School operations

Chemical Management


The purpose of this policy is to ensure that risks associated with the storage, handling, use and disposal of chemicals in schools are effectively managed


  • The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2004 (Vic), OHS Regulations 2017 (Vic), the Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2012 (Vic) and the Dangerous Goods (Explosives) Regulations 2011 (Vic) requires the Department to manage the risks associated with dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals stored and used in schools, for example fireworks, methylated spirits, petrol, and aerosol cans.
  • The principal and/or their delegate must ensure that these chemicals are identified, recorded on a Chemical Register and the appropriate controls are put in place for their storage, use and disposal.
  • The principal and/or their delegate must ensure that there are appropriate emergency procedures in place in the event of a chemical emergency.
  • Under the OHS Act 2004, employees while at work must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and the safety of others who may be affected by their actions or omissions.
  • Central and regional offices provide a range of supports and services to assist principals and employees to be safe and well, including access to the OHS Advisory Service and local OHS regional officers, who can provide free advice on managing risks related to dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals.
  • The Chemical Management Procedure (in the Procedure tab) must be followed, and sets out the practical step-by-step instructions for implementing this policy.
  • This policy forms part of the Department’s OHS Management System. Refer to OHS Management System (OHSMS) — Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing for further information.


The principal and/or their delegate must ensure that:

  • all dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals in the workplace are identified in consultation with the Health and Safety Representative(s) and employees
  • for all chemicals onsite, the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) (issued within the last five years) are accessible
  • hard copies of current SDS for dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals and from the manufacturer or supplier are maintained and accessible to those people required to use the chemicals
  • all dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals are recorded in the school’s Chemical Register, or equivalent template
  • chemicals on the prohibited or restricted list are not stored or used at the school (refer to Guidance Sheet 3 Prohibited and Restricted Chemicals)
  • a risk rating is assigned for the storage and handling of each chemical in the Chemical Register
  • a Safe Work Procedure is completed (using the Safe Work Procedure Template) for the storage and handling of dangerous goods and/or hazardous chemicals with a high or extreme risk rating as identified in the Chemical Register.
  • no new dangerous goods and/or hazardous chemicals are introduced into the workplace without first obtaining the manufacturer’s SDS and completing the OHS Purchasing Checklist template. Information from the SDS should be used to determine if the chemical can be safely introduced into the workplace
  • the OHS Purchasing Checklist is used to assess the level of risk prior to buying new chemicals for the workplace
  • the risk controls identified in the Chemical Register are implemented
  • all dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals are labelled, including storage containers, mixtures of chemicals, decanted chemicals and enclosed systems and appropriate signage is displayed (if required)
  • chemicals no longer in use are correctly disposed of and minimal quantities of chemicals are stored on site by regularly reviewing the chemicals held in storage
  • appropriate storage areas are provided for chemicals (for example, flame proof chemical cabinets, corrosion resistant cabinets and fire risk dangerous goods are stored at least five metres away from ignition sources) and incompatible chemicals are appropriately segregated, refer to Guidance Sheet 1 Chemical Storage and Guidance Sheet 2 Dangerous Goods Classification System
  • emergency management procedures are in place for chemicals stored and used on site (for example, identification of fire wardens and evacuation points)
  • emergency management equipment like spill kits / containment areas are available
  • training and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is provided for employees who may be exposed to dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals
  • there is a process for incidents to be reported to the principal and/or their delegate and logged on eduSafe
  • WorkSafe are notified of the escape, spillage or leakage of any substance including dangerous goods
  • ventilation (mechanical and natural) is in place for the safe use and storage of chemicals (for example, fume cupboards, exhaust fans). More detailed information can be found in Guidance Sheet 1 Chemical Storage

The Chemical Management Procedure provides further information on the process for meeting the above requirements.


Dangerous goods
Dangerous goods are substances that may present an immediate safety hazard through exposure to their explosive, flammable, radioactive, corrosive or toxic properties.

They are easily recognisable by the diamond shaped sign displayed on the substance label. They are designated into nine classes according to their immediate physical or chemical effects.

For further information, refer to Guidance Sheet 2 Dangerous Goods Classification System.

eduSafe Plus
The Department’s online hazard and incident reporting and management application, accessible on the intranet. Employees log on using their employee number and password.

Emergency management procedures
Procedures in place to manage hazardous substances and/or dangerous goods spills and leaks (i.e. spill containment, spill kits, spill clean-up, appropriate disposal) including local emergency management plan detailing evacuation directions, medical treatment and assistance and alerting emergency services.

For further information, refer to:

Hazardous chemicals
Hazardous chemicals are classified based on their health effects, both short and long term. They can enter the human body through inhalation, ingestion and contact through the skin and mucous membranes such as the eyes. The level of subsequent risk depends upon both the substance itself and the nature of the work being done with it.

Examples of types of hazardous chemicals (depending on their concentration) include:

  • acids
  • caustic substances
  • disinfectants
  • herbicides and pesticides
  • solvents and thinners

Safety Data Sheet (SDS)
A document prepared by the manufacturer, importer or supplier of a dangerous good, hazardous substance or other chemicals. A SDS describes the properties and uses of a particular substance including details about substance identity, chemical and physical properties, health hazard information and precautions for storage, use and safe handling.

Department policy on managing risks associated with the storage, handling, use and disposal of chemicals in schools

Reviewed 05 October 2021

Policy last updated

15 June 2020


  • Schools
  • School councils


OHS Advisory Service

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