General risk and workplace management - part 2

Part 2 of the guidance on the Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016.

1.0 Introduction

These guidelines describe certain health and safety duties under the Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016.

1.1 Introduction

These interpretive guidelines (Part 2) cover the requirements under the Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016 (the GRWM Regulations) for:

  • remote or isolated work
  • atmospheres with the potential for fire or explosion
  • raised and falling objects
  • loose material in enclosed spaces
  • substances hazardous to health.

The remaining requirements are covered by other WorkSafe guidance:

  • The interpretive guidelines General Risk and Workplace Management – Part 1(external link) describe the requirements for:
    • workplaces and workplace facilities including containers of   liquids
    • information, instruction, training and supervision
    • personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • monitoring worker exposure
    • monitoring worker health
    • first aid equipment, facilities and first aiders
    • emergency plans
    • young workers and young people at  workplaces.

There are also fact sheets/information sheets on the above topics (as noted in those guidelines).

In addition, there is a fact sheet covering the GRWM regulations requirements for vetting limited attendance childcare centre workers.

Under the GRWM Regulations, persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs), workers and other persons at workplaces have health and safety duties (see Table 1 for a description of the different duty holders).

Duty holderExplanation
A duty holder is a person who has a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). There are four types of duty holders – PCBUs, officers, workers and other persons at workplaces.
PCBU

A PCBU is a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’. A PCBU may be an individual person or an organisation.

This does not include workers or officers of PCBUs, volunteer associations, or home occupiers that employ or engage a tradesperson to carry out residential work.

A PCBU must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers, and that other persons are not put at risk by its work. This is called the ‘primary duty of care’.

Officer

An officer is a person who occupies a specified position or who occupies a position that allows them to exercise significant influence over the management of the business or undertaking. This includes, for example, company directors and chief executives.

Officers must exercise due diligence to ensure that the PCBU complies with health and safety duties and obligations.

Note: While officers do not have specified duties in the GRWM Regulations, they have the due diligence duty under HSWA to ensure the PCBU is meeting their GRWM Regulations duties.

Worker

A worker is an individual who carries out work in any capacity for a PCBU. A worker may be an employee, a contractor or sub-contractor, an employee of a contractor or sub-contractor, an employee of a labour hire company, an outworker (including a homeworker), an apprentice or a trainee, a person gaining work experience or on a work trial, or a volunteer worker. Workers can be at any level (eg managers are workers too).

Workers have their own health and safety duty to take reasonable care to keep themselves and others healthy and safe when carrying out work.

Other persons at workplaces

Examples of other persons at workplaces include workplace visitors and casual volunteers at workplaces.

Other persons have duties to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to take reasonable care that they don’t harm others at a workplace.

Table 1: Description of duty holders

For further information about the duty holders and their duties, see our special guide: Introduction to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

1.2 Relationship between the GRWM Regulations and other health and safety legislation

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) is New Zealand’s key work health and safety legislation. It sets out the health and safety duties that must be complied with. All work and workplaces are covered by HSWA unless specifically excluded. WorkSafe New Zealand (WorkSafe) is the government agency that is the work health and safety regulator.

Health and safety regulations like the GRWM Regulations sit under HSWA, and prescribe certain requirements to be met for certain duties under HSWA. Safe work instruments (SWIs) set out further technical rules in relation to matters covered by regulations.

HSWA requirements have been added in these guidelines where useful for completeness.

In addition to the GRWM Regulations, there are a range of regulations that cover different aspects of work health and safety. Of particular note are the HSE Regulations 1995 (which also have more general requirements including requirements relating to noise, machinery, working at height, scaffolding, excavation, and certificates of competence) and the Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017 (the Hazardous Substances Regulations).

For a list of work health and safety regulations, see our special guide: Introduction to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

1.3 Involving workers

PCBUs must, so far as is reasonably practicable, engage with the workers who carry out work for it and who are, or are likely to be, directly affected by a work health or safety matter.

