume cupboard is required what do I need to consider before I start?

    • Confirm adequate cupboard performance before use.
    • Ensure that before using a fume cupboard it is within test date (within 12 months on the compliance test label - contact Facilities Management if out of date) and is switched on.
    • The compliance test label should state that the cupboard has passed the test meaning it is working correctly or failed the test. In the event that a label states that the cupboard has failed, it should not be used until it is safe to do so (contact Facilities Management to obtain details on why it failed and to confirm a work order for repairs has been raised)
    • Risk assess the activity that is to be carried out in the fume cupboard in accordance with the Hazard Management handbook chapter.
    • As a rule of thumb, use a fume cupboard or other local ventilation device when working with any considerably volatile substance with a Threshold Limit Value (TLV) of less than 50 ppm (information can be obtained from the SDS).
    • Recognise the cupboard’s limitations - use specialised cupboards for radioactive materials, perchloric acid, hydrofluoric acid and biohazards as these may require special features or scrubbing.
    • Do not start work until the pre-use cycle is complete. 
    • Do not use a fume cupboard that fails its pre-use purge or is in alarm.
  • If a fume cupboard is required what do I need to consider while carrying out the activity?

    • Ensure that there is enough space to conduct work safely.  Fume cupboards are for worker protection, not for general storage.  Uncluttered cupboards are more effective.
    • Keep liquid chemicals bunded to contain spills.  Ensure that all chemicals not required are removed from the fume cupboard and place in appropriate storage.
    • Keep fume cupboards free of ignition sources (e.g. Bunsen burners) if flammable solvents are being used.
    • Work at least 15 cm inside the fume cupboards and do not block baffles or slots at the back as the air distribution can become uneven or unsafe. Position items in the centre and towards the back of the fume cupboard to prevent turbulence. 
    • In the case of walk in fume cupboards, do not stand inside fume cupboard while experiment is in progress.
    • Large pieces of equipment reduce air movement; ensure a large air gap around equipment is maintained. Larger items should be raised to allow for airflow beneath, to prevent eddies.  If you are frequently using equipment in a fume cupboard contact Facilities Management so that the maintenance contractors can map the most efficient place for your equipment at the next testing visit.
    • Minimise traffic past the fume cupboard as this can cause turbulence. Open windows can cause drafts. Turbulence and drafts can cause fumes to escape the cupboard.
    • Keep sash as low as practicable when the process is in operation, except when adjustments within the cupboard are being made.
    • Leave the airflow on when it is not in active use only if toxic substances are left in it or if it is uncertain whether adequate general laboratory ventilation will be maintained when it is off. In the latter case, place a sign on the fume cupboard indicating that it is to be left on and the nature of the hazardous chemicals contained within.
    • Ensure that fume cupboards are clean and free from contaminants on completion of task.
    • Turn off fume cupboard and allow it to complete the 20 minute post-purge cycle.
  • What do I need to consider when commissioning a new fume cupboard for my laboratory?

    For guidance for workers and supervisors purchasing and commissioning new fume cupboards, please consult the Plant/Equipment safety management – Acquisition, installation and commissioning FAQs.

  • Do fume cupboards require routine maintenance and testing?

    Yes. A periodic inspection, testing and maintenance program is mandatory in accordance with AS/NZS 2243.8:2014 “Safety in laboratories, Part 8: Fume cupboards” and must be completed by a competent person at 6 and 12 monthly intervals. Testing is arranged by Infrastructure and test records available for staff on the Infrastructure website.

    In order for this inspection and testing to occur, all maintenance workers need to be made aware of the hazardous nature of reagents and equipment contained in the area during their induction to the laboratory. Maintenance workers should notify the supervisor/person in control of the activity or area when testing is to be carried out. Decontamination of the fume cupboard should be performed by the supervisor/person in control of the activity or area before maintenance is performed.

  • Does the cost of maintenance of fume cupboards come out of my project funds?

    No. Fume cupboard maintenance is managed by Infrastructure and funded by the Infrastructure operational budget.

  • Can I modify a fume cupboard to suit my activity?

    No. Using a fume cupboard in a way that was not intended can affect the effectiveness and efficiency of its function and lead to exposure of fumes. If you require changes to be made to a fume cupboard, please contact Infrastructure facilities support to initiate a service request.

  • How do I obtain further information on fume cupboard use?

    Refer to AS/NZS 2243:8:2014 “Safety in Laboratories Part 8: Fume Cupboards

    For further information, please contact a member of the HSW Team.

Chemical safety management - gas cylinders and compressed gases

The purpose of these FAQs is to guide workers and supervisors in general precautions and emergency responses for gas cylinders and compressed gases.

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  • What are the general hazards of compressed gases?

    • The pressure contained in the cylinder: the higher the pressure, the more potential for damage.
    • The expansion of the gas when released: expanding gases can propel other objects and create further hazards.
    • Contents, depending on their nature, can present their own hazards:
      • Flammable/explosive
      • Oxidant
      • Corrosive
      • Toxic
    • The density, dense gases can pool in low-lying areas, entrapping a hazardous gas and/or presenting an asphyxiation risk.
    • Weight and handling risks of the cylinder.
  • How do I identify the gas cylinder?

    The easiest way of identifying the type of gas cylinder is to:

    • read the gas identification label prior to use.
    • then read the gas safety data sheet prior to using for the first time.

