RiskAssess Frequently Asked Questions

Computer Problems

How do I get RiskAssess to remember email addresses for sending risk assessments?

Your web browser will generally remember email addresses used in the past so that it is easy to choose them again after entering the first few characters.

If you are using Chrome, please see these instructions. It is the "Addresses and more" option (same on desktop computer or mobile).

For Edge, please see these instructions. It is the "Addresses and more" option too.

How do I delete an old / incorrect email address in RiskAssess?

Your web browser will generally remember email addresses used in the past so that it is easy to choose them again after entering the first few characters.

If one is bad, when you pop down the list of emails with your arrow key, you can then highlight an unwanted address and press Shift-Delete and it will be removed (Chrome on Windows). On Chrome on Mac, it is Function-Shift-Delete.

My browser does not remember my user name and password for RiskAssess. How can I fix this?

If you are using Chrome, please see these instructions, the section titled "Start or stop saving passwords".

For Edge, please see these instructions.

When I click the print button, sometimes the risk assessment font is too big. How can I print out on less pages?

For optimum font size and minimum number of pages, we recommend you use the 'Save / Print PDF' button, and print from the PDF. This is automatically set up to use a small font.

However, if you want to print directly from the browser, and the font is too big, rather than pressing the print button, choose 'Print Preview' from the 'File' menu and you will see at the top there is a box saying 'Fit to page'. Click it and there will be a list of percent sizes. Choose a smaller one and your printing will be much more efficient. It is unfortunately a problem with Internet Explorer printing that it sometimes automatically chooses a very big size.

I only see a blank / empty box in the middle of the screen after I electronically sign a document. How can I fix this?

RiskAssess displays electronic documents in the standard PDF format. If your browser does not have a PDF reader installed, you will not be able to view the electronic document. We recommend you install Adobe Acrobat Reader (free). Alternatively, we recommend using Google Chrome web browser - it is free, fast, and has a built in PDF reader:
Download Chrome Browser

I sent an email from RiskAssess but it didn't arrive. Why?

The most common reason for emails not arriving is spam filters on school email accounts. First of all, check in your 'Spam' or 'Junk' folder to see if the risk assessment has ended up there. If it is not there, it is worth contacting your IT department to ask if there is any school level spam filtering, and ask to have it disabled for emails from riskassess.com.au. You can also try emailing risk assessments to another address (eg, gmail, hotmail).

Subscriptions

How do I subscribe to RiskAssess?

Click the following link:

Subscribe to RiskAssess for staff

You will be taken to a page where you can enter your school details, contact person and contact email. When you click ok, the automated system of RiskAssess will email to the contact person a thank you email with your tax invoice. Please print the tax invoice and pass it on to your accounts people. When we receive payment, we will activate your account. If you are in a hurry to get started, please email a copy of your school purchase order so that we know for sure that payment is on the way, and we will pre-activate your account while we await payment.

If you wish to subscribe to Student RiskAssess, the procedure is the same, except click this link:

Subscribe to Student RiskAssess

How do I get company/payment/ABN details for a purchase order?

Simply fill in your details on the subscription page for RiskAssess for staff or Student RiskAssess. You will be immediately emailed an invoice with all the details you need for a purchase order.

How can I download an invoice to renew my subscription?

RiskAssess will automatically send the contact person for your school an invoice 10 weeks, and 6 weeks before your subscription expires. If you would like to download an invoice at any other time, click the 'Tools' link on the top right of your home page (next to a cog icon). Then click the 'Download Renewal Invoice' link. Similarly, you will receive reminder emails for Student RiskAssess. The 'Tools' link is also available for Student RiskAssess when you log in as a staff member. To do this, log in with your student username and staff password. See here for more details.

How can I update the contact person for my school?

You can update name, phone number and email address for the RiskAssess contact person for your school. You can also put in an "accounts" email address to be cc-ed on invoices and receipts. Click the 'Tools' link on the top right of your home page (next to a cog icon). Then click the 'Update Contact Details' link. If you are updating contact details in staff RiskAssess, there is a tick box to update Student RiskAssess contact details at the same time (if you use Student RiskAssess).

The 'Tools' link is also available for Student RiskAssess when you log in as a staff member. To do this, log in with your student username and staff password. See here for more details.

Please note that the contact details for RiskAssess and Student RiskAssess are separate. You can have a different contact person for each.

How can I change the password for RiskAssess / Student RiskAssess?

As a security measure, only the contact person for each subscription can change the password. If you are the contact person for the staff RiskAssess subscription, click the 'Tools' link on the top right of your home page (next to a cog icon). Then click 'Send change password email'.

To change your Student RiskAssess password (the one the students use), the process is similar. First, log in to Student RiskAssess as a staff member using your student username and staff password. See here for more details. You should now be logged in to Student RiskAssess. Click on the Tools cog (top right of your home page) and choose 'Send change password email'. The password you set here will be the one students use.

I asked my school to pay the invoice, but there is still a notice about my subscription expiring. What's going on?

Often when you ask your accounts department to make a payment by EFT/purchase order, there is a significant processing time. Please check with your accounts department that the EFT transfer has been made. If so, please ask your accounts department for the exact date and payment reference used on the transfer and let us know, so we can double check the RiskAssess accounts.

How do I know when my subscription has been renewed / paid? Do I receive an email?

Yes, the main contact person and accounts contact for the school receive an email and receipt as soon as the payment is processed. For Credit Card this is immediate, for EFT this can take a while before the school sends the payment and it is received by RiskAssess.

Often when you ask your accounts department to make a payment by EFT/purchase order, there is a significant processing time. Please check with your accounts department that the EFT transfer has been made. If so, please ask your accounts department for the exact date and payment reference used on the transfer and let us know, so we can double check the RiskAssess accounts.

How many people from my school can use RiskAssess at once?

The RiskAssess user name and password is for your whole school campus, and allows any number of staff from your school campus to use RiskAssess at the same time. Similarly, the Student RiskAssess user name and password allows any number of students from your school campus to use Student RiskAssess at the same time. You can have both programs open at the same time on the same computer (see details above).

My school has several campuses. How many subscriptions do I need?

Each user name and subscription is for a single campus (with an unlimited number of users at that campus). If your school has multiple campuses, each campus will need its own subscription.

Do I need to pay online for RiskAssess?

You do not need to pay online for RiskAssess. When you subscribe, you will be issued with a tax invoice, and you can choose to pay by electronic transfer. Learn more about subscribing.

How do I get your address for a purchase order?

The best thing to do is to fill out the subscription form and you'll then be emailed an invoice with all the details for the purchase order.

How do user names work for RiskAssess? What username should I choose?

When you sign up, you get to choose a username for logging in for your school campus. For example, if your school was called 'Ecosolve High School', you could choose a user name like 'ecs'. Once the sign up and the payment process is completed, anyone from your school campus can then log in using that user name. If you also subscribe to Student RiskAssess, you should choose a different user name and password to those used for RiskAssess, so that the students do not have access to the staff version.

Is there a single login for all school staff? Or can I have a user name per staff member?

There is a single login (username and password) for all staff at your school and you share this with the staff who should have access. If anyone leaves your school who has access, we recommend changing the password so they no longer have access. Only the contact person for the school is able to change the password and download backups. Staff at your school can share and access all risk assessments, but each person signs off individually with electronic signatures (or on paper). This system works well as it saves time adding and removing users and setting up sharing.