PCBUs have a general duty to engage with workers. In addition, PCBUs must engage when:

  • identifying hazards and assessing risks to health and safety
  • proposing changes that may affect workers’ health or safety making decisions about:
    • ways to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks
    • procedures for resolving health or safety issues
    • whether facilities for workers’ welfare are adequate
    • procedures for engaging with workers
    • procedures for monitoring workers’ health
    • procedures for monitoring workplace conditions
    • procedures for providing information and training for workers
  • developing worker participation practices, including when determining work groups
  • carrying out any other activity specified in regulations.

PCBUs must engage with workers when working out how to comply with the requirements described in these guidelines.

PCBUs must also have practices that give their workers reasonable opportunities to participate effectively in improving health and safety in the business or undertaking on an ongoing basis (these are known as worker participation practices). This includes processes for workers to report health and safety issues such as concerns that risks are not being adequately managed.

Worker representatives are one way for workers to participate. Well-established ways to do this include Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs), Health and Safety Committees (HSCs) and unions. Other representatives can include community or church leaders.

For further guidance on worker engagement, participation and representation, see our:

1.4 Working with other PCBUs

More than one PCBU can have a duty in relation to the same matter (overlapping duties).

PCBUs with overlapping duties must, so far as is reasonably practicable, consult, co-operate and coordinate activities with other PCBUs so that they can all meet their joint responsibilities. PCBUs do not need to duplicate each other’s efforts.

A PCBU cannot contract out of its duties, but can enter into reasonable agreements with other PCBUs to meet duties. However, these PCBUs still retain the responsibility to meet their duties.

The extent of the duty to manage risk depends on the ability of each PCBU to influence and control the matter.

For further guidance, see our quick guide: Overlapping Duties

2.0 The prescribed risk management process

PCBUs must deal with specified risks by following a risk management process prescribed in the GRWM Regulations.

2.1 Managing work risks

Risks to health and safety arise from people being exposed to hazards (anything that can cause harm). Risks that could result from work must be effectively managed. Risk has two components – the consequences (degree of harm) if it happens and the likelihood that it will occur. A risk can be minimised by reducing the likelihood of it occurring or the level of harm caused if it does, or ideally both.

Under HSWA1 the first step is to try to eliminate the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. If the risk can’t be eliminated, it must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. This applies to all risks.

For further guidance on how to generally manage risks see our:

As well as this general requirement, work health and safety regulations describe how certain work risks or situations must be handled. The GRWM Regulations specify the work risks to be dealt with by using a prescribed risk management process. The prescribed risk management process and the work risks that must be dealt with by using it are discussed in these guidelines.

PCBUs must engage with their workers when identifying hazards and assessing risks to health and safety, and when making decisions about the ways to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks.

2.2 The prescribed risk management process

2.2.1 Overview

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

PCBUs must follow the risk management process described in Regulations 5-8 when this is specified in regulations. This could be specified in the GRWM Regulations themselves or other health and safety regulations.

At the time of publication, the work risks that must be dealt with using the prescribed risk management process are risks arising from:

  • remote or isolated tasks
  • atmospheres with the potential for fire or explosion
  • raised and falling objects
  • loose material in enclosed spaces
  • substances hazardous to health.

The steps of the prescribed risk management process are explained below in Sections 2.2.2-2.2.5 of these guidelines.


 2.2.2 Duty to identify hazards

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

PCBUs must first identify the hazards (sources of harm) related to the work listed in Section 2.2.1 of these guidelines.

PCBUs don’t need to identify all potential hazards. They must identify hazards that could give rise to reasonably foreseeable work health and safety risks (eg risks to health and safety that a reasonable person should anticipate as a result of the work).

For further guidance on how to identify and assess risks, see our quick guide: Identifying, Assessing and Managing Work Risks

The ways the work risks identified above must be eliminated or minimised are described in the next section.


2.2.3 Hierarchy of control measures

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

Eliminating the risk

PCBUs must first try to eliminate a risk if this is reasonably practicable. This can be done by removing the source of the harm (eg removing a trip hazard or faulty equipment).

