Recommendations contained in existing chemicals reports are made to eliminate or reduce the risks associated with the use of industrial chemicals, and span occupational, public, and environmental safety.
These recommendations are targeted at specific agencies and groups, including Commonwealth peak national bodies for setting health and safety standards (such as the National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee and the Office of the Australian Safety and Compensation Council), as well as State and Territory government agencies, industry groups and the general public.
The review of the Existing Chemicals Program, based on recommendations from an independent review, Promoting safer chemical use: towards better regulation of chemicals in Australia, seeks means of improving program transparency, flexibility and responsiveness.
NICNAS commissioned an independent review during the year to investigate the extent and timing of implementation of recommendations from Existing Chemicals’ top priority existing chemicals reports by Commonwealth, State and Territory bodies.
This review also aimed to identify any barriers to the effective implementation of them and to propose ways to improve the timely uptake of their recommendations.
A report of the review, submitted to the Productivity Commission’s study into chemicals and plastics regulation, underlined the importance of communication between NICNAS and other regulatory bodies, especially during assessment and recommendation formulation.
An implementation steering group is guiding NICNAS on Existing Chemicals reforms strategies, including the prioritising of projects and consultation with governments, industry and the community.
The group comprises two Australian Government representatives, two representing the State and Territory Governments, three from industry and three from the community.
Relevant reform projects already commenced include:
· a technical working party examining the streamlining of the secondary notification process for chemicals originally assessed as new chemicals and a review of the range of assessments and products arising from the existing chemicals program
· development of a NICNAS Who’s Who guide to industrial chemicals safety and management
· exploring by NICNAS of an improved coordination and cooperation process with the States and Territories
· increasing and broadening stakeholder consultations during chemical assessment processes and ensuring recommendations are action-based
· NICNAS examining an extension of the Bilateral Agreement with Canada to include existing chemicals, and
· screening of chemicals on the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances using hazard and/or risk indicators, as a mechanism for better identifying priority chemicals for assessment.
This latter work includes characterising the entire inventory, with all of its 38,000 substances grouped into broad categories.
Categorisation will be assisted by comparisons of inventory-listed substances with groupings on other inventories.
Approaches used by Canada in categorisation of its Domestic Substances List and their applicability to the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances’ screening process are being examined. For more detail see Appendix 07.