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					           THE OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH
        (USE AND STANDAR OF EXPOSURE OF CHEMICALS
           HAZARDOUS TO HEALTH) REGULATION 2000
                                    Anuar Mohd. Mokhtar
                          Department of Occupational Safety Health
                           Ministry of Human Resources, Malaysia

INTRODUCTION

Occupational safety in Malaysia is said to have started with the appointment of boiler surveyor
at the turn of the century. Machinery safety has been the focus of legislator for decades up till
the enactment of the Factories and Machinery Act 1967 (FMA). Through this Act, regulations
such as the Factories and Machinery (Lead) Regulations 1984, the Factories and Machinery
(Asbestos Process) Regulations 1986 and the Factories and Machinery (Mineral Dust)
Regulations 1989 were enacted. These regulations however, only address the control of
specific chemical substances.

In 1994 the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) broadened the scope of the
activities covered by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). The Bhopal
chemical disaster in 1984 managed to drastically increase chemical safety awareness in many
countries throughout the world, Malaysia being no exception. To address major accidents
from chemical installations, the Occupational Safety and Health (Control of Major Accident
Hazards) Regulations was gazetted in 1996.

The controls on the importation, sales and use of pesticides, pharmaceutical products and
certain poisonous substances have been in existence for quite some time with the enforcement
of specific legislations by relevant authorities. These include the enforcement of the Pesticides
Act of 1974 by the Pesticides Board, and the enforcement of the Poisons Ordinance of 1953 by
the Ministry of Health.

However, control of other co-called „industrial chemicals‟ was still lacking. Thus, in the aim
to address this, the Occupational Safety and Health (Classification, Packaging and Labelling)
Regulations (OSH-CPL) was gazetted in 1997 with the aim of controlling the supply of
hazardous chemicals to the workplace with respect to the classification, packaging and
labelling of chemical products, and the provision of hazard information. Under this regulation,
chemical suppliers are required to classify their chemical products, pack them in safe packages
or containers, label the containers and packages, as well as provide standardised and up-to-date
information on the risks and safe use of their chemical products to the users.


USE OF CHEMICALS AT THE WORKPLACE

The use of chemicals at the workplace is of concern to all; the government, employers and
employees, as they may pose hazardous to health in a number of ways. They may cause fires
and explosion, adverse health effects and/or damage to the environment.

The term use of chemicals hazardous to health has been used to mean the „production,
handling, storage, transport, disposal and treatment of any chemicals that have the potential to
cause adverse health effects‟. Adverse health effects refer to effects that cause changes in the
morphology, growth, development or life span of an organism and which results in the
impairment of the functional capacity or ability of the organism to maintain homeostasis or
those that do not enchance susceptibility to deleterious effects of other environmental factors.
In short, the spectrum of adverse health effects range from discomfort or irritation at one end to
death at the other.

The risk of fire and explosion has somewhat been addressed by certain legislations such as the
OSH Act, while environmental protection comes under the purview of the Department of
Environment. However, there is currently no specific legislation to control the use of
hazardous chemicals at any place of work to ensure that the users, mainly industrial workers
and the self-employed, are not adversely affected.

The OSH Act 1994 provide for the protection of employees handling hazardous chemicals in a
general way. Section 15 of the OSH Act stipulated the general duties of employers and self-
employed persons to ensure the safety, health and welfare of employees at the workplace. This
duty includes making arrangements for ensuring safety as well as absence of health hazards
and risks in connection with the use, operation, handling, storage and transport of hazardous
substances.

These arrangements are general in nature and therefore require further elaboration and
clarification by a more specific regulation on chemicals that will lay down the principles and
practices to safeguard the health and safety of workers dealing with chemical substances.
Hence, a set of regulations was promulgated under section 66 of the OSH Act solely
addressing the issue of safety and health in the use and handling of chemicals that are
hazardous to health at the workplace. This legislation is called the Occupational Safety and
Health (Use and Standard of Exposure of Chemicals Hazardous to Health) Regulations 2000 or
in short, OSH-USECHH Regulations.


THE GAZETTING OF THE OSH-USECHH REGULATIONS

This legislation (P.U.(A) 131) was gazetted on April 2000 and came into force on the same
date. The Minister of Human Resources officially launched it during a national seminar
entitled “Introduction to the USECHH Regulations 2000”


RATIONALE FOR FORMULATION

While the OSH-CPL Regulations provide the legal framework for the classification, packaging
and hazard information provision for hazardous chemical supplies, OSH-USECHH provides
the legal framework on the handling of chemicals hazardous to health at the workplace.

The purpose of formulating these Regulations are:

    a) To provide a legal framework responsible for the proper use of chemicals in
       workplaces in Malaysia.

    b) To promote excellence in the management of chemical substances that are known to be
       hazardous to health.

    c) To set workplace exposure standards so as to protect the health of persons at work.

