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Hazardous Substances Inquiry


Hazardous Substances Inquiry

The government has set up an Inquiry into the management of hazardous substances in the workplace in line with its election commitment, Labour Minister Margaret Wilson announced today.

Wellington barrister Denis Clifford, who will be supported by medical and scientific experts, is chairing the Inquiry. Work will start before the end of the year with a report back date of 30 May 2003.

“This Inquiry was included in Labour Party Employment Relations Policy commitments because of ongoing concerns in the community and workplaces.” Margaret Wilson said.

The management of hazardous substances in the health sector, manufacturing sector and the printing industry, and the general use of glutaraldehyde, other aldehydes and solvents will be addressed.

Margaret Wilson said the Inquiry will identify how employers and others with responsibility in workplaces, including self-employed and employees, manage these particular hazardous substances; and if there are any factors that limit the ability of employers and others to implement effective systems for managing hazardous substances. It will also identify options the government may have to address any issues.

“The Inquiry will seek written submissions and also convene public hearings. This will provide an opportunity for both employers and employees who have experience in managing these substances to have their views considered in this difficult and overlooked area,” she said.

“Denis Clifford’s experience will be invaluable given the complex legal and jurisdictional issues surrounding the legislation governing workplace management of hazardous substances.”

Inquiry process guidelines and further information can be found at: http:// http://www.hazsubstancesinquiry.osh.govt.nz This website will be updated throughout the Inquiry process.

The Inquiry Administrative Support Officer Joanne Brown or Inquiry Manager John Gilbert can be contacted on (04) 915 4547, fax (04) 915 4587 or by email: mailto: mailto:hazsubstancesinquiry@osh.dol.govt.nz

Attached: Inquiry terms of reference. For more information, contact Leigh Sutton (04) 471 9337 or (021) 864 811.
INQUIRY INTO THE MANAGEMENT OF CERTAIN HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES IN WORKPLACES TERMS OF REFERENCE

PREAMBLE

This inquiry is a Ministerial Inquiry which is convened by the Minister of Labour. It is prompted by reports of adverse health consequences that have been experienced by persons who have been known to have worked with, and been exposed to the effects of, certain organic compounds, primarily in the health sector, the printing industry, and the manufacturing sector. Those compounds are the chemicals glutaraldehyde, other aldehydes, and solvents.

The Inquiry is aimed at learning from experiences (both positive and negative) with those chemicals in those sectors. The principal object of the Inquiry is to identify any gaps in the availability and adoption of best practice systems for the management of these particular hazardous substances in those sectors, and why those gaps exist. A further object is the identification of ways of ensuring the adoption of best practice in relation to other organic compounds used in those sectors which have similar effects. To do this, it will be necessary for the Inquiry to review the nature and extent of the adverse health consequences in question, consider whether there is any causative or other relationship between the hazardous substances and those consequences, and review the content and application of current best practice management systems for the hazardous substances.

While the Inquiry will be informed by individual examples and situations, it is not the purpose of this Inquiry to allocate blame or accountability in relation to any particular situation, incident, or exposure. For the avoidance of doubt, if this inquiry obtains information that it concludes could be placed before a relevant authority for its consideration, no reference to that conclusion need be included in the report to the Minister of Labour but that information may be forwarded to the relevant authority, together with appropriate commentary from this Inquiry, for the consideration of that authority.

SCOPE

This Ministerial Inquiry shall cover the use of, and exposure to, the following substances (“the hazardous substances”):

Glutaraldehyde, other aldehydes, and organic solvents in workplaces, paying particular attention to uses and exposures in the health sector, the printing industry, and the manufacturing sector, being for the purposes of this Inquiry the sector which involves the assembly, fabrication, and formulation of products from materials, (including the finishing, painting and repair of such products). Any other organic compounds used in those same sectors which the Inquiry considers cause problems similar to those caused by the substances covered by the paragraph immediately above (whether neurological, dermatological, respiratory, allergic, or otherwise), by means of inhalation or skin contact, for persons exposed to them in workplaces.

For the avoidance of doubt, excluded from the scope are:

the manufacture of the hazardous substances themselves;

exposure to organochlorine herbicides, pesticides, and their contaminants; and

any exposure of patients, rather than workers, in the health sector.

ROLE

The Inquiry will:

Review the nature and extent of the adverse health consequences arising from the use of, and exposure to, the hazardous substances, and consider whether there is any causative or other relationship between the hazardous substances and those consequences.

Identify and consider the nature, scope, and content of, and the relationship between, the various elements of the legislative framework that govern safety and health issues in relationship to the hazardous substances.

Review the way employers (and others with responsibility in workplaces, including self-employed and employees) manage the hazardous substances and the extent to which those persons adopt best practice (in storage, use, transportation and disposal of the substances, in providing information, supervision, and training for employees in relation to the hazardous substances, and in responding to instances of adverse consequences associated with exposure).

Review the extent and effectiveness of the relationships between those manufacturing, those storing and transporting, those using, and those disposing of, the hazardous substances to identify how well those interdependencies promote best practice arrangements.

Identify any factors that affect the ability of those various participants to effectively and systematically manage the hazardous substances and adopt best practice.

Identify any areas in which best practice could be improved in light of the information considered by the Inquiry.

Identify any means available to address or respond to any issues identified, and make recommendations as to preferred options.


ANCILLARY MATTERS In carrying out its role, the Inquiry will consider such things as: Areas of current exposure Levels of current exposure Types of harm associated with exposure, or allegedly associated with exposure Medical/scientific views about exposure and its effects Availability and practicability of safer substitute materials PROCESS The Inquiry will proceed by way of an investigation and may be informed in such manner as the Inquiry thinks fit, including: Obtaining relevant experience, including expert scientific and medical services, to assist it to examine issues covered by the Inquiry; and Inviting public submissions and holding public hearings on submissions. The Inquiry is not bound by any rules of evidence or by any particular procedure but will conduct its investigation in a fair manner and in accordance with the principles of natural justice. The Inquiry will report regularly to the Minister of Labour on progress with the Inquiry. REPORTING The Inquiry shall report to the Minister of Labour by 30 May 2003.


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