CHEMICAL SAFETY IN SOUTH AFRICA

The safe transport, handling, use and disposal of hazardous chemicals and receptacles, are of crucial importance to the general health and well-being of members of the public, and the environment as a whole.

Different legislation covers the subject of hazardous substances in South Africa and the aim of this  article is  to focus broadly on the HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES ACT of 1973 (ACT 15 OF 1973).

The HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES ACT, 1973 (ACT 15 OF 1973) deals specifically with the following issues namely:

  1. Licensing;
  2. Conditions of sale;
  3. Keeping of records;
  4. Labelling; and
  5. Disposal of empty containers.

1. Licensing

All manufacturers, importers, wholesale distributors, registered pharmacists and general dealers of Group 1 hazardous substances, must be in possession of a valid license which is renewable annually. Group 1 hazardous substance, which are listed in the act, are extremely toxic and / or corrosive substances with mostly rapid chemical reactions and shall be locked separately from articles of food and drink in an enclosed space reserved solely for the hazardous substance.

The departments of Agriculture as well as National and Provincial Health, are responsible for the issuing of licenses.  The Municipal Environmental Practitioners are responsible to ensure that all cases of poisoning are investigated, as soon as they are notified of any incident.

2. Conditions of sale

All sales must take place at the address mentioned in the license and under control of the person mentioned therein.

All containers must be securely closed, free from leaks and of sufficient strength to withstand rough handling and preclude any loss of content.

  1. Keeping of records

Stock records should reflect the name and quantity of the substance, date of importation or acquisition, name of the supplier and whether the substance will be used for mining, or industrial purposes or to a wholesale distributor, a bona fide laboratory, research institution, teaching institution, government department, agricultural company or any other user. Records and invoices of sales must be kept for a period of 3 years.

  1. Labelling

Information that should reflect on a label must show the chemical name of the product or substances contained therein, the name and address of the supplier, a skull and crossbones symbol with the words “poison” and “keep out of reach of children”. The label and lettering is prescribed in the legislation, as well as directives regarding the disposal of empty containers. Risks involved using the substance, precautions and first aid treatment must be conspicuously labeled.

  1. Disposal of empty containers

Certain categories of hazardous substances empty containers must be returned to the manufacturer under very specific conditions. Other low risk containers can be perforated, flattened and buried at a hazardous land fill site. Empty containers that contained foodstuffs, cosmetics or disinfectants can never be used as containers for hazardous substances. Municipal Environmental Practitioners play a critical role in ensuring that all hazardous and medical waste are stored and disposed of in a safe and effective manner according to international norms and standards.

Hazardous substances can and should be handled as prescribed by legislation. This will ensure that our environment and loved ones are not negatively affected by the use of such substances. It is thus imperative, that we also make use of the above mentioned principles in our homes and workplace.

For more information, please contact the GRDM Municipal Health Section at 044 803 1550.