The importance of ensuring chemicals used in a workplace are safe has been highlighted by a recent case investigated by WorkCover NSW.
In the middle of 2012, WorkCover NSW inspectors visited a Sydney hairdressing business after complaints from staff who had experienced skin irritations and respiratory difficulties after using a keratin-based product. After testing, the product was discovered to exceed approved legal limits of formaldehyde and wasn’t labelled to regulatory requirements.
The owners, George and Marie Karam, were told to stop using the product, but after more complaints from staff last year another product was seized by authorities. Again, illegal levels of formaldehyde were traced.
WorkCover NSW took the couple to the Local Court of NSW where last month they pleaded guilty to two offences under Section 33 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for failing to meet basic occupational health and safety obligations and were fined $25,000 each.
In court, the product’s label was revealed to have been written in Arabic and translated to a fabric softener for towels rather than a keratin treatment. The couple was also sighted for failing to provide training or information on how to handle chemicals, and not providing data sheets for recording its use.
Exposure to carcinogenic substances can lead to a number of health issues including cancer, so employees handling these chemicals should be well trained and understand what they are dealing with.
General Manager of WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division John Watson said this highlights the need for NSW workplaces to comply to safety laws.
“Businesses should obtain information in relation to hazardous substances and ensure the safety of their workers during product dispensing and application by controlling identified risks,” he said.
“This includes reading the safety data sheet – provided by the manufacturer or importer, and any analysis, testing or examination that may be necessary to ensure that a substance does not risk health and safety.”
Mr Watson said importers could also be liable for charges if their products are deemed to not comply with NSW workplace safety laws.
An appeal has been filed and will be heard later this year.
Workplace compensation in NSW
Employees injured at work are entitled to workers compensation. It is recommended that you contact a compensation lawyer who can advise you on how make your claim and assist you through the process.
These lawyers operate on a no win no fee basis so they can advise you on your chances for success free of charge – if they think you have a case, it’s completely up to you whether you engage their services.