If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate, the risk must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.

Minimising the risk if the risk can't be eliminated

Risk has two components – the consequences (degree of harm) if it happens and the likelihood that it will occur. A risk can be minimised by reducing the likelihood of it occurring or the level of harm caused if it does, or ideally both.

PCBUs must minimise the risks by putting in place control measures as described in the ‘hierarchy of control measures’ (summarised in Figure 1). Control measures include equipment, processes, procedures or behaviour to minimise risk.

Use the most effective control measures first so far as is reasonably practicable. More than one type of control measure at a time can be used. The control measures used should be proportionate to the risk.

Hierarchy of control measures
Figure 1: Hierarchy of control measures

In the hierarchy, PCBUs must minimise risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable, by first taking one or more of the following actions that are the most appropriate and effective taking into account the nature of the risk:

  • substituting with a lower risk activity or substance
  • isolating people from the hazard/preventing people being exposed to the risk
  • applying engineering control measures.

If a risk then remains, the PCBU must minimise the remaining risk, so far as is reasonably practicable, by putting in place administrative control measures.

Finally, if a risk still remains, the PCBU must minimise the remaining risk by ensuring the provision and use of suitable personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE is only used when other control measures alone can’t adequately manage the risk. PPE should not be the first or only control considered and WorkSafe expects PCBUs to give preference to other controls that protect multiple at-risk workers at once.

Table 2 explains the different types of control measures.

PCBUs should be aware that the control measures chosen may introduce new risks that will also need to be managed (eg using hearing protection means workers may not hear approaching vehicles).

ActionWhat is this?
Elimination

Removing the sources of harm (eg equipment, substances or work processes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Minimisation      

Substitution

Substituting (wholly or partly) the hazard giving rise to the risk with something that gives rise to a lesser risk (eg using  a less hazardous thing, substance or work practice).

Isolation

Isolating the hazard giving rise to the risk to prevent any person coming into contact with it (eg by separating people from the hazard/preventing people being exposed to the hazard).

Isolation focuses on boxing in the hazard or boxing in people to keep them away from the hazard.

Impose engineering control measures Using physical control measures including mechanical devices or processes.
Impose administrative control measures

Using safe methods of work, processes or procedures designed to minimise risk.

It does not include an engineering control; or the wearing or use of personal protective equipment.

Use personal protective equipment (PPE)

Using safety equipment to protect against harm. PPE acts by reducing exposure to, or contact with the hazard.

For information on PPE requirements, see our interpretive guidelines: General Risk and Workplace Management – Part 1

Table 2: Control measures

For further guidance on how to identify and assess risks, see our quick guide: Identifying, Assessing and Managing Work Risks


2.2.4 Maintain effective control measures

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

PCBUs who implement a control measure must ensure that the control measure is effective, and is maintained so that it remains effective.

This includes by ensuring that the control measure is and continues to be:

  • fit for purpose and
  • suitable for the nature and duration of the work and
  • installed, set up, and used correctly.

This means that control measures must be regularly monitored and checked to ensure that they are still managing the risk effectively. This should occur on an ongoing basis – not just when the control measure is first put in place.

For example, regularly:

  • checking the control measures are correctly installed/set up and being used correctly by workers
  • checking the control measures are still working to manage the risk
  • monitoring workplace exposure and/or worker health (where relevant) to check control measures are effectively reducing worker exposure.

Section 2.2.5 of these guidelines describes the circumstances when the control measures must be reviewed and revised.


2.2.5 Review control measures

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

Work activities should be reviewed on an ongoing basis to check that the existing control measures are still managing risks and to identify new risks to be managed.

PCBUs must review and, as necessary, revise the control measures so as to maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.

While all control measures must be reviewed and revised as needed to ensure they remain effective, this review/revision must occur in the circumstances described in Table 3.

Review must occur:Further guidance
  • if the control measure does not control the risk it was implemented to control so far as is reasonably practicable.
For example, an incident occurs or monitoring shows the control measure is not managing the risk.
  • before a change at the workplace that is likely to give rise to a new or different risk to health and safety that the measure may not effectively control.