    Never use a gas cylinder that does not have an identification label - return to the supplier immediately if the identification label is missing.

  • What are the gas regulators/manifolds and the general rules for using them?

    • Regulators reduce the high pressure in a gas cylinder to a more usable lower pressure and are used in most but not all applications, depending on the type of gas and its use. Regulators are specific to a gas or gases.
    • Manifolds connect two or more cylinders and generally allow cylinder changeover without loss of gas supply.  Manifolds require a regulator suitable for the gas in use.
    • Use the correct regulator for the gas and never use adaptors.
    • Never grease or oil the regulator, valve, or fittings of an oxygen cylinder (as it could result in afire/explosion).
    • Do not use thread seal tape (also known as PTFE tape, Teflon tape or plumber’s tape). This advice applies to all gas cylinders and regulators.
    • Use leak detection fluid after attaching regulators/fittings:
      • Soapy water will suffice in many cases.
      • Proprietary aerosol cans are also available (recommended for oxygen cylinders).
  • What are the maintenance requirements for gas regulators and manifolds

    Maintenance and service intervals

    AS 2896-2011 and AS 4289-1995 (R2016) include specified checks and tests for medical gas systems and oxygen and acetylene gas reticulation systems respectively.
    In accordance with the Plant/Equipment Safety Management chapter of the HSW Handbook, all plant shall be maintained in a safe condition, with service intervals as specified by the manufacturer. In the event of the manufacturer’s information not being available, some general guidelines are as follows:

    It should be noted that for basic single stage regulators it may be more cost-effective to elect for replacement rather than overhaul.

    Guide for portable regulator inspection and testing

    Service Leak check Creep test Inert Purge Overhaul Replace
    Non-corrosive Montly Annual N/A 5 years 10 years
    Mildly corrosive 2 x month 6 months At shutdown 2 years 4 years
    Corrosive 2 x month 3 months At shutdown 1-2 years 3-4 years

    Note:

    • In corrosive atmospheres or outdoor use more frequent overhaul or replacement may be required.
    • Neoprene diaphragms may dry out and require more frequent replacement.
    • If regulators are not properly installed or used, a poor grade of gas is used or purging is not properly done, overhaul and replacement may be required more frequently.

    Identification and tagging
    At a minimum each regulator, manifold and hose should have some form of label with a replacement and/or overhaul date.

    Records
    Records of maintenance must be kept. It would also be advisable to keep records of purchase and/or installation dates of equipment to assist with their management.

    Equipment of unknown age
    If the age any piece of equipment cannot be determined it should be assumed to be out of date and be either overhauled or replaced.

  • What are the general rules for handling and using gas cylinders?

    The following should be considered when working with gas cylinders:

    • When using, or generating gases, care must be taken that the discharges from fume cupboards or fume extraction systems do not exceed the occupational exposure levels for that substance (refer to safety data sheet), or that the volume does not exceed the exhaust capacity of the fume cupboard.
    • All precautions are to be taken to prevent damage to the cylinder valve - if it detaches the cylinder may become a projectile.
    • Personal Protective Equipment suitable for the type of gas and task must be worn.
    • Cylinders are heavy and awkward to manoeuvre - adopt correct manual handling techniques (e.g. always use a cylinder trolley).
    • The contents of a cylinder must be checked before use - ensure that the gas is the correct one for the job.
    • Cylinder valves must be closed when not in use.
    • Where cylinders are fitted with valve protection the valve should be in place and properly secured.
    • Full cylinders should be arranged so that the oldest stock is used first.
    • Return all cylinders that are not currently required (note there is a monthly rental charge on cylinders).
    • All cylinders (including empties) must be restrained.

    Don’ts

    • Never force improper attachments on to the wrong cylinder.
    • Do not attempt to repair a cylinder, valve or regulator.
    • Never use a flame to locate gas leaks.
    • Do not heat or apply naked flame to a cylinder.
    • Do not attempt to refill a cylinder.
  • What general rules should be used when storing gas cylinders?

    Storage

    Gas cylinders have specific storage requirements. In general:

    • Gas cylinders must be prevented from falling over using a suitable restraint (see examples below).
    • Oxygen (or other gas) monitoring may need to be installed depending on the size of the room, the gas and the room ventilation. Contact the HSW Team if advice is required.
    • Whilst a toxic gas is in use, the entrance of the laboratory must be clearly signposted.
    • A dedicated gas cylinder storage area shall not be used to store any other materials or used for any other activities.
    • Do not store cylinders in exits or egress routes.
    • Full and empty cylinders should preferably be stored separately.
    • Cylinders stored in the open should be protected against rust and extremes of weather.
    • Cylinders in storage should be checked periodically for general condition and leakage.
    • Flammable gases and Flammable aerosols (DG 2.1), Acute toxic gases (DG 2.3) and Oxidising gases (DG 2.2); should be segregated where possible; a minimum physical separation of 3 metres between these divisions is recommended by Australian Standard 4332-2004 The storage and handling of gases in cylinders.
    • Ensure that the maximum permissible amount in buildings is not exceeded (see Table 1 below).

    Maximum permissible amounts in buildings

    In terms of storage, the total dangerous goods load will be the combination of all cylinders whether empty, full, or in use (a cylinder is defined as in use if it is connected to a system, including standby cylinders).

