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Workplace safety checklist: Dealing with plastics and chemicals

Workplace safety checklist: Dealing with plastics and chemicals

If you’re running or starting a business that deals with plastics or chemicals, it’s important to ensure your operation is safe, sustainable and compliant.

Here are some rules and regulations you may need to consider when using, handling, transporting or disposing of chemicals.

Be aware of what you’re using

Not all chemicals are the same and come under different regulations and government authorities. For example, industrial chemicals that are used in cosmetics and products in homes are regulated by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS).

Meanwhile, agricultural or veterinary chemicals, such as pesticides, are regulated by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), and food products, such as additives and colourings, are regulated by Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

Understand the law

Plastics and chemicals are regulated at a commonwealth, state and local level, and your obligations will vary across Australia.

For example, the commonwealth government deals with registering products and assessing chemicals. Meanwhile, state and territory governments address workplace health and safety and the transportation of dangerous goods. Finally, the local government deals with planning and waste disposal.

Are you importing or exporting?

If your business imports chemicals, you must adhere to specific regulations. For example, importing agricultural chemical products must be approved or registered with the APVMA.

Alternatively, if you’re exporting chemical products, you may need to meet particular labelling and packaging requirements, depending on the mode of transport.


Your business has obligations when it comes to transporting chemicals and chemical products, and these will depend on the method of transport. For example, road and rail transport requires documentation and labelling, while sea transport needs to comply with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.

Be aware of the risks

If a chemical has risks associated with using it, there may be regulatory restrictions on its use. You are also required to follow workplace health and safety regulations. This may include preparing a safety data sheet, which provides information on how chemicals may impact on health and safety in the workplace.

To help businesses navigate the many different requirements involved in manufacturing, using, handling and transporting chemicals and plastics, Australian governments have developed the Chemicals Business Checklist. As well as covering many of the issues you need to be aware of, this tool includes a comprehensive contacts list, which will direct you to the relevant regulatory body or government agency for more information.

Waste disposal

It’s important to consider the full life-cycle management of chemicals and plastics, which means knowing how to correctly dispose of any hazardous waste products.

If you are unsure of your obligations regarding domestic disposal, the Chemicals Business Checklist can refer you to the relevant body for details. Meanwhile, if you are not clear on whether your waste products are considered to be hazardous for the purposes of export or import, the Department of the Environment can provide the necessary guidance.

Dealing with plastics and chemicals in your business can be a complex process. However, ensuring you’re on top of all regulations and requirements will make it easier for your business to operate smoothly and effectively.

Keeping up with all the rules and regulations that apply to your business will make life that much simpler when it's time for a safety inspection. But to make sure you're ready on the day, here's what to expect when it's your turn to come under the microscope.

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