A change at the workplace includes:

  • a change to the workplace itself or any aspect of the work environment; or
  • a change to a system of work, a process, or a procedure.

For example, a change at the workplace could include when there has been a change in the risk profile of the work such as:

  • the temporary introduction of a night shift, increased workload or extended working hours
  • the introduction of a new work process that introduces new risks (eg use of a substance hazardous to health)
  • alterations to the work environment.
  • if a new relevant hazard or risk is identified.
See Section 2.2.2 of these guidelines about identification.
  • if the PCBU obtains a health monitoring report that contains:
    • test results that indicate that the worker has been exposed to a substance hazardous to health at a concentration that may cause harm and has an elevated level of that substance or its metabolites in his or her body or
    • advice that test results indicate that the worker may have contracted a disease or an illness or suffered an injury as a result of carrying out work that involves a health hazard that triggered the requirement for health monitoring or
    • a recommendation that the PCBU take remedial measures, including a recommendation as to whether the worker can continue to carry out the work that involves a health hazard that triggered the requirement for health monitoring
This health monitoring is that described in our interpretive guidelines: General Risk and Workplace Management – Part 1
  • if the results of exposure monitoring determine that the concentration of a substance hazardous to health at the workplace exceeds a relevant prescribed exposure standard.
This exposure monitoring is that described in our interpretive guidelines: General Risk and Workplace Management – Part 1 
  • if the results of engagement with workers undertaken by the PCBU indicate that a review is necessary.
Worker engagement, participation and representation is described in Section 1.4 of these guidelines.
  • if the HSR requests a review.

HSRs may request a review of a control measure if they reasonably believe that:

  • a circumstance referred to in the first four rows of this table affects, or may affect, the health and safety of a member of the work group represented by the HSR and
  • the PCBU has not adequately reviewed the control measure in response to the circumstance.

Worker engagement, participation and representation is described in Section 1.4 of these guidelines.

Table 3: When control measures must be reviewed

3.0 Risks to be managed under the GRWM Regulations

Certain risks must be dealt with following the risk management process prescribed in the GRWM Regulations.

PCBUs must manage risks associated with remote or isolated work, work involving atmospheres with potential for fire or explosion, raised and falling objects, loose material in enclosed spaces, and substances hazardous to health by following the risk management process prescribed in the GRWM Regulations. These risks are described in this part of the guidelines.

3.1 Remote or isolated work

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

Work can be remote or isolated from the assistance of other persons because of location, time, or the nature of the work. Work can be isolated without being remote, and be remote without being isolated.

Remote or isolated work includes:

  • working alone or separated from colleagues
  • working in a geographically isolated or inaccessible area –where the nearest emergency help (eg fire service or hospital) is some distance away
  • working outside normal business hours or shift/night work
  • working in locations where communication is difficult.

Examples of remote or isolated work

  • Jim and his apprentice working late at a building site. Apart from them, everyone else had left for the day.
  • Bob carrying out an urgent repair in a workshop on a day the business is normally closed.
  • Ken and his team working in the basement of a large office building. Occupants of the building do not have access to the basement.
  • Dick mowing the grass verge beside a quiet country road where there is limited to no mobile coverage.
  • Members of a forestry gang working in hard-to-get-to locations.
  • A carer undertaking solo home visits to members of the public.
  • Petrol station attendants on night shift.

PCBUs should first consider whether the remote or isolated work is necessary.

For lone workers, consider:

  • is the work suitable to be carried out by a lone worker or if the worker proposed to carry out the work has the competence to work alone and be unsupervised?
  • can the work be done using a buddy system?
  • what support systems (such as radio telephones, man-down alarms, emergency procedures and first aid kits, and safety checks) may help to reduce the risk?

If remote or isolated work is to take place, PCBUs must follow the prescribed risk management process described in Section 2 of these guidelines to manage risks to the health and safety of a worker who performs remote or isolated work.