Computer and Software Requirements

Does RiskAssess work on Windows / Mac / Linux?

RiskAssess works well on all modern operating systems including Windows, Mac and Linux.

Do I need to install any software on my computer to use RiskAssess?

All that is required to use RiskAssess is an internet connection and a standard web browser such as Chrome, Edge, Safari or Firefox. RiskAssess runs from the website so you do not need to install any additional software. This also means that all database updates and program updates are instantly available to everyone.

Does RiskAssess work on smart phones, iPhones, iPads, etc?

Yes, RiskAssess works well on tablets such as iPads and can also be used on phones.

Using RiskAssess

Why use RiskAssess?

The most compelling reason for using RiskAssess is that, according to the Work Health Safety Act in Australia, science departments are required to carry out risk assessments of their science experiments before performing them. According to the Act, risk assessments must be carried out "taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters". In the case of science experiments, this would include the facilities available, the behaviour of the class, students with special needs, students with allergies, etc. These factors may, and commonly do, vary from class to class. The only way to meet the legal requirement fully is to carry out a separate risk assessment for each class for each experiment. This would seem like a huge job if you did it on paper, but doing it electronically with RiskAssess is actually quite easy. RiskAssess also offers advantages in terms of improved communication between Teachers and Laboratory Technicians and also includes a scheduling system, which is especially favoured by Laboratory Technicians. In New Zealand and in the different Provinces of Canada, legislation exists which imposes the same requirement, either stated explicitly or implied. It is also logical to think about what might go wrong before you do something, and to introduce systems that make laboratories safer.

If you would like more information, please visit our learning resources. You can see a summary of the legal requirements and you can download the chapter on Risk assessment and control of risks for a detailed explanation of the risk assessment process.

How can I learn how to use RiskAssess?

To start, we recommend watching the short training video for the product you are using.

RiskAssess has a lot of built in help. Any blue text in RiskAssess can be clicked to show further help information (eg, Class, PG, inherent level of risk, etc). We recommend you click these links as you use RiskAssess to learn more.

For Science, this video shows many further tips and tricks.

You can also check out our learning resources, for lots of additional information.

What is the best way to use RiskAssess? Do you have any tips?

Since you are required by law to take "all relevant matters" into account when performing a risk assessment, you should carry out a separate risk assessment for each class carrying out each experiment. That way, "relevant matters" such as the facilities available (e.g. fume cupboard), the behaviour of the class (a big matter!), students with allergies, students with special needs, etc, can be considered properly.

The Teacher carries out an assessment of the risks involved in performing the experiment in the laboratory with the students and the Laboratory Technician assesses the risks involved in preparing and (if necessary) cleaning up after the experiment. The activities assessed by the Teacher and Laboratory Technician are quite different. The Teacher and Laboratory Technician should cross-check each other's efforts, then add electronic signatures in the appropriate section, so that the risk assessment is archived. Once archived, the document cannot be changed, and it serves as a legal record that a risk assessment was carried out, as required by law. For experiments with a 'high' or 'extreme' level of inherent risk for students in the laboratory, a third person (authorized person) is required to check that control measures are adequate and sign the document.

When you start using RiskAssess, it can seem daunting to make a risk assessment for each prac. However, once anyone at your school has done a risk assessment for a similar prac, you can use Create Modifiable Copy to use the previous risk assessment as a starting point for yours, and just customise it as needed for your class / facilities. This saves a lot of time, and makes it easy to conduct a risk assessment for each class prac. This also automatically lodges the prac with the scheduling system built into RiskAssess.

We generally recommend that lab techs work off the lab schedule directly, and enable the short notice warnings (click the Tools cog at the top right of your home page to set a number of days notice, and a message). That way, it is more of an exceptional situation that an email (or chat/call/etc) is needed if the prac is booked late. Working off the schedule gives a nice structured and searchable list of pracs coming up which are then always up to date, and this is usually easier and more efficient than working off emailed risk assessments. The lab techs can also mark off pracs as they are prepared, and add Prep notes on the lab schedule, if they are working off it.

The labels in RiskAssess (right side of home page) are very easy to use, are GHS compliant and can save you a lot of time. All chemicals have disposal information to help you dispose of wastes, often without needing a waste contractor.

And a couple of quick tips...

  • Click the banner (long image) at the top of any page in RiskAssess to go straight back to your home page.
  • Any blue text in RiskAssess can be clicked to show further help information (eg, Class, PG, inherent level of risk, etc)
  • Have a look through Tools (click the tools cog at the top right of your home page) to configure your Year Groups, Number of Groups, Searching preferences and other settings. You can also download stocktaking information (chemicals used and produced, equipment used, etc) and contact details.

Why archive my risk assessments rather than leaving them in editable format?

If you archive your risk assessments by inserting the correct number of electronic signatures (usually the Teacher and the Laboratory Technician; for high risk experiments, an authorized person as well), the risk assessment is stored in immutable form as a pdf file. This can then be used, if needed, as a legal record in case of litigation in the future. Since a risk assessment in editable form can always be changed, it has little value as a legal record.

The icon for a risk assessment changes from a "pen on paper" to a "filing cabinet" when an editable file becomes an archival file. Archival files can be used, just like editable ones, for the creation of modifiable copies.

What is the difference between the "Author's Update" and "Create Modifiable Copy" buttons?

If you wrote the risk assessment, and you notice a problem with it (eg, a missing chemical), you should use "Author's Update". This allows you to modify the existing risk assessment.

If you see a risk assessment that is similar to what you want (eg, written by another member of staff), then you should use "Create Modifiable Copy". This will give you a completely separate copy of the risk assessment which you can then modify to suit your experiment. The original risk assessment that you copied will not be affected in any way.

Why have a risk assessment for every prac even if it is the "same" as last year?

The reason is that you are required by law to take "all relevant matters" into account when doing a risk assessment. This includes the facilities available (eg. classroom setup), the behaviour of the class, students with special needs, students with allergies, etc. These can and often do vary from class to class, year to year. A separate risk assessment should be completed for every experiment carried out with every class. This is very easy to do, using the "Create Modifiable Copy" command. Most of the work is already done for you and you can focus on what is different between this class/location and others. If students are too rowdy, for example, you might want to eliminate chemicals with dangerous properties or sharp items of equipment; on the other hand, a small trustworthy group of students might be able to safely use such chemicals and equipment, with significant improvement in the learning experience.

It is also required to regularly review risk assessments - by using Create Modifiable Copy and reviewing and updating the risk assessment for the new prac, you are meeting this requirement.

Also by using Create Modifiable copy, the scheduling system will work well inside RiskAssess as there will be an entry for each prac.

I've got so many similar/duplicate risk assessments by different teachers for the same prac. It is hard to find the best one for people to copy from. Should I delete the duplicates?

There is a neat way to handle this without deleting risk assessments (which you need for the legal record).

You can now make a library of your 'best school risk assessments' to help staff quickly find the best risk assessment to use as a starting point for that experiment. Once you have reviewed your risk assessments and selected the 'best' risk assessment, click on 'Best' at the top of an archived risk assessment. The 'best' risk assessments are easily accessed via a new dropdown for 'Library' in the 'Risk assessment search' box, and appear with a gold star icon.

