Frequently asked questions - Chemicals
It is a requirement of the OHS Regulation 2001 that employers provide appropriate safety training for staff in the management of risks associated with the use of substances used at work. Details of information about substances are available on the DET intranet.
In response to this requirement the DET has produced a training module designed for whole school, faculty or group delivery. The module is written in a self paced format so that it can be provided to members of staff who need to be trained.
The training module (strands 1 and 2) is contained within the Chemical Safety in Schools resource unit Volume 1.
If you are a Technology teacher you should satisfactorily complete Strand 1, part A, and Strand 2 parts B2 and C2. As a result of completing this training you will understand your responsibilities relating to chemicals and be able to implement effective control strategies.
The training module takes about 2 hours to complete.
ChemWatch is available on the DET intranet for printing labels
Source: Chemical Safety in Schools (1999). Department of Education and Training, Volume 1, section 2.2, pages 37-40 and volume 2, section 3.3.2, page 5.
Read the label for instructions, generic information is available in the Chemical Safety in Schools manual, which has a section detailing safety aspects for adhesives such as PVA, Urea Formaldehyde, epoxy resins, cyanoacrylates, etc. Refer to the source below. The MSDS available on ChemWatch contains more specific information on PPE, hazards and safe use and disposal.
ChemWatch link for MSDS resources
To cause injury or illness, a chemical simply has to make contact with or enter the body.
This can occur in one or more of the following ways;
- Inhaling into the lungs
- Absorbing through the skin
- Eating or drinking the substance (ingesting)
- Splashing into the eyes
- By injection.
Source: Chemical Safety in Schools (1999). Department of Education and Training, Volume 1, Workplace training module, page 135.
Dangerous goods are substances that have the potential to cause immediate risk to health and safety. Their categorisation has been influenced by their short term or acute hazard potential. To be a dangerous good the substance must be listed in the Australian Dangerous Goods Code. There are specific provisions for the safe transport, storage, handling and use of dangerous goods. Dangerous goods are usually indicated by a diamond and in the case of petrol it is red in colour with a number 3 in the bottom corner. The requirements for dealing with dangerous goods in schools are set out in CSIS, Volume 1, Section 1.3.
A hazardous substance is a substance that has the potential to harm the health of people. It can be a single entity or a mixture. To have an effect, a hazardous substance simply has to make contact with or enter the body. High standards for the effective management of risks posed by all hazardous substances are part of the Regulations. Requirements for dealing with hazardous substances in schools are set out in CSIS, Volume 1, Section 1.4. The Material Safety Data Sheet has a statement at the top of the first page indicating the substance is Hazardous or not as per the National Occupational Health and Safety Committion guideleines. A risk assessment must be undertaken on all hazardous substances.
The OHS Regulation prohibits the use of certain substances in the workplace refer regulation 164
The OHS Regulation requires health surveillance for staff using certain hazardous substances such as asbestos and isocyanates (spraypainter).
Source: Chemical Safety in Schools (1999). Department of Education and Training, Volume 1, Section 1.2.2 and 1.2.3, pages 5-8, Section 1.3, pages 1-28 and Section 1.4, pages 1-16.
The Department of Education and Training developed a resource package 'Chemical Safety in Schools' (CSIS) in 2000. Copies of this two volume package should be available in your school.
Volume 1 contains general information for all staff in the school and Appendix A provides safety advice on most general use chemicals.
Volume 2 section 3.3 contains curriculum support documents for Technological and Applied Studies. Appendix D provides safety advice on additional chemicals that may be found in secondary schools.
The most recent advice about chemical usage in schools is available at Department's Intranet.
Source: Chemical Safety in Schools (1999). Department of Education and Training, Volumes 1 and 2
The Chemical Safety in Schools manual provides information on airborne particles, vapours and fumes that may arise from working with plastics. Refer to the source below.
You will need to erect warning signs around the perimeter of the plot. These signs must give the date of spraying, what plants were sprayed, the chemical used and the date when restricted access ceases. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires records be maintained for all chemicals being sprayed. Depending on quantities specific training maybe required.
Refer to EPA web site for further information
If using hazardous chemicals a risk assessment must be undertaken. Most common chemicals are in Chemical Safety in Schools. Check of Material Safety Data sheet is strongly recommended. (ChemWatch)
Source: Chemical Safety in Schools (1999). Department of Education and Training, Volume 2, section 220.127.116.11 Signs, page 5. EPA Web site
A full list of hazardous chemicals can be found at the Department's intranet.
Some examples and associated risks are shown here:
- Acetylene - forms highly explosive mixtures with air.
- Bleach/Bleaching powder - evolves chlorine gas which is highly irritant to the lungs.
- Hydrochloric acid - releases hydrogen gas when open to the atmosphere. This gas is highly irritant to the lungs.
- Iron filings/powder - hazardous when mixed with sulphur, chlorine or bromine.
- Methylated spirits - highly flammable, and burns with nearly colourless flame.
- Nitric acid - powerful oxidising agent. Produces severe burns and can explode when mixed with many combustible materials.
- Sulphuric acid (concentrated) - reacts violently with water.
- Zinc powder - is flammable, and hazardous when mixed with sulphur.
Guidelines on potential hazards and protective measures on the use of agricultural chemicals are provided in the source below.
Guidelines on potential hazards and protective measures on the use of etchants are provided in the source below.
Read the label for instruction, generic information is available in the Chemical Safety in Schools manual, which has a section detailing safety aspects for using dyes and fixatives. Refer to the source below.
ChemWatch link for MSDS resources
A current list of banned chemicals is available on the Department's intranet.
They are also listed in the publication "Chemical Safety in Schools" volume 2, appendix H.
Some examples from the industrial technology area include:
- carbon tetrachloride
- hydrofluoric acidm and
- picric acid.
A material safety data sheet (MSDS) provides a wealth of information about a substance and whether or not it is hazardous. Typical information provided relates to chemical composition, whether it is hazardous or not, PPE requirements, physical properties, use, storage, labelling, disposal, type of fire extinguisher required as well as environmental information should the substance be spilled. The Department has provided a link to ChemWatch which provides a wealth of information about substances commonly used in schools.
The following providers and their resources may be useful;
ChemWatch via the DET Intranet
WorkCover NSW - Online publications
Standards Australia - current Australian Standards
National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (library)- safety literature
Environment Protection Authority - waste disposal requirements additional information also in ChemWatch and the MSDS
Q Stores - fact sheets on chemicals
NSW Supply - flammable liquid cabinets, storage
Chemical Suppliers - Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
Source: Chemical Safety in Schools (1999). Department of Education and Training, Volume 1, Section 1.1.9, page 7.