Role and functions


The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme
(NICNAS) aids in the protection of workers, the public and the environment
from the harmful effects of a wide range of industrial chemicals including
plastics, paints, inks, surface coatings, cosmetics and other consumer
chemicals. NICNAS was established in July 1990 under Australian
Government legislation - the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and
Assessment) Act 1989 (the Act).

The Scheme aims to ensure the safe use of chemicals by making risk
assessment and safety information on chemicals and their potential
occupational health and safety (OHS), public health and/or environmental
risks widely available to workers, the public, industry and other state,
territory and Australian Government agencies. NICNAS scientific risk
assessments support the wide range of chemicals management legislation
for the protection of human health and the environment from the adverse
effects of chemicals.

NICNAS assesses industrial chemicals that are new to Australia for their
health and environmental effects before they are used or released to the
environment. NICNAS also assesses those chemicals that are already in use
in Australia (known as 'existing chemicals') on a priority basis in response
to specific concerns about potential health and/or environmental effects.

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Organisational Structure

  Figure 1 provides an overview of the organisational structure of NICNAS.
NICNAS is a statutory scheme. The Director, NICNAS is a statutory office
holder and has specific functions and powers under the Act. In the exercise
of these functions, the Director is directly responsible to the Minister
through the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing.
NICNAS is located within the Office of Chemical Safety (OCS) in the
Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Group of Regulators of the
Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA).

NICNAS's location provides for an ongoing, consistent approach to
the protection of human health from the effects of industrial chemicals.
In 2004-05 NICNAS continued to build on its team-based organisational
structure within the OCS, further utilising the considerable synergies that
co-location with other chemical regulatory functions within DoHA has

(Click to enlarge)

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Regulatory framework linkages and cooperative

  NICNAS operates within a whole-of-government framework for the
regulation of chemicals. This framework consists of five assessment/
registration schemes that regulate industrial chemicals, medicines and
medical devices, food and food additives, gene technology and pesticides
and veterinary medicines with the scope of each scheme defined by
legislation. To minimise duplication of regulatory effort and unnecessary
regulatory burdens on industry, these schemes operate in a complementary
manner to deliver the health and safety of the Australian people and their
environment from the use of chemicals.

NICNAS regulates industrial chemicals, including cosmetics and domestic
chemicals and its risk assessments are undertaken in partnership with the
Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH).
Assessment comprises a human health and environmental risk assessment
and, where relevant, recommendations for risk mitigation. To avoid
duplication of assessment activities, NICNAS assessments are available
to other Australian Government and state/territory public health, OHS and
environmental agencies. NICNAS also provides technical services to other
Australian Government departments.

The Office of Chemical Safety provides a ’one-stop shop‘ for human health
risk assessment for chemicals at the Australian Government level.
The NICNAS human health assessment includes a public health assessment
and an occupational health and safety assessment. Public safety is achieved
in part through the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and
Poisons (SUSDP), adopted by state/territory public health legislation.
The secretariat for the National Drugs and Poison Scheduling Committee
is located within the OCS, further enhancing regulatory linkages.

Occupational health and safety assessment and ensuing recommendations
are consistent with the national OHS framework, namely the National
Occupational Health and Safety Commission (ASCC) Model Regulations
for the Control of Workplace Hazardous Substances. This includes the
application of the ASCC hazard classification and labelling and Material
Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) codes to all NICNAS assessments. Additionally,
NICNAS classifies chemicals in accordance with the United Nations Globally
Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)
as part of contributing to the National Situational Analysis, in preparing for
the Australian Government's decision on how it will implement the GHS.

State/territory laws govern the supply and downstream control of industrial
chemical use. Health policy and practice is applied through the location of
NICNAS within the Department of Health and Ageing. The NICNAS-ASCC
Memorandum of Understanding facilitates the application of OHS policy
to NICNAS assessments. Environmental policy is applied to industrial
chemicals assessments through the partnership arrangement with the
DEH that allows for the provision of scientific/technical and policy advice
on environmental protection in relation to chemical safety.

NICNAS is linked to several activities of national significance including
the Chemicals and Plastics Action Agenda, the Environment Protection
Heritage Council's (EPHC) development of a National Environmental Risk
Management Framework for Chemicals and the Australian Crime
Commission's monitoring program for precursor chemicals associated with
illicit drug manufacture, as well as providing technical support for certain
counter-terrorism activities.

NICNAS contracted corporate services on a fee-for-service basis from
both the TGA and the DoHA in 2004-05. In addition, library services were
purchased on a fee-for-service basis from ASCC.

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Outcome and output framework

  NICNAS's mission is to be recognised as the leading national authority
for the scientific assessment and management of risks to people and the
environment associated with the use of industrial chemicals. NICNAS works
to encourage the safe and sustainable use of industrial chemicals.

NICNAS pursues its goal of safe and sustainable chemical use through the
scientific assessment of chemical risk and by making recommendations
for controlling these risks. NICNAS assessment information is made
widely available and assists state and territory OHS, public health and
environmental agencies in regulating the sale, control of use, release and
disposal of industrial chemicals. NICNAS assessments also provide risk and
safety information to industry, workers and the public to promote greater
awareness of the dangers of chemicals and how to use them safely.

NICNAS's activities are presented in Outcome 1 within the DoHA
Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) outcome/output structure for 2004-05.
The relationship between the NICNAS Outcome and contributing Output
is shown in Figure 2. The performance measures used for accounting
against outputs and outcomes are shown in Table 1.

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  Table 1 NICNAS performance information against output


Effective Regulation through:

  • pre-introduction assessment
    of new industrial chemicals
    and review of priority existing
    chemicals (including for OHS
    and Public health and
    environmental risk); and


  • evaluations and appeals of
    decisions of applications for
    industrial chemicals  are made
    within legislative and other
    agreed timeframes

  • number of NICNAS
    recommendations adopted


  • timely production of quarterly
    and annual reports

  • number of assessments for new
    number of existing chemical
    reviews (contributing to a target
    rate of 50 chemicals over a
    3-year period)


  • provision of information.


  • high level stakeholder
    satisfaction with relevance,
    qualify and timeliness of
    information and education


  • number of publications circulated
    including 3 issues NICNAS
    12 issues NICNAS
    Chemical Gazette

  • number of chemical
    assessments (new and existing

  • growth in internet site user

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