    Table 1: Maximum aggregate water capacity of gas cylinders per 200 m2 of floor space.

    MAXIMUM QUANTITIES OF GASES PERMISSIBLE FOR CLASSIFICATION AS MINOR STORAGE
    Class of gas (GHS) Maximum aggregate water capacity, L
    2.1 (Flammable) 500
    2.2 (Aerosols) 2000
    2.2, with Class 5.1 Subsidiary Risk (Aerosols and Oxidiser) 1000
    2.3 (Corrosive/Acute toxic) 50

    The number of gas cylinders permitted indoors (minor storage) is based on the maximum aggregate water capacity of any cylinders, including empty ones and those in use. This quantity is dependent on the type of gas.
    Note that one G sized cylinder contains 48L.

    Restraints

    • Cylinders must be appropriately restrained to prevent them from falling over. These restraints usually consist of either chains with hooks, or straps with a clip (see below).
    • It should be noted that an appropriately constructed gas cylinder trolley can be used as a form of temporary restraint, for short term experiments.
  • How do I transport gas cylinders?

    • Gas cylinders must not be transported inside enclosed vehicles (including the boot section).
    • Gas cylinders should be transported upright where possible.
    • LPG cylinders (and any others with liquefied gas) must be transported with the relief valve uppermost, e.g. the cylinder’s orientation must be the same as when normally being used.  In the case of forklift gas cylinders, this orientation is normally horizontal.
    • Vehicles transporting ANY amount of Flammable gases and Flammable aerosols (DG 2.1) or Acute toxic gases (DG 2.3) dangerous goods must be placarded appropriately.  Those transporting a total of 250 litres or kg or more of dangerous goods must also be placarded.
    • Gas cylinders should be manually transported using a trolley designed for this task.
    • Cylinders can be moved short distances (from trolley to restraint and visa versa) by churning (defined as rolling cylinders in the upright position on the bottom edge).  Any fixtures such as a regulator should be removed prior to this.  Never roll or drag a cylinder to move it.  Never carry a cylinder by the valve.
  • How do I dispose of gas cylinders?

    • Never discard pressurised cylinders in the normal waste.
    • Cylinders must be disposed of via the supplier, however if you locate a cylinder to which the supplier is no longer in business, please contact the HSW team for correct disposal methods.
  • Where do I obtain further information on gas cylinders?

    If you require further information, please contact a member of the HSW Team.

Chemical safety management - hydrofluoric acid

The purpose of these FAQs is to guide workers and supervisors in general precautions and emergency management for hydrofluoric acid.

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  • Why does hydrofluoric acid warrant special care?

    Hydrofluoric acid (HF) is highly toxic and highly corrosive even in dilute concentrations. It and is extremely hazardous by all routes of exposure. HF is highly damaging to skin tissue and bone. It is known to cause fatal work injuries from both skin contact and inhalation of vapour. The main cause of death is from the fluoride in HF entering the bloodstream, trapping calcium and magnesium and quickly damaging the heart, muscles and nervous system.

    Skin contact with concentrated solutions of HF can cause severe burns and diluted solutions can also penetrate the skin without an immediate burning sensation, so workers may not be aware they’ve had contact with the acid. Once HF enters the body, it continues causing damage even after it has been washed off.

    Eye contact with HF can quickly cause blindness or permanent eye damage.

  • What should be in place before starting any experiment with hydrofluoric acid?

    • A full risk assessment and safe operating procedure (including first aid and emergency spill procedures), must have been completed and authorised prior to any work commencing, in accordance with the Hazard Management HSW Handbook chapter.
    • Anyone using the chemical must have been instructed and assessed as proficient, in accordance with the Risk Assessment and Safe Operating Procedure (including first aid and emergency spill procedures). (Refer to the Provision of information, instruction and training HSW Handbook chapter for further information if needed.)
    • Calcium gluconate gel and tablets (the antidote) must be readily available and in date i.e. to ensure they will be effective if required.
  • What general rules should be used when handling hydrofluoric acid?

    • Do not work with hydrofluoric acid without well planned and communicated contingency arrangements.
    • Do not work with hydrofluoric acid until you are deemed to be proficient at handling hydrofluoric acid by your supervisor. (Refer to the Provision of information, instruction and training HSW Handbook chapter for further information if needed.)
    • Do not use hydrofluoric acid in an open laboratory.  Work using hydrofluoric acid must be done in a fume cupboard with fully functional and tested extraction rate, a scrubber and wash down facilities.
    • Always add hydrofluoric acid to water and never water to hydrofluoric acid to avoid a violent reaction.
    • Avoid all contact with hydrofluoric acid including inhalation.  
    • Avoid generating and breathing any mist or vapour.
    • Do not eat, drink or keep food, drinks, or utensils in areas where hydrofluoric acid is in use or stored.
    • Always wear impervious gloves (Neoprene rubber, nitrile rubber or PVC gloves) when handling hydrofluoric acid.
    • Wear a protective apron, sleeve protectors, rubber boots and face shield or goggles whenever there is the possibility of being splashed with hydrofluoric acid and a respirator if there is any chance of inhaling the vapour.
    • Ensure that for all locations, where hydrofluoric acid is used and stored, there are fully tested emergency shower and eye wash facilities.
    • Do not allow clothing which is wet with an acid fluoride to stay in contact with the skin.  Remove pervious clothing immediately if contaminated with hydrofluoric acid.  Any contaminated clothing is to be bagged and disposed of via the waste disposal system.
  • What should you do in the event of an emergency with hydrofluoric acid?

