NICNAS, as the Australian Government risk assessment body for industrial chemicals, operates within a whole of Government chemicals regulatory framework that consists of the four assessment/registration schemes detailed at Figure 2. Together, these schemes aim to deliver safe chemical use for the Australian people and their environment. While the regulatory schemes for medicines and medical devices, food and food additives and pesticides and veterinary medicines operate in a complementary manner. they each present a potential regulatory interface with NICNAS.
Figure 2: The Australian Government’s regulatory framework for chemicals
NICNAS risk assessment comprises a human health and environmental risk assessment and where relevant, recommendations for risk mitigation. The human health assessment includes both a public health and OHS component. Health policy is applied to assessments through the location of NICNAS within the Health Portfolio. The public health controls are achieved (where relevant) through recommendations to the National Drugs and Poison Schedule Committee (NDPSC) for inclusion of the chemical on the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons (SUSDP). The SUSDP is adopted by state and territory public health legislation.
The agreement between NICNAS and the Office of the Australian Safety and Compensation Council (OASCC) facilitates the application of OHS policy to NICNAS assessments. Recommendations arising from the OHS assessments are consistent with the national OHS framework: the Model Regulations for the Control of Workplace Hazardous Substances. This includes the hazard classification and the application of labelling requirements and Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS) Codes of Practice to all industrial chemicals used in the workplace. Additionally, NICNAS classifies chemicals in accordance with the UN Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). Recommendations to protect worker safety are considered through the OASCC mechanisms.
The Australian Government Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW) undertakes the environmental assessment for industrial chemicals under a service level agreement with NICNAS. Environmental policy is applied through this partnership arrangement with DEW that allows for the provision of scientific/technical and regulatory advice on environmental protection in relation to chemical safety. Details of the 2006-07 arrangement are provided at Appendix 02. The Australian Government and state and territory environmental agencies provide input into environmental risk management recommendations developed by NICNAS through the coordination mechanism provided through the EPHC’s National Working Group on the Environmental Risk Management of Chemicals. Implementation of recommendations occurs through the states and territories.
NICNAS and DEW staff at the joint workshop on new chemicals assessment, March 2007
NICNAS assessments are available to other Australian Government and state and territory public health, OHS and environmental agencies. NICNAS also provides technical assessment services to government departments. State and territory laws govern the supply and downstream control of the use of industrial chemicals.
NICNAS provided input into activities of national significance including the Productivity Commission’s January 2006 report Rethinking regulation – Report of the taskforce on reducing regulatory burdens on business (Banks report). Recommendations from this report – to progress regulatory reform for disinfectants – impacted on NICNAS’s work program during the year. NICNAS provides input to the DoHA Regulatory Plan each year. Details of the current regulatory plan are provided at Appendix 03.