You can choose your best risk assessments as part of an annual review, or as you go throughout the year. You can use an existing risk assessment and star it, or Create Modifiable Copy from an existing risk assessment, make improvements and star this new risk assessment. Note that you can only star risk assessments which have been fully signed off (archived).

Our video 'Latest Tips and Tricks for New and Experienced Users (recorded live at LABCON2021)' at https://youtu.be/s4_IfOF_T44?t=575 also explains the use of the Best library. This link starts at the appropriate point talking about best/starred risk assessments, and there are many other tips if you have time to watch more of the video.

If you build up a library of best/starred risk assessments for most pracs, you can even make it the default library when people do a search. To do this, click the Tools cog at the top right of your home page, and then click 'Customise Searching'.

How can I make sure all risk assessments get (automatically) emailed to the lab techs?

We generally recommend that lab techs work off the lab schedule directly, and enable the short notice warnings (click the Tools cog at the top right of your home page to set a number of days notice, and a message). That way, it is more of an exceptional situation that an email (or chat/call/etc) is needed if the prac is booked late. Working off the schedule gives a nice structured and searchable list of pracs coming up which are then always up to date, and this is usually easier and more efficient than working off emailed risk assessments. The lab techs can also mark off pracs as they are prepared, and add Prep notes on the lab schedule, if they are working off it.

If you do want to email the pracs, the best is to enter the email address of the recipient in the box under the risk assessment. You can also add Review Notes at the top, which will be included in the email. The email also includes a direct link to the risk assessment in RiskAssess (so it can be easily updated or signed), and an attached PDF version of it (for quick review).

How do I introduce a cut off time / late prac warning alert, that tells teachers that the prac booking is late?

Click the Tools cog at the top right of your home page and scroll down to the section "Warning on short-notice bookings / Cut-off time". You can set a number of days notice, a cut-off time, and a message to be shown when a prac is booked late. The default message is "Short notice. Please contact Lab Tech about preparation." If pracs are lodged with too short notice, they will also show a warning icon on the lab schedule, and the date and time the prac was lodged/booked.

If pracs are lodged late, then this is clear on the lab schedule and appropriate action can be taken. Eg, a late prac would need to be discussed with the lab tech, and could be fine to prepare with short notice. Alternatively, it could be prepared after other pracs lodged with more notice (if there is time), or even not prepared, depending on what is appropriate at your school. The message shown when a prac is booked with short notice can also be changed to reflect the policy at your school.

How do I update the list of year groups / classes / subjects to suit my school?

Click the Tools cog at the top right of your home page and scroll down to "Choose Year Groups >". You can add or remove year groups to suit the subjects taught at your school. You can also add individual classes if needed (eg, 7 KAR, 8 FJBC, or 7A, 7B etc).

How do I make entering the number of groups mandatory (required to be entered on all risk assessments)?

There is a setting for this. Click the Tools cog at the top right of your home page, and then scroll down to "Number of Groups for Preparations".

How do I see which chemicals, equipment and biologicals / food have been used?

In Tools, you can download a report on when each item was last used, and how many times it has been used in the last 3 years. Just click the Tools cog at the top right of your home page, and then scroll down to the "Stocktaking & Usage" section. These reports are especially useful for cleaning out old chemicals and equipment from your store/prep room, and future purchases from suppliers.

How do I attach / upload documents to risk assessments?

You cannot yet attach documents to risk assessments in RiskAssess. However, you can hot-link documents to risk assessments in the procedure/reference section. This allows you to achieve almost the same outcome. You can hot-link either web pages or files on the internet or your intranet (eg, PDFs, Word documents etc). Consult with your school IT staff to find out how you should reference a document on your school intranet. You can alternatively use a cloud document service like Google Docs, Office 365 or Dropbox, all of which provide direct links to documents that you can paste into RiskAssess.

If, in the procedure section, you enter the address of a document either on your school server or on the web, RiskAssess recognises it and converts it to a hot-link. You can then click on the hot-link and jump directly to the document.

In the future, we may allow files of all sorts to be attached to risk assessments. The problem to date has been the amount of storage space required and our need to preserve files indefinitely. With the decreasing cost of storage space in the cloud, we may be able to offer direct attachment for files up to a certain maximum size. In the meantime, hot-linking of files has been working well for many schools.

How do I find my risk assessment with only one login for all school staff?

You might wonder how you can find your own risk assessments amongst all the others, but there is no problem. You can use search terms like name, date, Teacher, chemical, etc to find what you want, similar to a Google search (see the right side of the home page when you log in).

Do I need to carry out a risk assessment for low risk experiments?

Yes. Until you carry out a risk assessment, you do not know whether the experiment is low risk! Even a low-risk experiment might result in an injury. Also, you might make an error and assign an experiment as low risk, even if it is not. An experiment that was considered to be of low risk might still cause an injury. If so, you are not at fault for having made a mistake and considering it low risk. From a legal point of view, you need only demonstrate that you carried out a risk assessment to the best of your knowledge and ability. If this were ever not good enough, you could argue that you should have been better trained by your employer.

Why don't Review Notes carry forward when you make a Modifiable Copy?

The Review Notes are deliberately designed to not carry forward. The idea is that they should only exist for one review cycle and their content/recommendations should be incorporated into the new risk assessment. This is the principle, required by law, for the review process.

When you open an old risk assessment, you should look at the review notes (maybe save to the clipboard any lengthy information), create a modifiable copy, and update the copy with the information from the review notes. The review notes will always stay with the old risk assessment, so you can refer again to them, if you need to.

If you wish to have information saved as part of the risk assessment, it should be placed in the "Procedure" or "Control measures" sections or - if it is a large document, diagram, SOP etc - hot linked in the procedure section.

Do I need to back up my risk assessments?

All risk assessments, whether editable or archival, are currently stored on the RiskAssess system. We do not guarantee to store your risk assessments (see Terms and Conditions), but we have an elaborate system of backups and nothing has been lost since we started in 2008. You should save a copy of all your archived (fully signed) risk assessments, just in case. We recommend that schools back up all risk assessments on their own system. To facilitate this, the Contact Person at your school can download archived risk assessments in annual blocks as a zip file by clicking on 'Tools' at the top right of the school home page.

We recommend that schools

  • download and store a complete record of archived risk assessments for every year that the school has been using RiskAssess,
  • download at regular intervals during the current year, e.g. end of each teaching period, all the archived risk assessments of the year to date and
  • for extra security, you can download risk assessments as you go along, or email them to a backed up email address.

You should consult your IT people for the best method of long-term storage of risk assessments, as part of the school's archival records.

I downloaded a back up of my risk assessments, but there are less in the backup than I expected. Why?

Only fully signed off risk assessments are included in the backups, as these are complete and form a legal record. Risk assessments which are not fully signed electronically need to be signed on paper, and the signed paper copies kept as the legal record.

What is the difference between editable vs archival files?

If you archive your risk assessments by inserting the correct number of electronic signatures (usually the Teacher and the Laboratory Technician; for high risk experiments, an authorized person as well), the risk assessment is stored in immutable form as a pdf file. This can then be used, if needed, as a legal record in case of litigation in the future. Since a risk assessment in editable form can always be changed, it has little value as a legal record.

The icon for a risk assessment changes from a "pen on paper" to a "filing cabinet" when an editable file becomes an archival file. Archival files can be used, just like editable ones, for the creation of modifiable copies.