With the gazetting of these regulations, it is hoped that the following objectives will be
achieved:
    1. Prevent the occurrence of occupational diseases, poisoning or adverse health effects
       from the use of hazardous chemicals at the workplace;
    2. Provide the minimum standard on the safe use of chemicals hazardous to health at the
       workplace; and

    3. Stipulate the maximum allowable exposure standard for occupationally exposed
       personnel.



APPLICTION

The OSH-USECHH Regulations is applicable to all places of work within the purview of the
Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 where chemicals hazardous to health are used.
These include work in the following economic sectors:-

    a)   Manufacturing;
    b)   Quarrying and mining;
    c)   Construction;
    d)   Agriculture, forestry and fishing;
    e)   Utilities;
    f)   Transport, storage and communication;
    g)   Wholesale and retail trade;
    h)   Hotels and restaurants;
    i)   Finance, insurance, real estate and business services; and
    j)   Public services and statutory authorities.

However, certain places of work are excluded if the chemical substances used are:

    a)   Radioactive materials;
    b)   Foodstuff;
    c)   Pharmaceutical products; or
    d)   hazardous to health solely by virtue of their explosive or flammable properties, or
         solely because they are at a high temperature or pressure (e.g. water).


SALIENT PROVISIONS

Among the salient provisions of the Regulations are:

    a) Identification of hazardous chemicals at the workplace and the establishment and
       maintenance of a chemical register;
    b) Compliance with permissible exposure limits;
    c) Chemical health risk assessment for employees;
    d) Introduction of appropriate measures to prevent or control significant health risks;
    e) Ensuring the use and maintenance of control measures and procedures;
    f) Labelling and re-labelling of containers;
    g) Awareness through information, instruction and training of employees on the health
       risks and precautions to be taken at the workplace;
    h) Where necessary, monitor the exposure of employees and carry out the appropriate
       form of health surveillance;
    i) Medical Removal Protection;
    j) Warning signs; and
    k) Record keeping.
Identification of Hazardous Chemicals

The identification of chemical substance hazardous to health is necessary before any detailed
assessment or control measure can be instituted. The employer is expected to keep an
inventory of all chemicals hazardous to health being used, produced, handled or stored in their
workplace.

The chemical inventory together with the Chemical Safety Data Sheet (CSDS) for each
chemical constitutes the workplace chemical registry, which has to be kept by the employer.

The information in the registry should include;

    a) Names and the average quantity of all chemicals hazardous to health used, produced or
       stored;
    b) Process and work area involved in the uses of these chemicals;
    c) Names and addresses of the suppliers; and
    d) Hazard information in the form of Chemical Safety Data Sheet (SCDS).

The employer will have to make the registry accessible to all potentially exposed employees.

Permissible Exposure Limits

Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) refer to the limit of exposure that must not be exceeded by
any employee over a specified time limit. These limits denote concentration levels above
which exposure to chemicals hazardous to health must be controlled. To protect against
chronic health effects of chemicals, the limits set are eight hours time-weighted average values.
Excursions above the eight-hour time weighted average limit is allowed as long as it does not
exceed three times this set limit. Ceiling limits are set for chemicals causing acute effects, so
as not to be exceeded at any time during he work shift.

The permissible exposure limits for more than 600 chemical substances have been stipulated in
Schedule 1 of this Regulation. For those chemicals not listed, employers should consult the
Director-General of the Department of Occupational Safety and Health in order to determine
the permissible level.


Assessment of Health Risk Arising from the Use of Chemicals at Work.

Before any work involving exposure to chemicals is carried out, an assessment of the risks
created by the job must be conducted. This is to determine whether the job may present a risk
of acute or chronic ill health by entry of chemicals into the body through inhalation, skin
absorption or ingestion, or a risk of injury or ill health from skin or eye contact.

The assessment should take into consideration:

    a) Which chemicals are used and the nature of their hazards, i.g. whether they present a
       risk of acute or chronic ill health by entry into the body through inhalation, skin
       absorption, ingestion, skin or eye contact:
    b) The method and procedures adopted in the processing, use, handling, storage,
       transportation and disposal of the chemicals hazardous to health;

    c) The degree of exposure, which may include measured levels of the chemicals
       hazardous to health in the workplace environment, or absorbed by employees.

    d) The potential for harm to occur in the use of the chemical;

    e) The measures and procedures necessary to eliminate, isolate or minimise the exposure
       of employees; and

    f) The measures, procedures, and control equipment necessary to control any accidental
       release of chemicals hazardous to health as a result of leakage, spillage, process or
       equipment failure.

Employers are required to appoint only competent assessors registered with the Department of
Occupational Safety and Health to conduct the assessment.


Measures to Prevent or Control Health Risks

The assessment conducted will reveal inadequacies in the control measures and those that
require urgent attention. The aim of having control measures is to protect employees against
the risk of injury or disease from chemicals hazardous to health.

