Schools have a legal responsibility to safely manage the risks associated with the storage, labelling and disposal of chemicals (also referred to as Hazardous Substances and Dangerous Goods) stored and used on the school site.
A hazardous substance is something can turn people’s health over a short or long period of time.
A dangerous good is something that has the potential to cause immediate physical or chemical harm to people, property and the environment.
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)
A document prepared by the manufacturer, importer or supplier of a dangerous good, hazardous substance or other chemicals. An MSDS includes details about substance identity, chemical and physical properties, health hazard information and precautions for storage, use and safe handling.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Items and clothing intended to provide individuals with protection from hazards. Examples of PPE may include protective clothing and footwear, masks and breathing apparatus.
Common Chemicals used or stored on the school site
Air freshener (aerosol), anti-bacterial hand wash, fly spray, multipurpose cleaner, whiteboard cleaner, eucalyptus oil, spray paint cans.
Glue, graffiti remover, methylated spirits, mineral turpentine, paint (acrylic, enamel), petrol, rust remover, LPG gas bottles, spray paint cans.
Toilet cleaner, floor cleaner, hand soap, other liquid chemicals, rat poison.
Bleach, burn aid, cooking oil (aerosol), dishwashing powder/liquid, fly spray, laundry detergent, multipurpose cleaner, oven cleaner, rinse aid.
Clay, glazes, glue (craft, PVA), paint (all types), varnish, spray paint cans, mineral turpentine, methylated spirits.
Chlorine, pool chemicals.
Fly spray, hand sanitiser, insect repellent, multipurpose cleaner, whiteboard cleaner, air freshener (aerosol), photocopier toner.
Dishwasher liquid, dishwasher tablets, multipurpose cleaner, whiteboard cleaner, detergent, dishwashing powder/liquid, dishwashing tablets, fly spray, hand sanitiser, insect repellent.
Managing Chemicals used or stored on the school site
- Inspect the school buildings and grounds (cleaner’s cupboard, classrooms, maintenance and storage sheds, art room, science lab and staff room) for cleaning chemicals, paints, oils, LPG gas bottles, chemicals for science experiments, glues, herbicides, etc.
- Ensure all containers and decanted substances are correctly labelled and not deteriorating or leaking.
- Obtain MSDSs for each substance from the supplier or their website. (Note: MSDSs are also known as Safety Data Sheets (SDS)). Note: An MSDS should not be in an electronic form. It should be paper based and easily accessible in the event of an emergency.
- Conduct a risk assessment (on substances identified) and develop safe work procedures for substances with a high or extreme rating.
- Create a centrally located list of all chemicals on the school site, ensuring that they are listed in a Hazardous Substances and Dangerous Goods Register. It may be required in the event of an emergency.
- Ensure that paper-based MSDSs are located in the work areas where individual substances are used or stored.
- Ensure appropriate storage areas are provided for chemicals (e.g. locked storage rooms, flame proof cabinets, flammable items stored at least 5 metres away from ignition sources, LPG cylinders stored away from impact risks, etc.).
- Display appropriate signage, highlighting the hazardous nature of chemicals used or stored on site.
- Inspect and maintain safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, fire blankets, exhaust ventilation fans, etc.
- Train staff in the correct use of chemicals and keep appropriate training records.
Suggested strategies to reduce the risk from chemicals
- Reducing the variety and volume of chemicals used or stored on site
- Asking for an MSDS before purchasing or using each new chemical
- Preventing access to areas such as cleaner’s cupboards, maintenance sheds and other storage areas by unauthorised staff, students and members of the public
- Requiring contractors to provide current, updated MSDSs for chemicals that they use or store on site
- Safe disposal of chemicals as per the requirement of the Environment Protection Act 1970
- Ensuring that there are no ignition sources (pilot lights, static electricity, naked flames, welders, sparks, hot work, etc.) in areas where Dangerous Goods such as LPG and petrol are stored.