When should I use multiple scheduling?

Do NOT use multiple scheduling for the same experiment performed by different classes. The reason is that you are required by law to take "all relevant matters" into account when doing a risk assessment. This includes the facilities available (eg. fume cupboard), the behaviour of the class, students with special needs, students with allergies, etc. These can and often do vary from class to class. A separate risk assessment should be completed for every experiment carried out with every class. This is very easy to do, using the "Create Modifiable Copy" command. Most of the work is already done for you and you can focus on what is different between this class/location and others. If students are too rowdy, for example, you might want to eliminate chemicals with dangerous properties or sharp items of equipment; on the other hand, a small trustworthy group of students might be able to safely use such chemicals and equipment, with significant improvement in the learning experience.

You should use the multiple scheduling times for experiments that spread over 2 or more weeks. This is not common, but can happen for experiments involving setup one week and experimentation the next, for experiments requiring later/repeated observation, or for very long experiments with many parts. An example of correct use of multiple scheduling would be for observation of plant growth (e.g. germinating seeds) over a number of weeks.

I keep getting duplicate risk assessments in scheduling. Why? What can I do?

We have found two main reasons why this happens.

First reason is from a misunderstanding of the 'Create Modifiable Copy' vs 'Author's Update' buttons. 'Create Modifiable Copy' makes a brand new risk assessment with details copied across. 'Author's Update' is for updating an existing risk assessment to make corrections. If somebody uses 'Create Modifiable Copy' when they should be using 'Author's Update', many duplicates can be created.

The second cause is if somebody uses the browser Back button after creating a new risk assessment (either blank or modifiable copy), then amends it and clicks 'Generate Risk Assessment >'. As the person has gone back to a new/copy page, and then submitted the form, this does what it did the first time, and creates another new risk assessment.

If you have lots of duplicates, we recommend you discuss these two possibilities with the people who use RiskAssess at your school.

How long must risk assessments be stored / how long do I need to keep risk assessments?

The Statute of Limitations is 7 years. However, courts routinely waive the Statute in the case of chemically-induced cancers and other injuries of which the person could not have been reasonably aware within the 7 year period. A 7-year period usually applies from the time of diagnosis. Common examples of waived Statute are the asbestos-induced cancers that might appear 20-50 years after exposure. For example, David Martin, former Governor of New South Wales, who died of mesothelioma after working many years in submarines, received compensation outside the Statutory period.

Some chemicals used, or formerly used, in schools, (e.g. benzene, formaldehyde) are now considered to be far more carcinogenic than previously believed. Some living things and equipment items used in experiments might also cause injuries after many years. History shows that it is advisable to be conservative in such matters.

We recommend that schools maintain records of risk assessments for the lifetime of the individuals concerned. Current students might live ~100 years, if life-expectancy increases, so this is the approximate time period to be considered. Storing paper records for 100 years is possible, but very difficult and expensive. Storing records electronically is easily possible, provided care is taken to back-up and move on to new data/software systems.

RiskAssess currently stores your risk assessments. Nothing has been lost since 2008, when we started, and we have no plans to delete old risk assessments. If you cannot find your old risk assessments, make sure you choose 'Any date' in the Date part of the search form (the default search is 'In the last 18 months').

We do not guarantee to store your risk assessments (see Terms and Conditions), but we have in place an elaborate system of backups and nothing has been lost since we started in 2008. We recommend that each school makes its own backup of risk assessments. To facilitate this, the Contact Person at your school can download archived risk assessments in annual blocks as zip files by clicking on 'Tools' at the top right of the school home page.

We recommend that schools

  • download and store a complete record of archived risk assessments for every year that the school has been using RiskAssess,
  • download at regular intervals during the current year, e.g. end of each teaching period, all the archived risk assessments of the year to date and
  • for extra security, you can download risk assessments as you go along, or email them to a backed up email address.

You should consult your IT people for the best method of long-term storage of risk assessments, as part of the school's archival records.

How do I copy risk assessments from one school to another school?

For reasons of confidentiality, RiskAssess does not allow the sharing of risk assessments from one school to another. The information entered by a person into a risk assessment is usually copyright to the school at which the person works.

Risk assessments can be emailed as pdf files from one school to another, provided permission has been obtained to do so. The person emailing the risk assessments takes responsibility for the action and would need to follow school policy. The copying situation arises when a person moves from one school to another and wishes to take risk assessments with him/her. It may also arise if a person has a particular experiment that he/she wishes to share with another person.

It only takes a few minutes to copy/paste information from a pdf file into a blank risk assessment, if both the pdf page and web page are kept open and next to each other. Once a risk assessment has been entered for the first time into a school's RiskAssess system, it is very easy for others to make modifiable copies as the starting point for their own risk assessments.

Why do I need to do a risk assessment of each class at each location?

It would be faster just to carry out a single risk assessment for each experiment and share it between many Teachers with many classes. The problem with just one risk assessment is that it does not satisfy legal (or logical) requirements.

According to the Work Health Safety Act in Australia, "all relevant matters" need to be taken into account in assessing risks. These include the facilities available (e.g. fume cupboard), the behaviour of the class, students with allergies, students with special needs, etc. These factors may, and commonly do, vary from class to class. Each class/location needs to be treated as a separate event. In Australian States (VIC and WA) where the WHS Act has not yet been enacted, earlier existing legislation imposes the same requirement. In New Zealand and different Provinces of Canada, legislation exists with the same requirement or implication.

Luckily, it is not difficult with RiskAssess to fully meet legal requirements, due to the ease of making modifiable copies. However, the important part is to consider any special factors for each class. A modifiable copy is just a starting point; it should be customised as appropriate for each class.

You should use the multiple date/time box only for the same experiment conducted over a number of weeks, with the same physical location, facilities and students, e.g. observing seeds grow over several weeks. Do NOT use multiple scheduling for the same experiment with different classes and locations.

What is the validity period and expiry date for a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is valid until something changes; and it must be reviewed at regular intervals. We have put an arbitrary validity period of 15 months on each risk assessment (after which it expires), so that it can be valid during a school year plus a few months more to account for different timing of experiments next year. However, you should create a new risk assessment for each experiment for each class/location. This might sound like a huge amount of work, but it is actually fast and easy using the Create Modifiable Copy button in RiskAssess.

A separate risk assessment is required by law. According to the Work Health Safety Act, "all relevant matters" must be taken into account in assessing risks. These include the facilities available (e.g. fume cupboard), the behaviour of the class, students with allergies, students with special needs, etc. These factors may, and commonly do, vary from class to class. Each class/location needs to be treated as a separate event. Alternatively, a new class with different location, behaviour, facilities, etc can be regarded as something changed - this too invokes the need for a new risk assessment. In New Zealand and the Provinces of Canada, legislation with similar effect is in place.

When you use RiskAssess to make a modifiable copy, most of the work of entering the details is done for you. You can then focus on any factors specially applicable to the class. A modifiable copy is just a starting point; it should be modified as appropriate for each class and location. You might choose to remove chemicals and equipment with hazardous properties in a class with discipline problems; on the other hand, in a trustworthy class, you might add these items in the expectation that they would be handled responsibly, with the benefit of an improved learning experience.

