Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 7 2010 Contents 15
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In 2009, a Comcare investigation found that Defence OHS procedures associated with 25,000
hazardous chemicals across some 1045 sites nationwide were not all they should be. Defence’s
Director General of Occupational Health, Safety and Compensation, Lindsay Kranz, quickly moved
to implement a solution.
Defence to tackle
By Melanie Schinkel and Steve Ridgway
“Comcare had investigated 16 randomly-selected
Defence sites which were indicative of 1045 sites
that use hazardous chemicals,” said Mr Kranz.
“They found that Defence was not compliant with
the regulations and hadn’t been for some time. It
was a big smack in the face for us.
“But instead of taking Defence to court, Comcare
chose to offer us a legally-binding enforceable
undertaking – which means we unreservedly
accept their findings,” said Mr Kranz.
“In return we have two years to develop and
implement a consistent, comprehensive and
inclusive system for managing hazardous
chemicals across all Defence workplaces.
“At the end of the two years Defence must be
in compliance with the terms of the enforceable
undertaking, or Comcare will enforce it through
legal action in the courts.”
Under Mr Kranz’s leadership, a combined Defence
Hazardous Chemicals Projects (DHCP) team
comprising ADF and civilian personnel is now
implementing a plan to better manage hazardous
chemicals in Defence workplaces, and make sure
current and future OHS regulations are fit for
On July 21, the DHCP’s 14-person board met in
Canberra to discuss the progress of phase one.
“This was not in response to any specific incident
or health issue,” said Mr Kranz. “It was about
the bigger picture of developing procedures to
protect personnel from exposure to, and effects of,
An improved Defence management system is now
being developed based on the Defence business
“It will involve the adoption of consistent
procedures across all Defence workplaces and
throughout the lifecycle of hazardous chemicals,”
Mr Kranz said.
The new procedures will also include engagement
with Defence contractors to ensure they support
Defence’s hazardous chemicals management.
“The DHCP’s schedule remains in line with the
enforceable undertaking’s deadline,” Mr Kranz
said. “Defence groups and services have been
allocated certain responsibilities to achieve this
under a joint directive issued on 18 June 2010.
“For example, all Defence workplaces are required
to implement ‘ChemAlert’ as the system for
registering hazardous chemicals in the workplace.”
ChemAlert will provide members with access to
information about hazardous chemicals and is the
register for material safety data sheets for all the
substances Defence purchases and produces.
“It is to be used as the Defence register for the
chemicals used in individual workplaces and
provides personnel with information on how to use
chemicals, such as storage and disposal methods,
and what personal protective equipment to wear
during use,” Mr Kranz said.
“ChemAlert will identify all hazardous chemicals
on each site, and will ensure that all potentially
volatile combinations are stored separately from
“In the event of an emergency, it will also ensure
that fire-fighting and emergency crews know what
they are dealing with in any particular building and
across a base as a whole.
“Improved training and the increased access and
usage of standardised systems such as ChemAlert
will certainly assist the safe-handling of hazardous
chemicals in the workplace.
“Some personnel will need to be retrained
on handling hazardous chemicals, and safety
practitioners will need demonstrations and
instructions on maintaining ChemAlert’s registers
in a consistent manner.”
As part of the DHCP’s roll-out, a workplace support
team will support units Defence-wide to achieve
compliance within Comcare’s timeframe and
prepare for updated OH&S laws expected to come
into force early 2012. The team will train, mentor,
provide advice and assure workplace remediation
efforts. The first phase of remediation (see break-
out box) requires workplaces to identify all the
hazardous chemicals present in the workplace,
register these hazardous chemicals in ChemAlert,
check to ensure that labels meet compliance
requirements and then flag for disposal any surplus
or obsolete hazardous chemicals.
“There is no doubt that between now and 2012,
Defence establishments will see some disruption
as they meet the challenge. There will also be
some additional costs,” said Mr Kranz.
“But site-managers must rise to the challenge
because not to do so would be unthinkable.”
To find out more information on the DHCP go to:
› Develop and implement a consistent,
comprehensive and inclusive system
for the management of hazardous
chemicals across all Defence
› Support and enable groups and
services to develop and implement
their respective workplace remediation
› Address Defence-wide deficiencies in
record systems, training of personnel,
compliance and assurance.
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