    ALL EXPOSURES ARE AN EMERGENCY

    Regardless of how minor anyone coming into contact with HF (or suspected to have come into contact) MUST go to the nearest hospital (preferably to the burns unit). The SDS must be taken to the hospital with the worker.

    Emergency first aid treatment

    First aid treatment must be commenced immediately it is realised or suspected that contact with HF has been made.

    • The affected person MUST obtain medical treatment immediately preferably at a burns unit of a major hospital. Call for ambulance immediately by phoning (0)000.  Advise your exact location and contact details.
      Ensure someone is delegated to meet the Ambulance Service at the entrance to the building to direct them.
    • Administer first aid in accordance with procedures until the ambulance arrives.
    • Worksites using HF must have in-date tubes of 2.5-3% calcium gluconate gel and calcium gluconate tablets.  The location of the gel and tablets must be clearly identified and easily accessible (as close to the work as possible).  It is advisable that the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is printed and located with the calcium glutonate gel/tablets for reference by the attending medical professional.
    • If the person does not go to the hospital by ambulance then they must seek medical attention (preferably the burns unit), even if the injury seems slight  (The patient is to take the SDS with them to the burns unit/treating medical provider.)

    Skin Contact (Regardless of how minor)

    • Call for ambulance immediately by phoning (0)000.
    • Remove contaminated clothing using PVC gloves.
    • Immediately wash the burn area with copious amounts of water and remove any contaminated clothing.  Use the sink tap and/or emergency shower (depending of the extent of the contamination).
    • Apply calcium gluconate gel on and around the burn and massage it in with gloved fingers (Neoprene/PVC).  Continue the gel massage every 15 minutes until medical treatment is available.  For large or severe burns, four effervescent calcium gluconate tablets (600mg) should be given by mouth every two hours until the patient is admitted to hospital.
    • Seek medical attention immediately.  (The patient is to take the SDS with them to the treating medical provider.)
    • Note that any contaminated clothing is to be disposed of via Cleaning and Waste Collection Request Form.

    Eye Contact

    • Call for ambulance immediately by phoning (0)000.
    • Irrigate the eyes with water or isotonic saline solution immediately and copiously for at least 15 minutes;
    • Seek medical attention immediately.  (The patient is to take the SDS with them to the treating medical provider.)

    Inhalation

    • Call for ambulance immediately by phoning (0)000.
    • Where there is a risk to rescuers, the rescuers MUST wear respiratory protection and immediately transfer the patient to an uncontaminated location.
    • Do NOT commence cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and Do NOT induce vomiting.
    • Four effervescent calcium gluconate tablets (600mg) should be given by mouth every two hours (if conscious) until the patient is admitted to hospital.
    • Seek medical attention immediately.  (The patient is to take the SDS with them to the treating medical provider.)

    Spills or leaks

    • You must be proficient and feel confident when cleaning-up a hydrofluoric acid spill.  If you are not then you MUST get assistance from a proficient worker or call in the services of the hazmat division of the fire service.  (Refer to the Provision of information, instruction and training HSW Handbook chapter for further information if needed.)
    • Ensure you contact Security office ext 35444 and advise your exact location and nature of emergency. 
      They will assist to direct the Emergency Services.
    • Do not enter the contaminated area unless wearing protective clothing and full respiratory protection.
    • Move people upwind from the area and cordon it off.
    • Inform the chief warden and/or warden network.
    • Keep clear of liquid and visible fumes.
  • Where do you obtain further information on hydrofluoric acid?

    If you require further information, please contact a member of the local HSW team.

Chemical safety management - nanomaterials

The purpose of this information sheet is to guide workers and supervisors in general precautions and emergency responses for nanomaterials. The information should be read in conjunction with the Chemical Safety Management chapter of the HSW Handbook.

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  • What are nanomaterials and why do they warrant special care?

    • A nanomaterial is a material that contains particles in an unbound state or as an aggregate or agglomerate. They can be natural and exist in nature, be manufactured, or may result as a by-product.
    • Engineered nanomaterials are defined as materials purposefully produced with at least one dimension between 1 and 100 nanometres (1 x10-6 mm = 1 nanometre).
    • Nanomaterials can have unique toxicological properties and can be more toxic than their bulk materials. Physiochemical characteristics of particles can influence their effects in biological systems. These characteristics include particle size, shape, surface area, charge, chemical properties, solubility, oxidant generation potential, and degree of agglomeration (build up).

    They warrant special care as:

    • studies in both tissue cultures and laboratory animals have shown that seemingly slight changes to the surface chemistry of nanomaterials can result in significant changes in their toxicity. Subsequently a generic approach to risk assessment is not possible. Note if you are making nanomaterials you have to use a generic approach until you can test the materials toxicity; and
    • nanomaterial research is an emerging field which is currently specifically un regulated. As the field is currently evolving there is no sound scientific research information on hazards associated with nanomaterials and the toxicological effects.
  • What should be considered before starting any experiment with nanomaterials?