In addition, the PCBU must provide a system of work that includes effective communication with workers. What constitutes an effective communication system will also depend on the sorts of risks faced by the worker (and may need to include panic systems). A communication system that has gaps in coverage or cannot be used in an emergency is unlikely to be effective.


Examples of control measures for remote or isolated workers include to:

  • have a buddy system or to work together with others
  • be trained in emergency procedures including what to do during natural  disasters
  • carry appropriate supplies including suitable first aid equipment
  • have access to adequate facilities (water, eating facilities, toilets, accommodation) at the remote location
  • carry communication devices that work at the remote location (eg radio, satellite or cell phones, pagers or distress beacons) and another means to raise the alarm
  • contact home to check-in at specified times (or are contacted by another worker at specific times) with failure to check-in triggering the emergency response plan
  • be remotely monitored (eg using CCTV).

Remember: PCBUs must first try to eliminate a risk if this is reasonably practicable. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate, the risk must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.

3.2 Atmospheres with potential for fire or explosion

3.2.1 Potential flammable or explosive atmospheres

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

The PCBU with management or control of the workplace must manage risks from potential flammable or explosive atmospheres by following the prescribed risk management described in Section 2 of these guidelines.

The risks that arise from such work must be appropriately managed by PCBUs.

Atmospheres with potential for fire or explosion are those:

  • that do not have a safe oxygen level (the safe range is between 19.5%-23.5% by volume under normal atmospheric conditions)  or
  • in which the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere increases the fire risk or
  • in which the concentration of flammable gas, vapour, mist, or fumes exceeds 5% of the lower explosive limit for the gas, vapour, mist, or fumes or
  • in which combustible dust is present in a quantity and form that creates a risk of fire or explosion (eg dusts from wood, charcoal, food products such as milk powder and flour).

Lower explosive limit, in relation to any flammable gas, vapour, mist, or fumes, means the concentration of the gas, vapour, mist, or fumes in air below which the propagation of a flame would not occur on contact with an ignition source.

Combustible dust means finely divided solid particles (including dust, fibres, or flyings) that are:
– suspended in air or settle out of the atmosphere under their own weight and
– able to burn or glow in air and
– able to form an explosive mixture with air at atmospheric pressure and normal temperature.

Mixture means a combination of, or a solution composed of two or more substances that do not react to each other.


Atmospheres with potential for fire or explosion can be created in confined spaces (such as tanks, pits).


Examples of control measures include:

  • eliminating the use of flammable substances by substituting with non- flammable ones
  • reducing the amounts of flammable substances stored or used at the workplace
  • avoiding or minimising the release of flammable substances or combustible dusts
  • controlling the release of flammable substances or combustible dusts at the source
  • using ventilation/extraction to prevent such atmospheres from forming
  • providing explosion relief in extraction equipment
  • cleaning the workplace to prevent dust accumulating by using procedures that protect workers from dust (eg vaccuming rather than sweeping, cleaners wearing PPE)
  • removing ignition sources (see Section 3.2.2 of these guidelines).

Remember: PCBUs must first try to eliminate a risk if this is reasonably practicable. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate, the risk must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.

For further guidance on working in confined spaces, see our quick guide: Confined Spaces: Planning entry and working safely in a confined space


3.2.2 Ignition sources in atmosphere with the potential for fire or explosion

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

  • Regulation 23: Managing risks associated with ignition sources

The PCBU with management or control of the workplace must manage risks from ignition sources in potential flammable or explosive atmospheres by following the prescribed risk management described in Section 2 of these guidelines.


Ignition source means a source of energy capable of igniting flammable or combustible substances. Possible ignition sources include:

  • sparks from activities such as welding, cutting, grinding and crushing
  • sparks from inadequately protected appliances (eg domestic refrigerators)
  • sparks caused by static electricity (eg from rotating belts)
  • embers and sparks from incinerators and furnaces
  • hot surfaces (eg boilers, furnaces, steam pipes, hot ducts and flues)
  • matches and naked flames, lit cigarettes or ash.

