Hazardous waste and substances

Monday 27 May 2019
Linda Hanley

Recently, a WorkSafe-led taskforce began cracking down on workplaces that have illegally stored waste chemicals.

In late December 2018, eight sites in Epping and Campbellfield were found to have stored large quantities of waste chemicals illegally.  In March 2019, the taskforce uncovered a further three sites in Craigieburn and one site in Campbellfield that were also illegally storing waste chemicals.  The sites were discovered after information was received from WorkSafe and the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

Under Victorian law, workplaces are required to store and handle dangerous goods in strictly in accordance with Victoria’s Dangerous Goods Act and Regulations and Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations.  Furthermore, Victorian workplaces are bound by strict workplace laws which requires that employers take all reasonable steps to prevent workers from being injured in the course of their employment and provide a safe system and place of work.

Failure to properly store and/or handle hazardous waste and substances has serious implications. 

  1. Employers failing inspections during routine examinations by WorkSafe, the EPA and OHS officers can be disruptive to a company’s work, impact negatively on its reputation and lead to potential sanctions such as fines and shut downs.
  2. Significant expenses such as the costs involved in rectifying the identified issues, the payment of fines and increased insurance premiums should workers get injured.
  3. Risk to employees of spillages, fires, explosions and serious reactions/injuries to employees.
  4. Environmental hazards such as pollution and contamination.

Workplace injuries can occur if you are exposed to a hazardous waste/substance depending on the type of chemical, its’ concentration and the level/duration of exposure.

Commonly seen workplace injuries caused by hazardous waste/substance exposure include poisoning, skin conditions, chemical burns, birth defects, lung, kidney or liver disorders and nervous system disorders.

These injuries can be quite significant and may entitle injured workers to substantial compensation, including impairment benefits and common law damages.

If you would like further advice regarding an injury caused by working with hazardous waste/substances, please give our free Adviceline a call on (03) 9321 9988 for further advice.

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