If you create a separate risk assessment for each experiment/class/location, the scheduling system of RiskAssess can be used, thus greatly facilitating the organisation of experiment preparations.

Are risk assessments ever deleted by RiskAssess?

Risk assessments are never deleted by RiskAssess, since risk assessments are required as a long-term legal record and as a source of templates for making modifiable copies, as the starting point for future risk assessments. If you delete a risk assessment, you can always find it and bring it back with the 'Deleted' link in the search box at the top right of your home page.

Similarly, risk assessments are not deleted in Student RiskAssess. Previous years risk assessments are hidden from current students to stop copying, but you can access them when you log in as a staff member. To do this, log in with your student username and staff password. See here for more details.

What happens to risk assessments at the expiry date?

A risk assessment remains valid until something changes or until it has to undergo a "regular review", as required by law. Risk assessments are never deleted by RiskAssess (even if they expire), since risk assessments are required as a long-term legal record and as a source of templates for making modifiable copies, as the starting point for future risk assessments. Risk assessments are not deleted at the expiry date. Nothing happens to stored risk assessments at the expiry date.

The default expiry date for risk assessments is 15 months from the creation date. This period allows review of the risk assessment after approximately one year, or a school's annual cycle. The period of 15 months applies to activities such as the preparation of dilute acid solutions for use in many laboratory classes throughout the year. If something changes during the 15 month period, e.g. another acid or different facilities, a new risk assessment must be carried out. For experiments carried out by students in classrooms, the 15 month expiry date is irrelevant. The reason is that a risk assessment must be carried out which takes into account "all relevant matters". Since many matters (e.g. student behaviour, allergies or special needs) may change whenever a different class carries out an experiment, a new risk assessment is required by law. This might sound like a huge amount of work, but it is actually fast and easy using the Create Modifiable Copy button in RiskAssess, that copies most details across into a new risk assessment for review and modification, and also automatically connects into the lab scheduling system.

Can two Teachers do the risk assessment?

From a legal point of view, it is crucial that the person in charge of the class (the Teacher) does a risk assessment for the classroom activities. If one Teacher does some experiments and the other teacher does others, they should each do the risk assessments for the experiments performed by each. The idea of two Teachers doing the same risk assessment doesn't fit with the law, since it usually will involve different classes and locations.

According to the Work Health and Safety Act in Australia, "all relevant matters" need to be taken into account. This includes the facilities available (e.g. fume cupboard), the behaviour of the class, students with special needs, students with allergies, etc. Since these factors may, and commonly do, vary from class to class, every class/location should be the subject of a separate risk assessment. This might seem like a huge job, but it is so easy to make a modifiable copy of an existing risk assessment as the starting point for a new one that a separate risk assessment for each class/location is easily possible (hundreds of schools are managing to do it). In New Zealand and in the different Provinces of Canada, legislation exists which imposes the same requirement, either stated explicitly or implied.

Each Teacher should do a risk assessment for each class/location that the Teacher is teaching. Two Teachers working together to do a risk assessment for the same class/location is very much in the spirit of the law, since it involves the pooling of skills and communication, but the Teacher in charge of the class should sign, since he/she has the legal responsibility. If there are two classes combined in one laboratory with two Teachers in charge, both Teachers should carry out the risk assessments and both should sign the risk assessment.

Is a generic risk assessment acceptable?

A generic risk assessment is not acceptable, from a legal or logical point of view. It never really was, and now the Work Health and Safety legislation in Australia makes it clear. A generic risk assessment is only ok if nothing changes for an extended time period. This may be the case in some industrial situations but, in the case of a school, with different groups of students doing experiments in different locations, a lot of critical things may and often do change. In New Zealand and in the different Provinces of Canada, legislation exists which imposes the same requirements, either stated explicitly or implied, making generic risk assessments in schools similarly unacceptable.

According to the Work Health and Safety Act in Australia, risk assessments must be carried out "taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters". In the case of science experiments, this would include the facilities available, the behaviour of the class, students with special needs, students with allergies, etc. These factors may, and commonly do, vary from class to class. The only way to meet the legal requirement fully is to carry out a separate risk assessment for each class for each experiment. This would seem like a huge job if you did it on paper, but doing it electronically with RiskAssess is actually quite easy. RiskAssess also offers advantages in terms of improved communication between Teachers and Laboratory Technicians and also includes a scheduling system, which is especially favoured by Laboratory Technicians.

How do I do a risk assessment when team teaching?

A lot depends on the details of the "team teaching". From a legal point of view, it is crucial that the person in charge of the class (the Teacher) carries out a risk assessment for the classroom activities. Does one Teacher do some experiments and the other teacher does others? If so, they should each do the risk assessments for the experiments they each perform. If there are two classes combined in one laboratory with two Teachers in charge, both Teachers should carry out the risk assessments and both should sign the risk assessment.

The next point is that, according to the Work Health and Safety Act, "all relevant factors" need to be taken into account. This includes the facilities available (e.g. fume cupboard), the behaviour of the class, students with special needs, students with allergies, etc. Since these factors may, and commonly do, vary from class to class, every class/location should be the subject of a separate risk assessment. This might seem like a huge job, but it is easy to make a modifiable copy of an existing risk assessment as the starting point for a new one and a separate risk assessment for each class/location is easily possible. Hundreds of schools are using RiskAssess to comply fully with the law by doing a separate risk assessment for each class/location.

Does the date of lodgement change during an author update?

When a Teacher or Laboratory Technician does an author update of a risk assessment in editable form (without a full set of electronic signatures), the date of the actual experiment can be changed, but the date of lodgement remains the same. Most RiskAssess users prefer to retain the date of initial lodgement. Usually, the author updating and electronic signing take place over a relatively short time period and the date when the process began is the preferred date to retain.

Some schools do not archive experiments, but simply update risk assessments in editable form and print out risk assessments. This is not ideal, since you retain no electronic records for legal purposes and would need to keep the paper print outs for many years. It also means that the scheduling system may not operate properly as it is designed to have a risk assessment for each prac.

Can I assess each risk, one at a time, in a risk assessment?

We are considering providing an option to do a "Stepwise risk assessment", via a button with that name just before the actual risk assessment sections. The idea is that the screen would morph to show each of the items on our assessment list separately, with a pop-out box for entering control measures for each, if selected. So far, this is more than most schools are looking for, but we are considering it for the future.

Can a Laboratory Technician check the risk assessment of Teacher and can a Teacher check the risk assessment of the Laboratory Technician?

Yes. It is very worthwhile, and completely in keeping with good practice and the law, for people to cross-check each other on matters of safety. RiskAssess makes it easy, since separate risk assessments by both Teacher and Laboratory Technician are required on the same form, and it is simple for one to look at the efforts of the other.

Legally, a Laboratory Technician just needs to do the risk assessment for his/her efforts before and after the class and the Teacher needs to do the risk assessment for the activities during class. After the Teacher has done an independent assessment of risks in the classroom, the Laboratory Technician can comment on the adequacy of the risk assessment and provide suggestions if something has been overlooked.