The underlying principles of protection is as follows.

a) Elimination of hazards or risks:

    this is at the top of the hierarchy of control measures to be adopted. Elimination includes
    the complete removal of chemicals hazardous to health from the workplace and the use of
    substitutes that are less hazardous to health.

b) Isolation of hazards or risks:

    by isolation the process or work area involving chemicals hazardous to health from the
    employees or vice versa;

c) Minimisation of hazards or risks:

    by modification of process parameters; use of engineering controls; adoption of safe
    operating procedures and work method; or use of personal protective equipment (PPE)


Use and Maintenance of Control Equipment

It is important that control equipment is not only installed and operated but also maintained in
good working condition. These equipment need to be regularly inspected, examined and tested
to ensure that they are in good condition and are operating in an efficient manner so as to
effectively control hazards. Employees must play their role in not only using the control
equipment properly but also report any malfunctions or defects of the equipment.
Labelling and Re-labelling

The employer has the duty to ensure that labels are not removed, defaced, modified or altered,
and if found so, he is required to re-label the container. Where the chemicals have been
transferred into the new container is not required if the chemicals is to be used or consumed
immediately (i.e. during the particular work shift).

For those chemicals to be used during the work shift or in a testing laboratory, re-labelling of
containers holding the chemicals may be confined to the marking of its chemical or trade name.
This is to ensure that workers from another work shift handling the containers will be able to
know and identify the chemicals contained therein, hence take the necessary safety
precautions.


Environment Monitoring

The purpose of monitoring exposure at the workplace is to assess employee exposure and to
ensure the maintenance of adequate control over these exposures. The necessity for
monitoring depends on the results of the health risk assessment. A competent hygiene
technician registered with DOSH must conduct the monitoring in the workplace. Where
monitoring is found necessary to comply with these Regulations, it must be conducted in
accordance with the approved method of sampling and analysis.


Health Surveillance

Health surveillance means any examination or investigations, which may be necessary to detect
exposure levels and early biological effects and responses. It includes biological monitoring,
medical surveillance, enquiry of symptoms and review of records and occupational history.
Medical surveillance is the monitoring of an individual worker for the purpose of identifying
changes in his health status due to occupational exposure to chemicals hazardous to health.

Judgement as to whether the health surveillance needs to include medical surveillance forms
part of the assessment procedure. An occupational health doctor registered with DOSH must
conduct the health surveillance on certain high-risk employees.

The purpose of the health surveillance are:

    i)   To identify individuals at significant risk of an identifiable disease or adverse effect so
         that precautions can be taken to protect their health and/or inform them of the adverse
         effects; and

    ii) To establish adequate control measures and work processes so that both individuals
        and groups are better protected if this is found necessary.

Under this Regulations, medical surveillance is required to be undertaken for the 34 chemicals
listed under Schedule II. A guideline on how to conduct the medical surveillance will be
published by DOSH for the reference of Occupational Health Doctors.


Medical Removal Protection

Employees with certain medical conditions such as heart problems or asthma, etc. should be
protected by having them removed from the hazardous environment and be placed in a more
conducive workplace so as not to aggravate their medical condition. This may only be done
under the advice of a registered occupational health doctor. Other susceptible groups requiring
special attention are pregnant and breastfeeding employees.


Information, Instruction and Training

Provision of information to employees is an important aspect of the Regulation. Information to
be made available to employees include:

a) Labels on containers;
b) Chemical safety data sheet; and
c) Warning signs.

Before any chemical hazardous to health is used, information on it, either in the form of
product label or chemical safety data sheet must be obtained. This is to prevent employees
from exposing themselves to unknown risks.

Employees involved in the handling of or those likely to be exposed to chemicals hazardous to
health must be informed of the hazards associated with the chemicals and be instructed on how
to obtain and use the information provided on labels and chemical safety data sheets.
Employees must be trained in the correct use of the chemicals and the control measures to be
taken as well as be made aware of their significance. Employers should use chemical safety
data sheets along with information specific to the workplace as a basis for the preparation of
instructions to workers. Training should be on a regular basis and reviewed and updated from
time to time.


CONCLUSION

The Occupational Safety and Health (Use and Standard of Exposure of Chemicals Hazardous
to Health) Regulations 2000 is a legislation that complements the Occupational Safety and
Health (Classification, Packaging and Labelling of Hazardous Chemicals) Regulations 1997.
While the latter addresses the classification, packaging, and hazard information of hazardous
chemicals, the former addresses how to manage the chemicals hazardous to health during their
use, handling, and storage.

The OSH-USECHH Regulations (Schedule 1) also stipulate the occupational exposure limits
termed as Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) to ensure that workers are not overexposed to
these hazardous chemicals resulting in serious health impairment.

Enforcement of these Regulations will inevitably lead to a safer and healtheir working
environment for the employees and employers alike involved in using and handling hazardous
chemicals at the workplace.

INDUSTRIAL HYGIENE: RELATED ACTS AND REGULATIONS


1. Factories and Machinery (Lead) Regulations 1984
2. Factories and Machinery (Asbestos Process) Regulations 1986
3. Factories and Machinery (Mineral Dust) Regulations 1989
4. Factories and Machinery (Noise Exposure) Regulations 1989
5. Occupational Safety and Health (Use and Standards of Exposure of Chemicals Hazardous
   to Health) Regulations 2000
6. Occupational Safety and Health (Classification, Packaging and Labelling of Hazardous
   Chemicals) Regulations 1997.

				
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