    • Managers/supervisors must review current literature to find out what is known about the nanomaterials being used (or similar/related nanomaterials if designing new nanomaterial), including physical and chemical property data, toxicology, or health-effects data (in accordance with the Chemical Safety Management Handbook Chapter)
    • A risk assessment must be conducted (in accordance with the Hazard Management Handbook chapter) and the Hierarchy of Controls used to minimise hazards based on what is known about the material and or related materials. If you are a student you must obtain approval/sign-off by your Manager/Supervisor on the risk assessment before you undertake the activity.
    • If no information is available, managers/supervisors must take the “as low as reasonably practical” approach to the hazard management process, again employing the Hierarchy of Controls to minimise the potential hazards.
    • If you are using carbon nanotubes please refer to Safe handling and use of carbon nanotubes workplace information sheet (SafeWork Australia) and Classification of carbon nanotubes hazardous chemicals (SafeWork Australia).
  • What should be considered when conducting a risk assessment on nanomaterials?

    Please refer to the HSW Handbook chapter - Hazard management for information on the process and template.
    The following information will provide you with assistance in completing the process.

    Hazard Identification

    The major hazard associated with nanoparticles is inhalation. Other hazards include ingestion and absorption.
    Start by identifying the type of nanomaterials you will be working with and in what state they will be at the start of the process.

    Identify if they are considered a Category 1 (carcinogenic), Category 2A (probably carcinogenic) or other as per the WHO - IARC determination and identify the tasks which can increase the risk of exposure to nanomaterials such as:

    • Working with nanomaterials in liquid media without adequate protection (e.g. appropriate gloves).
    • Working with nanomaterials in liquid during pouring or mixing operations, or where a high degree of agitation is involved (e.g. risk of producing aerosols/vapour).
    • Generating nanomaterials in non-enclosed systems.
    • Handling (e.g. weighing, blending, spraying) powders of nanomaterials.
    • Maintenance on equipment and processes used to produce or fabricate nanomaterials.
    • Cleaning up of spills and waste material containing nanomaterials.
    • Cleaning of dust collection systems used to capture nanomaterials.
    • Machining, sanding, drilling, or other mechanical disruptions of materials containing nanomaterials where there is a risk that they may be released from the matrix.
    • Although insufficient information exists to predict the fire and explosion risk associated with powders of nanomaterials, nano-scale combustible material could present a higher risk than coarser material with a similar mass concentration, given its increased particle surface area and potentially unique properties.
    • Some nanomaterials may initiate or speed up catalytic reactions depending on their composition and structure that would not otherwise be anticipated based on their chemical composition.

    The Risk Assessment

    When conducting a risk assessment the level of risk for each activity will be affected by:

    • How much material is being used.
    • How often it is being used.
    • What materials are being used.

    Hierarchy of Controls

    Assuming that elimination and substitution is not applicable for your experiments the following controls are to be considered to minimise the risk from the hazards.

    Engineering

    • Nanomaterial aerosols are highly mobile and have gas-like dynamics, therefore ventilation systems such as fume cupboards and biological safety cabinets with HEPA filters should be considered for removing aerosols of nanomaterials from the workplace and environmental emissions.
    • Class III biological safety cabinets will offer workers the highest level of protection but such a level of protection is only required for extremely toxic nanomaterials and class II is usually considered sufficient.
    • Laminar flow cabinets are not appropriate because they blow potentially contaminated air from the sample towards the operator, leading to a higher risk of exposure.
    • Only fully compliant fume cupboards or fully-tested cabinets are to be used with nanomaterials.
    • Room air flow such as negative pressure could be considered to keep nanomaterials isolated in the instance of dust generation.
    • The use of intrinsically safe electrical equipment should be considered to minimise the risk of fire or explosion in the instance of dust generation.
    • Wet cutting of items that may produce nanomaterials.

    UNSW Sydney has detail on all of the above including a decision flow chart and risk control banding checklist that can assist in this instance, please refer to Nanomaterials risk banding checklist on the nanomaterials page from the University of Sydney.

    Administration

    • Materials to be stored in double sealed containers.
    • Use of absorbent or sticky mats to capture spillage.
    • Wipe down of work surfaces with wet absorbent paper towels.
    • Consider the use of safe operating procedure (SOP) for the use of nanomaterials including the controls identified in the risk assessment and have workers trained.
    • When developing a SOP use good work practices to minimise worker exposures to nanomaterials e.g. cleaning of work areas using HEPA vacuum pickup and wet wiping methods, preventing the consumption of food or beverages in workplaces where nanomaterials are handled, providing hand-washing facilities, and providing facilities for showering and changing clothes.
    • A contingency plan in the event of something going wrong, such as a spill or fire should be in place and all workers trained to respond appropriately.

    Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

    • Clothing: There are still many uncertainties concerning the absorption of nanomaterials through the skin. Therefore workers should wear protective clothing that covers all areas of the skin and protective footwear (e.g. disposable shoe covers or neoprene shoes and lab coats). Disposable clothing is recommended when using or manufacturing nanomaterials. This clothing is to be double bagged and disposed of via Cleaning and Waste Collection Request Form. The use of protective clothing will limit the dermal exposure of workers. Some clothing standards incorporate testing with nanometre-sized particles and therefore provide some indication of the effectiveness of protective clothing.
    • Gloves: It is not yet known to what extent gloves are an effective barrier against nanomaterials, nor which glove material affords most protection. For example, nitrile and polypropylene polymer gloves have a smaller pore size and may provide greater protection than latex gloves. It is recommended at this time that two pairs of gloves should be worn, with extra protection from gloves made from different materials (e.g. nitrile or polypropylene over the top of latex). Furthermore, continued flexing of the gloves during use can lead to cracks and holes that nanomaterials could penetrate, therefore disposable gloves should be changed on a regular basis throughout the day.
    • Safety glasses: also consider using safety goggles refer to the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and the risk assessment to determine Personal Protective equipment requirements.
    • Respirators: Should only be used as a last resort if other engineering controls are not available. Air-purifying respirators protect workers by removing harmful dusts, fumes, chemical vapours and gases by filtering the contaminated air through either a fibrous membrane or resin. They are only effective if they are properly fitted and workers need to be trained in their use. The respirators used in nanotechnology facilities should comply to the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1716:2012 (Respiratory protective equipment) and more information concerning the use and choice of respirators for a specific workplace can be found in the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1715 2009 (Selection, use and maintenance of respiratory protective devices), which discuss protection against particulate matter. It is believed that nanoparticles are removed from the air by diffusing onto the filtering fibres of the respirator, while large particles (i.e. >300nm) will be physically blocked by the filter fibres. The current advice being provided to the nanotechnology industry by occupational hygiene experts is that certified HEPA respirators will be effective in protecting workers from nanomaterials, e.g. P100 and N100 respirators are expected to remove at least 99.9% of particles.
  • Is there health surveillance available for nanomaterials?

    Until instrumentation to measure doses is readily available and dose limits have been determined, medical screening of workers potentially exposed to nanomaterials is not yet practical. Research is currently ongoing into toxicology and dose limits, and managers/supervisors using nanomaterials should monitor the research to ensure safest handling of their nanomaterials.

  • How should I label nanomaterial?

    A label for nanomaterials (when the hazards are known) shall at a minimum:

    • be legible and in English,
    • contain the product identifier (name or number found on the suppliers label or in the SDS),
    • have a pictogram or hazard statement consistent with the chemical, and
    • the full name (or staff/student number) of the worker who made, collected or decanted the nanomaterial.

    A label for nanomaterials (when the hazards are not fully characterised) shall at a minimum:

    • be legible and in English,
    • include a statement of hazard “contains engineered/manufactured nanomaterials. Caution Hazard unknown”, and
    • include the full name (or staff/student number) of the worker who made, collected or decanted the nanomaterial.
  • How should I record nanomaterials being used?

    Nanomaterials should be included on the chemical register for the area in the same way as any other hazardous chemical is registered and also indicate that it is a nanomaterial.

  • What should you do in the event of an emergency with nanomaterials?

    Clean up and Spills

    The maintenance and cleaning of nanotechnology facilities during normal operations or after an accidental spill represent scenarios where worker exposure could be significantly increased.

    • It is recommended that facilities are cleaned using only HEPA filter vacuum cleaners that comply with the Australian Standards AS 3544-1988 (Industrial vacuum cleaners for particulates hazardous to health) and AS 4260-1997 (High Efficiency Particulate Air Filters (HEPA) – Classification, Construction and Performance). Household vacuum cleaners should never be used even if they have a HEPA filter installed in them.
    • Alternatively, nanotechnology workplaces can be cleaned using wet-wiping methods. Whichever method is chosen should be conducted in a manner that limits the inhalational and dermal exposure of workers.
  • How do I dispose of nanomaterials?

    • The fate of nanomaterials released into the environment is not yet known. There are currently no guidelines for the disposal of many nanomaterials but efforts should be taken to contain them and presently they should be handled as hazardous waste.
    • Precautions should be taken when disposing of nanomaterials. At the very least nano-waste should be double-bagged, enclosed in a rigid impermeable container and disposed of via the Cleaning and Waste Collection Request Form.
  • What are other universities doing to manage the risk of working with nanomaterials?

    Please refer to the UNSW Sydney Nanomaterial risk banding checklist document for some additional information.

  • Where do I obtain further information on nanomaterials?

    If you require further information, please contact a member of the local HSW Team.

Chemical safety management - peroxidisables and explosives

The purpose of these FAQs is to guide workers and supervisors in general precautions and emergency responses for peroxidisables and explosives.

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  • What are peroxidisables and why do they warrant special care?

    • A peroxidisable compound is any compound that can easily form peroxides by exposure to atmospheric oxygen and/or UV radiation. Peroxides are unstable chemicals that can easily detonate through minor shock/friction i.e. they can decompose, ignite or detonate when exposed to friction (e.g. on the threads of a screw-capped container), striking, vibrating, or otherwise agitating.
    • These substances can deteriorate to an explosive compound by drying, contamination, exposure to air and light, or mixing with dust, paper or organics (e.g. ethanol).
    • The shelf-life (time under normal and appropriate storage conditions before occurrence of significant peroxidation products) varies between compounds and conditions of storage.  Some of these compounds can be purchased with an antioxidant stabiliser which retards (but does not prevent) the rate of peroxide formation.  Users should purchase stabilised reagents unless the antioxidant interferes with its use.
  • What precautions do I need to know about when working with peroxidisables?