While this regulation doesn’t include ignition sources that are part of a deliberate process or activity at the workplace, the risks that arise from these must still be appropriately managed by PCBUs.

3.3 Raised and falling objects

3.3.1 Raised objects

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

Raised objects include objects lifted by cranes, forklifts, hoists and jacks, or by hand. They commonly include objects on shelves or fixed to walls above work areas.

PCBUs must follow the prescribed risk management process described in Section 2 of these guidelines to manage risks to health and safety from work under objects raised or lifted by any means.

If PCBUs can’t eliminate the above risk, PCBUs must minimise it, so far as is reasonably practicable, by providing supports or other devices to be placed or used under the raised object so that the raised object can’t be lowered onto or fall onto anyone underneath it.


For further information, see our information on forklifts and cranes.


3.3.2 Falling objects

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

Objects falling from height can injure or kill workers or others. For example, equipment, material, tools and debris can fall during work at heights.

PCBUs must follow the prescribed risk management process described in Section 2 of these guidelines to manage the health and safety risks from an object that is reasonably likely to fall on and injure a person.

PCBUs must first try to eliminate the risk so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • If they can’t eliminate the risk, PCBUs must minimise the risk by providing and maintaining a safe system of work that includes measures for preventing an object from falling freely so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • If it is not reasonably practicable to prevent the object from falling freely, use a system to arrest the fall so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • If it is not reasonably practicable to prevent the object from falling freely or to use a system to arrest the fall, an exclusion zone that persons are prohibited from entering must be provided.

Examples of control measures to prevent objects from falling include:

  • keeping tools or materials away from edges and off railings or sills, or tethering or securing them
  • providing a safe means of raising and lowering objects including using waste  disposal chutes  for rubbish.

Examples of fall arrest measures include:

  • using nets or catch platforms
  • providing covered pedestrian walkways
  • providing overhead protection on mobile plant.

Remember: PCBUs must first try to eliminate a risk if this is reasonably practicable. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate, the risk must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.

3.4 Loose material in enclosed spaces

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

Certain materials (such as grain inside a silo, or cement or food products in bulk storage bins) can trap or engulf workers. This regulation is about this loose material in enclosed spaces.


Loose but enclosed material is material that:

  • consists of or includes solid material in such a form or state, or in pieces or particles so small, that it is capable of subsiding or flowing in such a manner as to trap or engulf any person and
  • is enclosed in a structure.

PCBUs must follow the prescribed risk management process described in Section 2 of these guidelines to manage the health and safety risks associated with a worker becoming trapped or engulfed by loose but enclosed material.

For further information, see Section 3.2 of these guidelines about work in confined spaces.

3.5 Substances hazardous to health

3.5.1 Managing risk from substances hazardous to health

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

PCBUs must follow the prescribed risk management process described in Section 2 of these guidelines to manage the risks associated with substances hazardous to health.


Substances hazardous to health means a substance, or product containing a substance, that is known or suspected to cause harm to health and includes:

  • a substance classified as having toxic or corrosive properties under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (ie a hazardous substance)
  • a substance for which a prescribed exposure standard exists
  • a substance specified in a safe work instrument (SWI) as requiring health monitoring.

Substances hazardous to health can be substances used in work processes or those that result from work processes (eg as an end product or by-product).


To find out if the substance is a ‘substance hazardous to health’:

  • Look at the safety data sheet (SDS) for the substance − these are available from the chemical supplier and provide information about any toxic or corrosive properties of the substance. See our quick guide: Safety Data Sheets in the Workplace
  • Go to the our Hazardous Substances Toolbox(external link) and enter the substance into the HSNO Calculator to see if the substance has any toxic (class 6) or corrosive (class 8) properties.
  • Go to the Chemical Classifications and Information database on the EPA website(external link) to see if the substance has any toxic or corrosive properties.
  • See Section 3.5.2 of these guidelines for information about prescribed exposure standards.
  • Check on our website if there are any SWIs that apply

For more information, see our guidance on hazardous substances.