The Laboratory Technician is under no obligation to check the risk assessment of the Teacher, nor is the Teacher under any obligation to take the advice of the Laboratory Technician. The same applies for the Teacher who might offer advice to the Laboratory Technician. Each is responsible for assessing the risks of his/her own activities. A Laboratory Technician is often not aware of all the factors affecting students, such as allergies and behaviour, and so is unable to carry out a risk assessment for the classroom activities. In a well-functioning workplace, it is hoped that advice and suggestions will be taken in good spirit and adequately considered. If a control measure (or anything) is changed on a risk assessment by a second person, the electronic signature of the first person is automatically removed. Advice and suggestions can most easily be sent by email between Teacher and Laboratory Technician.

It is quite acceptable for one person (either Teacher or Laboratory Technician) to prepare a draft risk assessment covering the activities of both people. A draft risk assessment (without any electronic signature) can be emailed, so that the second person can do the risk assessment of his/her activities and provide an electronic signature. When both Teacher and Laboratory Technician are happy with their risk assessments, they can add their electronic signatures.

What are the legal responsibilities of Teacher and Laboratory Technician?

The Teacher is responsible for what happens in the classroom (not the Laboratory Technician!) and it is the Teacher's job to do the risk assessment of classroom activities. In some cases, the Teacher alone would be provided with confidential information relating to students, which would not be provided to the Laboratory Technician. Issues such as student behaviour would be much better known to the Teacher than the Laboratory Technician. This means that the Laboratory Technician is not capable of carrying out an adequate assessment of risks in the classroom.

Laboratory Technicians are responsible for the preparation of the kit of chemicals, equipment and biological materials that is sent to the classroom and for the clean-up after the experiment. In some cases, this may involve chemicals with greater potential hazards than in the classroom, e.g. diluting concentrated sulphuric acid to the 1 M solution for use in class.

Legally and logically, the Laboratory Technician should just do the risk assessment for the activities before and after the class and the Teachers should do the risk assessment for the activities during class.

Should I use a risk matrix?

Schools should be using a risk matrix to help them assess the severity of risk. Many school authorities mandate the use of one. It is recommended that school staff read the book chapter Risk assessment and control of risks for an explanation of the risk assessment process and check on the risk matrix required by their school system. The risk assessment process of RiskAssess relies on people to apply their school risk matrix at two points: for the initial assessment of "inherent risk" and for the final assessment of "risk with the control measures in place".

Are there folders in RiskAssess or a way to classify by topic/unit?

There are no folders in RiskAssess, but it is possible to do something similar using the Name of the risk assessment. If you start the Name of the risk assessment with the topic/unit name in brackets eg, [Physical World] or [PW], you can then search for this later. Eg, in risk assessment search, enter [PW] and you'll find all of the risk assessments for the PW topic/unit.

How can I get a list of high and extreme risk pracs for audit purposes?

Go into the Scheduling screen and use 'Any Dates' to choose the time period. Then click the Download for Excel / CSV button. This will download you a file of all the pracs that you have listed. Open the downloaded file in Excel, and use the Autofilter function on the 'Classroom Inherent Risk Level' column to show only high and extreme (see more about Autofilter in excel).

How can I get a list of risk assessments which have not been fully signed off?

Go into the Scheduling screen and use 'Any Dates' to choose the time period. Then click the Download for Excel / CSV button. This will download you a file of all the pracs that you have listed. Open the downloaded file in Excel, and use the Autofilter function on the 'Fully Signed?' column to show only 'N' values (see more about Autofilter in excel). You can click the link in the next column to go directly to them.

How does the lab tech know when new pracs have been lodged? Can the lab tech be emailed automatically?

The laboratory scheduling screen is always up to date when it is loaded. Many lab techs have the lab scheduling screen open all day. Often schools have a cut off time for prac lodgement (eg, 24 or 48 hours before), and email only last minute prac requests after the cut off time using the email form under the risk assessment. We also recommend enabling the short notice warning system (under Tools) so that teachers are aware they need to contact the lab tech if they lodge the prac after the cut off time.

Using Student RiskAssess

What is the best way to start with Student RiskAssess?

We recommend watching these two short training videos.

How do I log in as a staff member to Student RiskAssess? Is there a separate username or password?

To have full access as a staff member, you can login using your Student RiskAssess username, and the password you usually use to log in to staff RiskAssess. Please see here for a full explanation.

Why can't I see scheduling, tools or risk assessments from previous years in Student RiskAssess?

It sounds like you are logged into Student RiskAssess using the student password, rather than as a staff member. If you log in as a staff member, these will all be available. Please see here for a full explanation.

How do I manage, review and sign off on lots of student pracs?

The new Multiple Prac Management system is exactly what you are looking for. Make sure you are logged in as a staff member to Student RiskAssess and you will see the "Manage Student Pracs" button at the top left of your home page. Please see here for a full explanation.

How can I update the Student RiskAssess contact person for my school?

You can update the Student RiskAssess contact person details when you log in as a staff member into Student RiskAssess. To do this, log in with your student username and staff password. See here for more details. You can also put in an "accounts" email address to be cc-ed on invoices and receipts.

Alternatively, if you are updating contact details in staff RiskAssess, there is a tick box to update Student RiskAssess contact details at the same time.

How do I use Student RiskAssess for assessment purposes?

Students can set a PIN on the risk assessments they create. This PIN is required by students to view or edit these risk assessments again. Having risk assessments PIN-protected means students cannot view/copy each other's work. Staff are still able to access all risk assessments (see here for more details).

The PIN feature in Student RiskAssess can be used in a variety of ways. The simplest is to ask all students to choose their own PIN when they create a risk assessment. Each student should use the same PIN on all their own risk assessments (if they have several) and choose a hard-to-guess PIN (eg, 43085 not 0000). An alternative is for staff to issue each student with a random PIN to use. Staff can view all student risk assessments and their PINs. If a Teacher wants a particular risk assessment to be visible to all the students (eg a template for students to copy from), the PIN field should be left blank.

How do I change/view a student's PIN?

Staff can find out or change the PIN for an individual student risk assessment by logging into Student RiskAssess with the staff password (see here for more details), then finding the relevant risk assessment and clicking "Author's Update". The PIN field can be viewed and edited by the staff member.

Do staff need PINs to view students' risk assessments, if PIN feature is enabled?

No. Staff do not need to use PINs. When Staff log in to Student RiskAssess using the Student RiskAssess username, but the STAFF password (see here for more details), they will have access to all students’ risk assessments, whether they are PIN protected or not.

How do staff share risk assessments with the class?

If a Teacher wants a particular risk assessment to be visible to all the students (eg a template for students to copy from), the PIN field should be left blank. All risk assessments that are not PIN-protected will be able to be viewed by all.

My students can't see their risk assessments started last year. Have they been deleted? How can they keep using them this year?

To decrease copying and the number of risk assessments shown, Student RiskAssess usually only allows students to see the current school year of risk assessments. The previous years' risk assessments have not been deleted and are still visible when you log in as a staff member using your staff password (see here for more details).

To help with cases where risk assessments are started in the year before for use in the following year (eg, started in year 11 for use in year 12), we have added a new setting called 'Customise Searching' under Tools in Student RiskAssess. This tool allows a staff member (logged in using the staff password, see here for more details) to enable students to access all risk assessments from previous years. We recommend you only temporarily allow students to access risk assessments from previous years ('Any date'). The students can then use Create Modifiable Copy to review and make a new version of their risk assessments for this year, and afterwards, you can then switch student access back to 'Current school year'.

How can I download an invoice to renew my Student RiskAssess subscription?