    • Conduct a risk assessment, and if you are a student you must get sign off from your supervisor before commencing this activity.
    • Plan ahead and if you have any concerns consult your supervisor or an expert before proceeding with the work
    • Formulate an emergency plan before starting any experiment containing explosive or potentially explosive chemicals.
    • Read the relevant safety data sheet to assess required controls.
    • Inform your supervisor and all the people working in your laboratory each time you commence the work, and place signs on the entrance door.
    • Due to the potential for explosion limit the number of chemical bottles and other breakable items within the immediate vicinity of any bottle containing peroxidisables.
    • Minimise the quantities used in a procedure to a minimum and do not store large quantities.
    • Protect yourself by:
    • working inside a fume cupboard;
    • wearing PPE (including face and eye protection); or
    • remote handling if highly sensitive.
    • If leaving the experiment make sure you signpost the door (with a warning sign and your contact details) so everyone who gains access to the laboratory is informed.  Ensure that before leaving the area and experiment they are rendered as safe as practicable.
  • How should I store peroxidisables?

    • It is strongly suggested that any containers of peroxidisables which have any of the following characteristics be disposed of immediately (if you are concerned please do not handle, contact the local HSW Team. (for assistance):
      • old or obviously in poor condition, or
      • have visible crystals or solids, or
      • have been opened more than 12 months ago or purchased more than 18 months ago but unopened (even when an inhibitor has been added).
    • Because distillation of the stabilised solvent will remove the stabiliser, the distillate must be stored with care and monitored for peroxide formation.
    • Un-stabilised compounds should not be kept for more than 24 hours.
    • Peroxide-forming compounds should never be stockpiled.  They should be purchased in limited quantities to minimise in-house storage time.
    • Containers of potential peroxide forming compounds must be handled with extreme caution.  The friction from unscrewing the cap of a container of ether that has decomposed can provide enough energy to cause a violent explosion.  Also containers may have a high internal gas pressure, due to decomposition.
    • Date these chemicals when they are received and when they are opened and schedule disposal in the School’s Schedule of Programmable Events or in another system.
    • Peroxide-forming compounds should be clearly identified by additional labelling.
    • These compounds are to be stored in closed containers (preferably in the container furnished by the supplier) away from light and heat.
    • If refrigeration is required only completely spark-proof refrigerators are to be used to store ethers or other volatile peroxide-formers.
    • These chemicals must be securely stored to prevent unauthorised access.
  • What are explosives and why do they warrant special care?

    • Explosive compounds are classified under Dangerous Goods Class 1 or GHS Explosive Divisions 1.1 – 1.6 and are inherently explosive by shock, fire, friction or other sources of ignition. These compounds can easily cause major injuries to individuals who handle them and anyone working nearby.
    • From the Explosives Act 1936 and Explosives Regulations 2011 explosive means:
    • (a) gunpowder, nitro-glycerine, all compounds and mixtures containing nitro-glycerine, gun-cotton, blasting powder, fulminate of mercury or of other metal, coloured fires, and every other substance, whether similar to those abovementioned or not, used or manufactured with a view to produce a practical effect by explosion or a pyrotechnic effect; and

      (b) fog-signals, fireworks, fuses, rockets, percussion caps, detonators, cartridges, ammunition of all descriptions, and every adaptation of preparation of an explosive as defined above; and

      (c) a model rocket engine for educational programs.

      For (a) type explosive the quantity must not exceed 3 kg without a licence

      For (b) please refer to the HSW Handbook Chapter Firearms Safety Management.

      For (c) the School/Branch must apply for a permit from SafeWork SA.

  • What precautions do I need to know about when storing and working with explosives?

    • Consult the safety data sheet for storage and handling procedures for explosives.
    • Conduct a written risk assessment which is signed off by your supervisor or subject matter expert prior to undertaking the activity.
    • Ensure that you do not store any more than is necessary for your experiments.
    • These chemicals must be securely stored to prevent unauthorised access.
  • Can I transport explosives?

    • For requirements on transportation of explosives please contact the local HSW Team for advice.
  • How do I dispose of peroxidisables and explosives?

    For requirements on disposal please contact the local HSW Team for advice.

  • Where do I obtain further information on peroxidisables and explosives?

    If you require further information, please contact a member of the local HSW Team.

Chemical safety management - understanding safety data sheets

The purpose of these FAQs is to guide workers and supervisors in the general understanding of Safety Data Sheets (SDS formally known as MSDS) and assist you to meet the requirements of the Chemical Safety Management handbook chapter.

If you are pregnant or considering conception please also refer to the Reproductive toxicity information sheet.

(Printable version)

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  • What is a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)?

    A safety data sheet (SDS), previously called a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), is a document that provides critical information about hazardous chemicals. For example, an SDS includes information on:

    • the chemical's identity and ingredients
    • health and physical hazards
    • safe handling and storage procedures
    • emergency procedures, and
    • disposal considerations.

    An SDS is an important tool for assessing and managing the risks associated with the use of hazardous chemicals in workplaces.

  • When do I need to use a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)?

    Safety data sheets are required for at all steps of the hazard management process, including:

    • Prior to purchasing/or using a chemical to identify the hazards, decide if there is a safer option and/or identify the nature of the risks to health and safety;
    • Completing a risk assessment;
    • Determining the appropriate control measures to manage the hazards and minimise the risk of exposure (including what to do if there is a spill and if any specific first aid procedures are to be followed);
    • Deciding where and how the chemical can be safely stored and at what quantity;
    • Waste management

    For further information, refer to the Hazard management and Chemical safety management handbook chapters.

  • What hazard information is included in a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)?

