The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations 2001: Changes & Impacts
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations 2001 adopt, as Irish national law, Council Directive 98/24/EC on protecting workers from exposure to chemical agents at work.
These regulations apply in the following cases:
- In situations where hazardous chemicals agents (including lead) and carcinogens are present or likely to be present in the workplace.
- To employers, employees and self-employed persons.
- They also apply to the transport of hazardous chemicals.
The organisation does not have to be involved in the manufacturing of a substance to come under the requirements of these regulations. Once any hazardous substance is used or generated, for example, cleaning chemicals or welding, then the Regulations apply.
What are Chemical Agents?
The legislation describes chemical agents as ‘any chemical element or compound, on its own or admixed, as it occurs in the natural state or as produced, used or released, including release as waste, by any work activity, whether or not produced intentionally and whether or not placed in the market’.
Chemicals can exist in many forms:
Examples of chemical agents include:
- Cleaning agents
- Disinfecting and sterilising agents
- Fumes from welding/soldering
- Dust from machining of wood
- Flour dust
- Carbon monoxide
Let’s have a brief look at the changes made to this legislation in the past few years.
- The 2018 Code of Practice for the Chemical Agents Regulations came into operation on the 21st of August 2018 and replaced the 2016 Code of Practice for the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations 2001 (S.I. No. 619 of 2001).
- The 2016 Code of Practice for the Chemical Agents Regulations came into operation on the 1st of April 2016 and replaced the 2011 Code of Practice for the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations 2001 (S.I. No. 619 of 2001).
- In January 2016, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (SI No. 623 of 2015) amended the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations 2001 (SI No. 619 of 2001) in order to transpose Article 4 of Directive 2014/27/EU. This Directive aligned the Irish Regulations to the EU CLP Regulation (No. 1272/2008).
- In February 2014, the HSA published Safety with Lead at Work – a guide for employers and employees (HSA0386)
- In January 2014, the HSA published Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) Guidance (HSA0416).
- A 2011 Code of Practice came into operation in December 2011, which replaced the 2010 Code of Practice in relation to occupational exposure limit values (OELVs) for a number of chemical agents listed in Schedule 1 to the Code.
- A 2010 Code of Practice came into operation in May 2010, which replaced the 2007 Code of Practice in relation to occupational exposure limit values (OELVs) for a number of chemical agents listed in Schedule 1 to the Code.
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations 2001 (SI No. 619 of 2001) make provision to:
- Determine the hazards
- Assess the risk (what is the exposure?) to employees and others
- Put prevention and control measures in place following the risk assessment
- Make arrangements to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies
- Make arrangements for information, training and consulting their employees
- Provide appropriate health surveillance
- Keep exposure records
To ensure compliance against this legislation an organisation must undertake a written risk assessment relating to the handling and use of hazardous chemicals and draw up procedures (action plans) to be put into effect in the event of an accident, incident or emergency. Occupational exposure to chemicals should not exceed the limits outlined in the 2018 Code of Practice. Information and training for employees on the risks associated with exposure to chemicals in the workplace must be provided. Health surveillance should be provided where appropriate (the need for health surveillance is formed on the outcome of the risk assessment or exposure levels). In the case of a new activity involving hazardous chemical agents, work shall not commence until after an assessment of the risk of that activity has been made and the preventive measures identified in the risk assessment have been implemented.