Student RiskAssess will automatically send the contact person for your school an invoice 10 weeks and 6 weeks before your subscription expires. These invoices will also be cc-ed to the accounts email for your school if there is one on file. You can add an accounts email using the Tools cog at the top right of your home page, and then "Update Contact Details".

If you would like to download an invoice at any other time, click the 'Tools' link on the top right of your home page (next to a cog icon). Then click 'Download Renewal Invoice' link. The 'Tools' link is available for Student RiskAssess when you log in as a staff member. To do this, log in with your student username and staff password. See here for more details.

Chemical Data, Solutions, Safety Data Sheets, and the GHS

Do RiskAssess and Student RiskAssess include Globally Harmonised System (GHS) information on pure chemicals?

From 1 January 2016, RiskAssess and Student RiskAssess include Globally Harmonised System (GHS) information on more than 1000 commonly used pure chemicals in schools.

Why are RiskAssess data different to those in my SDS?

RiskAssess uses the latest ECHA data. You can see the ECHA Chemicals and Labelling Inventory here (accept the legal notice and click on "CL Inventory"). This is based on classifications submitted to the European Chemicals Association from all over Europe. The Europeans have been at the forefront of developing the GHS as a UN initiative. The ECHA data are used by Safe Work Australia.

There are other systems and other opinions regarding the hazardous properties of chemicals, but the ECHA data are the best of which we are aware. Some manufacturers, in their SDSs do not take into account dilution, but simply quote the hazards associated with the pure chemical.

In the GHS, there are rules for diminishing the hazardous properties of substances as they are diluted (regarded as mixing with an inert second component) which we take into account on labels. See GHS Data for Solutions for more information.

Will I be able to access my old risk assessments after the GHS update?

After the GHS update, you will still be able to access your old risk assessments. If you do want to copy or change them, there is a simple process to update them to the new GHS data. Sometimes for a risk assessment this will be automatic, other times you'll need to choose concentration ranges, as the new GHS data have more solution information.

What do I do if I can't find a chemical? How can I suggest adding a chemical to RiskAssess?

Check that you are looking in the Chemical database. You won't find a pure chemical in the Equipment database and you will find only a small number of pure food-grade chemicals are in the Biologicals and Food database. However, manufactured chemical products, e.g. "detergent", are located in the Equipment database. The idea is that unique pure chemicals (with a CAS Registry Number) are found in the Chemical database, but mixtures of chemicals produced by companies for specific purposes are found in the Equipment database. The reason is that manufacturers do not usually provide full details of their products and may change the composition at any time.

It is not entirely logical or obvious that manufactured chemical products are found in the equipment database. In the future, we plan to allow pure chemicals or manufactured products to be entered in the search fields for both chemicals and equipment, with correct automatic placement of information in the risk assessments that are generated.

Occasionally, a chemical is missing from the database. If this is the case, enter the name of the chemical, its potential hazards and its standard handling procedures (from the SDS) in the "Other risks" text box at the end of the data-entry screen. Please email us at to let us know, so that we can add the chemical to the database at the next update.

Does RiskAssess provide Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)?

SDSs are the intellectual property of the manufacturer and copyright to the manufacturer. RiskAssess does not provide SDSs.

You are required by law to have an SDS available wherever a chemical is stored or used. RiskAssess requires school staff to confirm that this is the case when they sign a risk assessment.

SDSs are easy to obtain on the web from manufacturer's websites and, by law, the manufacturer must provide an SDS with every chemical sold to you. The easiest way is to enter into a search engine "SDS" space "name of the chemical" space "name of manufacturer". Note that the USA has not yet moved to SDSs and exerts a dominant influence on the web. Often documents called MSDSs are in fact SDSs, but the old name has been retained.

How do I do risk assessments for preparing stock solutions?

A Laboratory Technician can carry out a risk assessment without the Teacher signing. This might happen when a Laboratory Technician is preparing bulk solutions for several classes, eg dilute acid solutions. You can simply enter the name of the Teacher as "Not applicable". Alternatively, you can ask the Teacher to have a look and check that the Teacher can find nothing further to add. If you preface the title of every stock preparation with a word like "PREPARATION", eg "PREPARATION: Ammonium molybdate reagent", "PREPARATION: Dilute acid solutions", etc, you can then search on the word "PREPARATION" to find such risk assessments.

What is the validity period for a Safety Data Sheet?

The validity of a Safety Data Sheet is 5 years. Note that this is not the same as the validity period for a risk assessment. Check on the SDS for the creation date; the expiry date is 5 years after that.

Why doesn't RiskAssess include first-aid information for chemicals?

RiskAssess does not provide first-aid information. This is the job of the Safety Data Sheet (SDS). In signing a risk assessment in RiskAssess, staff certify that the SDS is available. By law, a copy of the SDS is required to be available wherever a chemical is stored or used, so the inclusion of first aid information in RiskAssess is unnecessary.

Should I use third party SDSs and mini SDSs?

By law, a copy of the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is required to be available wherever a chemical is stored or used. The document specified is that provided by the manufacturer. Documents provided by third parties (e.g. ChemWatch) are not mentioned in legislation. Mini SDSs are nowhere mentioned in legislation. If you use a "mini" document, you are relying on the skill of people, unrelated to the manufacturer, to transfer information without error and to select the information that is required for emergency situations. RiskAssess recommends that schools use the SDS provided by the manufacturer. Use of "mini" documents is not recommended. In practice, only a court of law could decide whether a third-party SDS or a mini SDS satisfied the legal requirement.

SDSs are easy to obtain from the web from manufacturer's websites and, by law, the manufacturer must provide an SDS with every chemical sold to you. The easiest way is to enter into a search engine "SDS" space "name of the chemical" space "name of manufacturer". Note that the USA has not yet moved to SDSs and exerts a dominant influence on the web. Often documents called MSDSs are in fact SDSs, but the old name has been retained. ChemWatch provides an extensive library of manufacturers' SDSs and many schools use this resource.

How available should a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) be?

An SDS should be readily available, say within 1 minute, in case of injury, first aid, spill, etc. If something bad happens, that is when you will need the SDS. It should be the full SDS from the manufacturer. The law does not specify how it should be "available". An alphabetical file of paper SDSs in the adjoining room, with a search time of less than 1 minute, would almost certainly satisfy a court of law as "available". If it took 10 minutes to find the SDS, probably a court of law would find that the document was not sufficiently "available". A continuously running computer with backup power supply containing every SDS as a pdf file in alphabetical order on its hard drive would probably satisfy a court of law, if any SDS could be found in less than a minute. It would not be sufficient to have to log in to a computer, go to the web and search for the SDS, due to the long time required and the possibility of data-transfer problems. In the end, only a court of law can decide whether an SDS was "available". A manufacturer's SDS in the kit for each chemical used in an experiment is a good way to meet the logical and legal requirements.

What are the chemical user codes for each chemical?

The fundamental idea is to define who in the laboratory (all students, 7-12, 11-12, Teacher, nobody) should use each chemical in an "average" class, based on the hazardous properties of the chemical.

The original chemical codes were developed in the late 1990s by the Department of Education in NSW. At the time, the chemical codes were the most extensive system of laboratory-user advice of which we were aware in Australia, NZ and Canada.

