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Hazardous processes and the storage of hazardous substances

The Building Code requires the consideration of hazardous substances present or hazardous processes undertaken in buildings.

What are hazardous substances?

The definition of 'hazardous substance', for Building Code purposes, is taken from the Fire Service Act 1975. This includes in its definition any hazardous substance defined by the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO Act).

In addition, the Fire Service Act defines 'hazardous substance' as: 'Any infectious or radioactive substance that may impair human, animal, or plant health'.

The HSNO Act states:

Hazardous substance means, unless expressly provided otherwise by regulations, any substance—
  • (a) With one or more of the following intrinsic properties: (i) Explosiveness;
  • (ii) Flammability;
  • (iii) A capacity to oxidise;
  • (iv) Corrosiveness;
  • (v) Toxicity (including chronic toxicity);
  • (vi) Ecotoxicity, with or without bioaccumulation; or
  • (b) Which on contact with air or water (other than air or water where the temperature or pressure has been artificially increased or decreased) generates a substance with any one or more of the properties specified in paragraph (a) of this definition.'

A wide range of products, materials and substances fall into these definitions. All buildings containing hazardous substances must comply with the requirements of Building Code Clause F3 Hazardous Substances and Processes. If the Department's Verification Method F3/VM1 is used, then it requires compliance with the HSNO Act and all HSNO regulations. Therefore, if there is not compliance with the HSNO legislation, then compliance with the Building Code has not been shown.

Some typical hazardous substances are:

  • petroleum products, including petrol, diesel and natural gas
  • commercial explosives
  • LPG
  • poisons
  • chemicals.

Hazardous substances may be stored for a number of reasons. Some examples might be:

  • stored at the production plant ready for distribution
  • as bulk storage ready for wholesale distribution
  • as storage for retail distribution
  • a substance stored ready for use in a production process.

What is a hazardous process?

While a 'hazardous process' is not defined in the Building Code, 'hazardous' is. A hazardous process is therefore any process 'creating an unreasonable risk to people of bodily injury or deterioration of health'. Such a process in a building may involve using or producing a hazardous substance or the process itself may be hazardous. Some examples of what might be hazardous processes are:

  • manufacturing paint
  • other industrial processes, particularly using flammable liquids.

In relation to hazardous substances or hazardous processes in a building, Clause F3 of the Building Code seeks to safeguard people from injury or illness, and to safeguard other property from damage caused by these substances or processes. Accordingly, the Building Code requires that these buildings be constructed to provide adequate protection to people and other property.

For example, in buildings where hazardous substances or processes are stored or undertaken, the Building Code requires, among other things, limited access to those areas, signs, and means of preventing the substances from entering sewers or public drains.