Posted November 10, 2018 12:04:30When you have a workplace contaminated with toxic chemicals, you are legally obligated to tell your employer the truth about what happened and to make sure that those involved are held accountable.
When a toxic substance is used in a workplace, that is not the same as having an employee responsible for cleaning up the mess.
So what are the rules when toxic chemicals are used in the workplace?
The ABC’s Health & Safety Correspondent Tom Daley investigates the issues around the chemicals used in Australia’s workplaces.
Key points:The ABC is not in the business of telling employers the truth, nor is the ABC obliged to report on toxic chemicals used by the workplace.
What are the consequences if a toxic workplace is contaminated with chemicals?
If you or someone you know has been exposed to toxic chemicals in the course of their work, they are not entitled to compensation.
The ACT Government has introduced legislation to amend the Australian Human Rights Act to provide for the establishment of a fund to provide compensation to workers who have been exposed.
The fund, called the Employee’s Compensation Fund (ECF), is an independent entity that can be used for workers who are not covered by a collective agreement, such as employees or their families.
Workers in a toxic work environment who are injured or killed due to exposure to a toxic or dangerous substance can receive compensation.
What can an employer do if their toxic chemicals were used in their workplace?
Employers are legally obliged to tell the employer the facts, the ACT Government says, and it is also legally obliged for them to make the employer fully aware of the toxic substance used in its workplace.
The government is currently working with the ACT Industrial Workers’ Federation to review the law to create the appropriate standards.
It will also work with employers to create a workplace health and safety policy that provides guidance on the safe use of chemicals in workplaces.
In this case, the law would require employers to have a clear and concise policy that outlines the information required for the workplace to be considered safe.
What if the employer refuses to make this information available?
Employees and their families are entitled to make information available to their employer about the toxic chemicals that have been used.
However, the employer can refuse to provide the information to the employer if the information is not useful to them, is misleading or the employer believes the information does not meet the legal requirements of the law.
What is the law on toxic materials in workplaces?
There is a broad definition of toxic materials and how they can be regulated.
The law says:”An article that is defined in the Hazardous Substances Act 1996, or any similar provision, is one that is intended to be used, and which is capable of being used, in, or on, a hazardous material, or which has been so designed, constructed, or applied in, on, or in relation to a hazardous substance, by or on behalf of, or for the benefit of any person, whether or not such use or use for a hazardous object or object is in the public interest, whether such use is in conformity with a valid regulatory requirement, whether the article is contained in a container or package, or whether it has been lawfully acquired or possessed.”
The definition also says: “An article is toxic if it causes injury or death to any person”There is no limit on the number of toxic chemicals an employer can use in a work place.
The Commonwealth is currently examining the rules around toxic materials, and is reviewing the ACT Legislation on toxic substances and hazardous substances to establish appropriate workplace health standards.
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