3.5.2 Not exceeding prescribed exposure standards

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

The PCBU with management or control of the workplace must ensure no person at the workplace is exposed to levels of a substance hazardous to health at levels above the prescribed exposure standard for that substance.

What are exposure standards?

An exposure standard is a workplace exposure standard (WES) or a biological exposure index (BEI).

A WES for a substance refers to the airborne concentration of a substance at which it is believed nearly all workers can be repeatedly exposed to day after day without coming to harm. Compliance with the WES level does not guarantee that all workers are protected from discomfort or ill-health. The range of individual susceptibility to hazardous and toxic substances is wide, and it is possible that some workers will experience discomfort or develop work-related diseases from exposure to substances at levels below the WES. So PCBUs should aim to have airborne concentrations well below the WES value.

A BEI for a substance indicates a concentration below which nearly all workers should not experience adverse health effects from exposure to a particular substance. However, certain BEIs are not relevant for certain workers (eg the lead BEI is not relevant to pregnant women as they should not be exposed to any lead at work).

What are prescribed exposure standards?

A ‘prescribed exposure standard’ means a WES or BEI that has the purpose of protecting persons in a workplace from harm to health and that is prescribed in:

  • regulations or
  • a safe work instrument (SWI) or
  • a control under section 77 or 77A, or an exposure limit under section 77B, of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO Act) or

  •  

    a group standard approval issued under section 96B of the HSNO Act.

Safe work instruments (SWIs) set out technical rules approved by the Minister. Check if there are any SWIs that apply.

To find out if a substance has a prescribed exposure standard in a HSNO Act approval, you can go to the Controls database on the Environmental Protection Authority website(external link).

Note: At the date of publication there are no substances that have exposure standards prescribed in regulations.


3.5.3 When exposure monitoring is required

Note: This section only explains the requirements to monitor the exposure of workers to substances hazardous to health under the GRWM Regulations.

However, even if PCBUs don’t need to monitor under these regulations, they still have a primary duty to monitor workplace conditions, so far as is reasonably practicable, if exposure to a particular health risk warrants it. The results from exposure monitoring are an important step in assessing whether the control measures in use are managing a risk effectively.

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

PCBUs must ensure exposure monitoring is carried out (as described in section 5 of our interpretive guidelines General Risk and Workplace Management – Part 1) when the PCBU is not certain on reasonable grounds whether the concentration of a substance hazardous to health at the workplace  exceeds  the  relevant  prescribed   exposure standard.

Section 2.2.5 of these guidelines describes when the PCBU must review the control measures in light of exposure monitoring findings.


3.5.4 When health monitoring is required

Note: This section only explains the requirements to monitor the health of workers that deal with substances hazardous to health under the GRWM Regulations.

However, even if PCBUs aren’t required to monitor health under this regulation, they still have a primary duty to monitor worker health, so far as is reasonably practicable, if exposure to a particular health risk warrants it. The results from health monitoring are an important step in assessing whether the control measures in use are managing a risk effectively.

The following regulation is relevant to this section:

PCBUs must ensure that health monitoring (as described in section 6 of our interpretive guidelines: General Risk and Workplace Management – Part 1) is provided to a worker who works for the PCBU if:

  • the worker is carrying out ongoing work involving a substance hazardous to health that is specified in a safe work instrument as requiring health monitoring and
  • there is a serious risk to the worker’s health because of exposure to that substance.

When deciding if there is a ‘serious’ risk, consider:

  • the nature of the work (including how often the work occurs)
  • the amounts of substance being handled, with a consideration of how many hours a day the worker is handling that substance
  • what effects the substance could have on worker health (acute and chronic effects)
  • what control measures are in place to minimise exposure.

Section 2.2.5 of these guidelines describes when the PCBU must review the control measures in light of health monitoring findings.

Appendix

Appendix A: Glossary

Appendix A: Glossary (PDF 47 KB)

Footnote

1 - Section 30 of HSWA