NICNAS is the Australian Governmentís risk assessment and regulatory body for the introduction of industrial chemicals to Australia, but it operates within a whole-of-government chemicals regulatory framework.

 

This consists of four assessment and/or registration schemes that aim to deliver safe, sustainable chemical use for the Australian people and their environment.

 

They are, in addition to NICNAS, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Each presents NICNAS with a potential regulatory interface.

 

NICNAS staff perform the public health and occupational health and safety assessments, while the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts conducts environmental assessments.

 

Health policy is applied to assessments through the location of NICNAS within the Health portfolio. Public health controls are achieved, where relevant, through recommendations to the National Drugs and Poison Schedule Committee for inclusion of the chemical on the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons. The Standard is adopted by State and Territory public health legislation.

 

An agreement between NICNAS and the Office of the Australian Safety and Compensation Council applies occupational health and safety policy to NICNAS assessments.

 

This ensures relevant NICNAS recommendations are consistent with the national occupational health and safety framework, the Model Regulations for the Control of Workplace Hazardous Substances.

 

The framework includes the hazard classification and the application of labelling requirements and Material Data Safety Sheet Codes of Practice to all industrial chemicals used in the workplace.

 

Additionally, NICNAS classifies chemicals in accordance with the United Nationsí Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.

 

Recommendations to protect worker safety are considered through mechanisms of the Office of the Australian Safety and Compensation Council.

 

Recommendations for the environment arise through assessments conducted by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) on behalf of NICNAS and advice flows to the states and territories via the NChEM working group.

 

Environmental policy applied through the partnership with DEWHA allows for the provision of scientific/technical and regulatory advice on environmental protection in relation to chemical safety.

 

Australian Government and State and Territory environmental agencies deliver input to NICNAS developed environmental risk management recommendations.

 

This is through a coordination mechanism provided through the Environment Protection and Heritage Councilís national working group on the environmental risk management of chemicals.

 

Implementation of the recommendations occurs through the States and Territories.

 

NICNAS assessments are available to other Australian Government and State and Territory public health, occupational health and safety and environmental agencies. NICNAS also provides technical assessment services to government departments.

 

Implementation of relevant recommendations from the government taskforce report, Rethinking regulation Ė Report of the taskforce on reducing regulatory burdens on business, underlie a significant proportion of NICNASís work program.

 

The reform of regulations affecting disinfectants was part of the work program in 2007-08. It is expected to be finalised in the latter part of 2009.

 

In the reporting period, NICNAS contributed to the Council of Australian Governments' Taskforce on Chemicals and Plastics Regulation Reform, the Productivity Commissionís study into Chemicals and Plastics Regulation and the Productivity Commissionís studies into Mutual Recognition Arrangements and Primary Industries.

 

NICNAS participates in activities aimed at achieving consistent approaches in assessments and chemical regulation across regulatory regimes, and ensuring that emerging issues, such as nanotechnology, that have wider ramifications are dealt with in a whole-of-government manner.

 

It takes part in the environmental reform program under the Environment Protection and Heritage Councilís National Chemicals Taskforce examining the ecologically sustainable management of chemicals in Australia.

 

NICNASís co-regulatory and cooperative approaches are demonstrated in its agenda that includes reforms of several low regulatory concern chemical categories, including those of products at the cosmetics-therapeutic interface, and reforms for hard surface disinfectants.

 

In its reforms NICNAS strives to achieve the correct balance between mandatory regulatory processes and co- and self- regulatory approaches that deliver acceptable outcomes to all stakeholders.