    Identification - The SDS includes the product identifier of the hazardous chemical, exactly as found on the manufacturer’s label. A SDS can be generic to cover several minor variants of a hazardous chemical. All product identifiers must be listed on a SDS along with any other common names or synonyms. The recommended or intended use of the chemical should be provided in this section as should the details of the manufacturer.

    Hazard identification – If a chemical is classified in accordance with the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) the appropriate hazard and category should be indicated (e.g. flammable liquid, category 1).  The SDS will also list signal words, hazard statements and precautionary statements.  Pictograms may or may not be present on in this section of the SDS.

    Composition and information on ingredients – this section will list the composition of substances of the chemical or mixture.

    First aid measures – this includes a description of first aid measures including eye and skin contact, inhalation and ingestion. It will also indicate if any immediate medical attention and special treatment is needed.

    Firefighting measures – includes extinguishing media (e.g. foam, dry powder, etc.), special hazards arising from the chemical including fire incompatibility and advice for firefighters (i.e. firefighting, fire/explosion hazard and HAZCHEM reference)

    Accidental release measures – covering materials and methods for containment and cleaning up (i.e. minor and major spills).

    Handling and storage – details on precautions for safe handling and conditions for safe storage, including incompatibilities. It will also cover which containers are suitable for storing the chemical.

    Exposure controls/personal protection – this section outlines the exposure route and how this may be controlled via engineering, personal protective equipment and any other necessary protection methods. It will go into detail of which gloves and respiratory protection to use to handle the chemical safely.

    Physical and chemical properties – including basic physical and chemical properties such as appearance, physical state, odour, pH, melting point and flammability.

    Stability and reactivity – this section outlines the reactivity and possibility of hazardous reactions due to incompatibility.

    Toxicological information – this is an in-depth section of a SDS covering toxicological effects via different exposure routes, indicating if a chemical has any irritation, mutagenic, carcinogenic or reproductive consequence.

    Ecological information – details of toxicity to wildlife, persistence/degradability, bio-accumulative potential and mobility in soil are located here.

    Disposal considerations – the waste treatment methods, including product and packaging disposal is outlined here.

    Transportation information – labelling requirements for transporting hazardous chemicals (Dangerous Goods Code) via land and air can be found in this section.

    Regulatory information – safety, health and environmental regulations/legislation specific for the substance or mixture for various countries.

    Other information – including when the SDS was revised and a list of definitions and abbreviations.

  • If I am a supervisor, what information do I need to provide to workers, on Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and do I need to keep a record?

    As a supervisor, you need to provide the appropriate level of information on how to access, read and use the SDS. 

    This is best provided during a worker’s local induction to a laboratory/workshop/area.

    If the worker is required to work with or access an area containing hazardous chemicals, the worker must be provided with information regarding the types and nature of the hazardous chemicals that are used or stored in the area, the risks associated with those types of chemicals and any controls that they need to implement or be aware of to safely work in the area.

    A record is to be kept on file, of the provision of this information to any worker (including any students) and the records need to be retrievable on request in accordance with the Provision of HSW information, instruction and training handbook chapter.

  • Do I need to have printed copies of Safety Data Sheets or are electronic versions suitable?

    The University is required under the WHS legislation to ensure that the current safety data sheet for a hazardous chemical is readily accessible to:

    • a worker who is involved in using, handling or storing the hazardous chemical;
    • an emergency service worker, or anyone else, who is likely to be exposed to the hazardous chemical.

    The Supervisor/Person in control of the activity/area is to determine how ready access is to be achieved.  This decision may depend on the nature and location of the chemical(s) used, the level of residual risk following the risk assessment and if all users have ready access to electronic versions when needed.

    If printed copies of SDSs are available in your laboratory/workshop/area of work, for immediate reference, then the copy must be less than 5 years old from publish date (not printing date). (Noting that keeping printed copies up to date can be an administrative task that is often overlooked.  There should be a system in place (e.g. a reminder on the Schedule of Programmable Events) to check they are in date.   If access to electronic versions of the SDSs is the system you use (i.e. Chemwatch), then this system must be accessible to all users of the laboratory/chemicals, in their area of work, at all times.

  • Where do I obtain a current Safety Data Sheet (SDS)?

    In accordance with the WHS legislation, an SDS must be supplied to the workplace by the manufacturer or supplier:

    • when the hazardous chemical is first supplied (i.e. in the first five years); and
    • the first time a hazardous chemical is supplied after an SDS has been amended.

    An SDS can also be accessed via Chemwatch.

    Chemwatch is a database used by the University which contains manufacturer and Chemwatch developed Safety Data Sheets (SDSs).

    If the chemical you are using does not have an SDS in Chemwatch then you must obtain a copy (less than 5 years of age) from the manufacturer.  An electronic copy of the SDS should be sent to a member of the HSW Team for uploading to Chemwatch.

  • Can an SDS prepared overseas be used?

    An SDS prepared by an overseas manufacturer or supplier is acceptable only if it is prepared in accordance with the WHS Regulations and prepared specifically for use in Australia.  If the overseas manufacturer’s SDS does not comply with the requirements of the WHS Regulations, the importer will be responsible for preparing an SDS that does comply.  Section 2.3 of the Code of Practice “Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals” provides further information.

  • Where do I obtain further information on Safety Data Sheets (SDS)?

Further information

Please contact your local HSW team.