Importing goods from overseas is a major logistical challenge – and when said goods are hazardous chemicals and dangerous substances, they’re also a major OHS headache too!
Hazardous chemicals, as we all know, need to be treated with care throughout the transportation, distribution and storage processes. Every team member at every step of the way needs to know what they need to do to stay safe.
What’s more, they need to know what to expect from substances ordered from overseas!
While all Australian manufacturers, importers and suppliers need to comply with the Model WHS Regulations, what about international operations? Do they follow different rules?
And more importantly, what will you need to do to keep your team safe?
What to do if you import chemicals overseas?
Thankfully, the trend towards global harmonisation means that much of the work has already been done for you.
Thanks to schemes like GHS, many countries around the world are already on the same page when it comes to things like hazchem signs, dangerous goods labels and emergency information panels.
Whether it’s by adopting internationally-accepted standards outright or modifying and changing local codes until they’re more-or-less identical to global rules, many countries are now working from the same rulebook as Australia.
Not only do many countries now use the same signage, but they also use the same processes. For example, in addition to signs, the GHS also requires chemical producers to create safety data sheets (SDS) for their customers.
The result? There’s good odds that any chemicals you import from overseas will already be compliant, and overseas suppliers will understand what you’re talking about if you need to make requests of them.
Of course, there’s still some things to keep an eye out for…
Secure a permit from customs
Chemicals, materials and goods that are not available locally may be imported from overseas. In these situations, the buyer (read: you) needs to comply with specific government regulations, and obtain certain permits and clearances first.
For example, if you’re importing industrial chemicals from overseas for commercial use and not resale, you’ll need to register your business with the Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS) and pay an annual fee.
Certain substances might even need permits, which will need to be presented to Border Force at the time of importation.
Prepare an SDS
The GHS is more than just a signage scheme – it’s a whole system, designed to keep you safe at every stage of the process.
And it starts by procuring safety data sheets, or SDS.
As the importer, it’s your job to make sure that all chemicals you import from overseas feature an appropriate, GHS-compliant SDS.
That means obtaining an SDS from your international supplier and checking whether or not it complies with Australian requirements.
And if they aren’t (or worse, there isn’t an SDS available), it’s your responsibility as the importer to create one yourself.
Make sure you’ve got the right signage and labels
While most countries are moving towards global harmonisation in the dangerous goods signage and labelling sphere, there are still a couple of areas where things aren’t quite as consistent as they could be.
Instead of simply adopting global standards wholesale, some countries are using these alongside their own homegrown systems, which can cause some confusion.
Others are taking a slow-and-steady approach towards harmonisation in order to ease the transition, slowly changing their local rules and making them closer to global standards over time (resulting in a hodgepodge of rules and standards).
And finally, there are some countries that simply haven’t signed on!
In cases like this, it’s crucial that you ensure that your business has the right dangerous goods signs and labels ready to go in case you’re importing from one of these countries.
Other labelling requirements
It’s important that any chemicals you import are appropriately labelled with appropriate emergency information panels and dangerous goods signs and labels in accordance with Australian WHS laws.
If you’re importing from another country that follows the GHS, most of the heavy lifting has already been done for you.
However, there are still a couple of other labelling requirements you’ll need to abide by.
Importers need to include information that may not be on an internationally label, such as importer information (that is, your contact details).
While chemicals ordered from countries that comply with GHS will probably have you covered, it’s important that you still double-check and if necessary, make amendments or additions.
Make sure your workplace complies with WHS requirements
Specifically, that means:
- Kitting your workplace out with hazchem signs
- Ensuring delivery vehicles have transport EIPs
- Labelling each container with appropriate dangerous goods signs and labels
While you may be selling them on, you still need to make sure your warehouse is safe and complying with WHS requirements!
And it doesn’t end with chemical safety, either – it’s important that you adhere to all other signage requirements that Australian workplace safety laws set out.
Find out how Signsmart can help your business in importing chemicals overseas!
Our online sign shop supplies hazchem signs, EIPS, dangerous goods labels and more for chemical importers
Signage is a crucial part of the safety equation for chemical importers – thus, it’s important that you cover all of your bases, and get the right signs for any chemicals you import.
And that starts with our online sign shop.
Whether you’re an importer or buying chemicals for your own use, you need to make sure that they are properly labelled.
Our sign experts at Signsmart help all kinds of businesses and industries, allowing you to comply with guidelines and requirements that come with importing chemicals from overseas, with:
- Fast, nationwide shipping
- Custom signs, with both template and clean-sheet designs available
- Expert advice on all things hazchem and signage
All you need to do is get in touch!