Proposed amendments to the Poisons Standard – Joint ACCS/ACMS meetings, November 2017 (Helium)
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Australian Chamber) is the largest and most representative business advocacy network in Australia. We represent more than 300,000 businesses in every state and territory and across all industries. Our network employs around 4 million employees, ranging from the top 100 companies to small and medium businesses.
The Australian Chamber welcomes the opportunity to provide comment on the Scheduling Advisory Committees pre-meeting proposal for helium.
The chemical industry is a vital part of the Australian economy now and in the future. Businesses, governments, community consumers and our natural environment all benefit from the safe, responsible and sustainable use of chemicals. Any proposed changes should ensure a balanced regulatory environment that encourages investment and innovation whilst retaining standards of protection that are proportionate to any risk.
This proposal will not only impact the chemical industry, but a significant number of other industries due to helium’s various medical, industrial and scientific applications. Industries potentially impacted include:
- Manufacturing: used in semiconductor manufacturing, fiber optic cable manufacturing.
- Medical: used in MRIs & other medical devices and in the treatment of respiratory problems.
- Diving: used in scuba and deep diving breathing gases.
- Automotive: used in airbags, to detect leaks in air-con systems in cars.
- Welding: used in welding gases (i.e. arc welding).
- Scientific/Professional: laboratory equipment (such as a carrier gas for Gas Chromatography, microscopes).
- Tech: used in laser cutting, 3D printing, electronics.
The Australian Chamber considers mental ill-health to be an important public health issue which impacts not only on the individual, their family and the community, but also on the workplace due to the substantial amount of time spent at work. We note that the proposed scheduling seeks to mitigate the reported public health risk of suicide by asphyxiation.
Mental ill-health is a complex issue and continued research is needed into best practice prevention strategies and responses. The Australian Chamber considers the controlling of a substance that is inherently low risk and has a number of legitimate uses, in reaction to a small percentage of intentional misuse, a disproportionate response and one that may not necessarily address the root cause of the issue. The increased regulation of this commonly used gas would have a significant detrimental impact on a range of industries. Without substantiated evidence that this action would significantly improve outcomes, we strongly oppose this proposal as it is impractical and unworkable for industry. We would encourage the reviewers to explore other less prescriptive and more practical control measures.
Associate Director, Work Health and Safety & WC Policy