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October 29, 2018

Safe Work Australia Guidance Includes Advice on Fine Dusts and Nanomaterials

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

In August 2018, Safe Work Australia (SWA) issued a national guide on classifying hazardous chemicals.  SWA intends the guidance for manufacturers and importers of substances, mixtures, and articles who have a duty under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and Regulations to classify them.  SWA suggests that the guidance may also be useful for suppliers, persons undertaking business and undertakings, workers, and other persons involved with hazardous chemicals.  The guidance provides advice on specific situations, including fine dusts and nanomaterials.  The guidance states that particles in the “nano” scale (one billionth of a meter) may exhibit characteristics unlike similar materials examined at larger scales and must be appropriately classified.  According to the guidance, if the health hazards of nanoparticles are not fully characterized, it is recommended that an appropriate safety data sheet (SDS) be prepared and the container is labeled:

  • Contains engineered/manufactured nanomaterials. Caution:  Hazards unknown; or
  • Contains engineered/manufactured nanomaterials. Caution:  Hazards not fully characterized.

The guidance states that “[t]hese phrases are to be used on an interim basis only, as the manufacturer or importer has a duty to correctly classify the chemical and include information on known hazards on the label and within the SDS.”