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10.1 Introduction to managing hazardous substance risks

This section offers guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) on managing the risks to road and roadside workers when working with hazardous substances.

A hazardous substance is any product or chemical with any of the following properties:

  • Explosive – explodes or causes explosion.
  • Flammable – ignites easily and burns rapidly.
  • Oxidising – could be gaseous, solid, or liquid, and can cause or intensify fire and explosion.
  • Toxic – can harm people if it enters the body through contact, being inhaled, or ingested. The effects can range from mild to life threatening, and can be immediate or long-term.
  • Corrosive – can cause severe skin burns and eye damage.
  • Ecotoxic – is toxic to the environment. 

Examples of hazardous substances road and roadside workers could be exposed to include:

  • hot cutback bitumen
  • cold or hot mix (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons)
  • cement
  • fuels and oils (for mowers, weed eaters, or other machinery)
  • roadmarking materials (thermosplastic paint, cold applied plastic, or hot-melt glue)
  • paints (especially when applied using high pressure equipment)
  • disinfectants
  • methylated spirits or mineral turpentine
  • weed spraying chemicals
  • hydrated lime
  • chemicals collected during waste chemical collection.

The Hazardous Substances Regulations set out the rules for hazardous substances, such as requirements for:

  • when certified handlers are required
  • safety data sheets
  • labelling
  • storage (including temporary storage and storage limits)
  • emergency response plans
  • supervision and training for workers.
[image] Examples of hazardous substance signs
Figure 10: Examples of hazardous substance signs

For more information and specific guidance, see Hazardous substances

Some substances may also fall under the requirements of the Land Transport Rules: Dangerous Goods 2005(external link)

10.2 Control measures for hazardous substances

Ideally, you should eliminate any hazardous substances you do not need. 

Minimise potential exposure to hazardous substances

If you cannot eliminate a hazardous substance, you should consider:

  • substituting the substance for one that poses less risk (for example, using bitumen emulsion instead of hot cutback bitumen)
  • automating systems so workers do not have to get near the substance, where possible
  • installing barriers between workers and the hazardous substance
  • making sure the hazardous substance is handled or prepared in an area with good ventilation
  • rotating workers on jobs involving hazardous substances to reduce the time they are exposed to the hazardous substance.
[image] Example of automated spraying system
Figure 11: Example of automated spraying system to limit worker exposure to the chemical being used (also keeps worker in a safer location inside the vehicle)

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

PPE should also be provided to protect from accidental exposure. Examples of PPE include:

  • long pants and long-sleeved shirts (made from breathable or waterproof fabric – depending on the substance the workers will be exposed to)
  • protective eyewear
  • gloves
  • face shields. 

Make sure the PPE is appropriate for the type of hazardous substance the worker will encounter.

[image] Example of a worker wearing the correct PPE for the substance being handled
Figure 12: Example of a worker wearing the correct PPE for the substance being handled

For more detailed information, see Hazardous substances risk management

10.3 Information from suppliers of hazardous substances

The suppliers of chemicals or substances that could be hazardous to a worker’s health must provide:

  • information on the properties of the chemical or substance, and
  • how to use the product correctly and safely (known as a safety data sheet). 

The PCBU that has control of the worksite must make sure this information can be accessed by workers without difficulty, in hard copy, electronic, or other form.

Safety data sheets include information on:

  • correct storage, transport, and disposal requirements
  • safe preparation and use instructions
  • any specialised PPE that is required
  • first aid directions in the case of any accidental exposure
  • what to do in the event of a spill or fire. 

For more information, see Hazardous substances safety data sheets

For more information on upstream duties for suppliers of plant, substances, or structures, see Appendix 5: Upstream duties 

10.4 Hazardous substance emergency plans

The PCBU must have an emergency plan that is relevant to the hazardous substances stored or used at the worksite.

The emergency plan needs to cover procedures for dealing with hazardous substance-related emergencies such as:

  • bitumen spills (including burns)
  • a worker being/getting poisoned after ingesting or inhaling a toxic substance
  • a worker being burned by a corrosive substance
  • a worker accidentally being injected with a substance (such as paint) while using high pressure equipment
  • a fire caused by flammable or oxidising substances
  • hazardous substances leaking or spilling from their containers, injuring people, and contaminating land or waterways.

For injuries that require very specific treatment (such as a bitumen burn or paint injection injuries) consider providing workers with treatment cards. These can be provided to medical professionals to ensure appropriate treatment in case of an injury.

Emergency plans need to be shared with all PCBUs operating within the contracting chain whose workers may be affected.

For more information, see Hazardous substances emergency plans 

10.5 Information, instruction, training, and supervision

Information, instruction, and training for working with hazardous substances

Make sure workers are aware of the presence of any hazardous substance in their work area. This includes any other PCBUs operating at the same worksite.

Workers need training in:

  • the health risks and safety issues associated with the hazardous substances they work with
  • how to safely use, handle, store and dispose of the substances
  • the safe use of associated equipment, including PPE
  • their obligations under the regulations
  • their responsibilities, including actions to be taken in an emergency. 

This training should be followed by practical supervised experience.

Even if a worker has had similar training previously (for example, at a different site or with a different contractor), they may still need site-specific training if they are new to the worksite.

You must keep a record of training and instruction provided to each worker and make it available to inspectors or compliance certifiers. 

Supervision of workers using hazardous substances

You must provide supervision, where necessary, to protect workers from the risks of working with, or being exposed to, hazardous substances. This includes supervising the use of equipment used for hazardous substances.

Deciding what supervision is necessary will depend on the nature of the risks and the knowledge and experience of the worker. It should reflect:

  • the work involved
  • the risks associated with the work
  • any measures in place to manage the risks. 

For more information, see Information, instruction, supervision and training

10.6 More information on hazardous substances