Since the release of the NSW system of chemical codes in 1999, more information has become available for many chemicals. In cases where the potential hazards of chemicals are much greater than were previously believed, we have updated the chemical codes; conversely, some chemicals with less hazardous properties than previously thought have had their recommended users expanded. See Chemical User Codes and Chemical Training Codes for details.

Labelling

My labels don't print out the right size / right place. How can I fix this?

Here's a few things to check:

  • Make sure you are printing at 100% in the print dialog, not fit to page or 110% or anything like that.
  • Ensure you are using the exact printer driver for your printer model, sourced from the manufacturer of your printer (not just coming with Windows/Mac).
  • Check you have the right paper size selected (A4) and are printing with Chrome/Edge/Acrobat. Have a look at your printer paper/labels in the tray and make sure they are straight and properly positioned. Some label sheets are not quite symmetrical - check they are being printed the right way up.
  • If you are printing more labels on a partially used sheet of sticky labels, make sure you always feed / load the paper the same way up as the first time you printed on the sheet. You may want to mark the right way up on the sheet itself, for next time, if it is not clear. This will ensure that the un-used labels get printed on.
  • Try another printer and computer (eg, at home) to compare. Measure the margins in the PDF using Adobe Acrobat measure tool and compare with the printed output. Discuss with your internal IT team.

Do RiskAssess labels comply?

The labels generated in RiskAssess comply with the latest edition of the GHS [1] and with the requirements listed in the latest 2021 Safety and Science MOE guidance document for schools [2] and the relevant legislation for school laboratories [3]. We have had advice from WorkSafe that hazard statements are not required by the legislation [3] ("This regulation does not specify whether the warning of the hazard is a pictogram or hazard statement.") and hazard statements are not shown in the example label in the MOE guidance document [2].

The labels are for "secondary containers and prepared solutions", that is, for chemical containers used to hold small quantities of chemicals for student use. The labels are not a substitute for the original labels on chemical containers provided by the manufacturer or supplier; these require more extensive labelling.

The information in the label for each pure substance comes from the ECHA database [4], also used by Safe Work Australia in its "Hazardous Chemicals Information List" [5].

The information in the label for each solution comes from the ECHA database [4], if data are available for "Specific Concentration Limits"; otherwise, the data come from the application of the rules in the GHS [1] to the ECHA classification of the pure chemical [4], following the rules for mixtures, with water as an inert diluent [6].

ECHA regularly adds new data on chemical classifications, and updates summary information. The labels in RiskAssess will change over time, based on the updates in the ECHA database. The labels may not agree with those based on older or different data.

Summary

RiskAssess labels comply. The labels are suitable only for containers of "transferred or decanted hazardous chemicals", not for the original container. The label for a particular chemical may change over time, if new data become available.

[1] United Nations "Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)" 8th ed., 2019.
https://unece.org/ghs-rev8-2019

[2] The New Zealand Association of Science Educators "Guidance for Aotearoa New Zealand Schools and Kura (Safety and Science/Pūtaiao)", November 2021.
25.2 Labels on secondary containers and prepared solutions
https://scienceonline.tki.org.nz/content/download/1611/21493/version/2/file/MOE-School+Labs+Guidance.pdf

[3] New Zealand Government "Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations", 2017
18.9 part 4
https://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/2017/0131/latest/DLM7311077.html

[4] European Chemicals Agency "Classification and Labelling Inventory".
http://echa.europa.eu/information-on-chemicals/cl-inventory-database

[5] Safe Work Australia "Hazardous Substances Information System".
http://hsis.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/GHSInformation/GHS_Hazardous_Chemical_Information_List

[6] RiskAssess "GHS data for solutions".
http://www.riskassess.co.nz/docs/GHSdataSolutions.pdf

What is required on a GHS compliant label? RiskAssess labels have bigger pictograms and less text?

According to The New Zealand Association of Science Educators "Guidance for Aotearoa New Zealand Schools and Kura (Safety and Science/Pūtaiao)", November 2021, https://scienceonline.tki.org.nz/content/download/1611/21493/version/2/file/MOE-School+Labs+Guidance.pdf, Section 25.2: Labels on secondary containers and prepared solutions, labels need to include:

  • the identity of the substance
  • the concentration of the substance if diluted with a non-hazardous substance
  • a pictogram indicating the hazardous properties of the substance when classified as a flammable gas (cat 1), (2.1.1), a flammable liquid (cat 1) (3.1A), a pyrophoric liquid (cat 1) (4.2A), a substances which in contact with water emits flammable gases (cat 1) (4.3A), an oxidising liquid (cat 1) (5.1.1A), an oxidising gas (cat 1) (5.1.2A), acutely toxic (cat 1, 2 or 3) (6.1A-C), a skin corrosive (cat 1A) (8.2A), causing serious eye damage (cat 1) (8.3A)

RiskAssess labels include all of the above.

The guide also says "and, if possible, an indication of the precautions required when handling the substance". In RiskAssess, we have chosen to provide other information on the label that we believe is a better use of the limited space. RiskAssess labels provide the SIGNAL WORD (Eg, DANGER or WARNING) and a coloured spot indicating the recommended years groups to use the chemical given an average class.

Note that the decision to include precautions is left up to the label designers and is not a requirement on labels in schools.

Given that the pictograms are always included on the RiskAssess labels, and that each lab should already have routine procedures (safety glasses, hair tied back, lab coats etc), and risk assessments are being performed for the practical with a fuller consideration of control measures for the prac as a whole, we do not think including the precautions on the label for each chemical is the best use of space (they could be long also). We wanted to make the information on labels eye-catching and graphical (so students noticed it) rather than including long text - hence we choose to include the big red signal word and pictograms on the standard labels.

In RiskAssess, we have chosen to:

  • include the Signal word, since it provides a rapid summary of the hazard level
  • use pictograms, rather than hazard statements, since they are more readily understood
  • add hazard statements when there is sufficient room
  • focus on communicating the most essential information.

RiskAssess signal word or pictograms are not the same as another source of safety information. Why?

RiskAssess uses the latest ECHA data. You can see the ECHA Chemicals and Labelling Inventory here (accept the legal notice and click on "CL Inventory"). This is based on classifications submitted to the European Chemicals Association from all over Europe. The Europeans have been at the forefront of developing the GHS as a UN initiative. The ECHA data are used by Safe Work Australia.

There are other systems and other opinions regarding the hazardous properties of chemicals, but the ECHA data are the best of which we are aware. Some manufacturers, in their SDSs do not take into account dilution, but simply quote the hazards associated with the pure chemical.

In the GHS, there are rules for diminishing the hazardous properties of substances as they are diluted (regarded as mixing with an inert second component) which we take into account on labels. See GHS Data for Solutions for more information.

What does each pictogram mean / can I print them?

See 'How the GHS system works' in GHS Data in RiskAssess

Can I print labels in black and white?

The Code of Practice [1] states that "The information and hazard pictograms on any label should be printed in a colour or colours that provide a distinct contrast to the background colour".

If you use a black and white printer to print RiskAssess labels, the red prints as a dark grey, distinctly different from the background colour (white). This means that black and white printing of labels should be acceptable, according to the Code of Practice.

However, printing in colour is much better, since the signal word and pictograms are even more obvious. For bottles which will be used for a long time, we recommend that you find a colour printer somewhere in the school and print labels in colour, if possible.

[1] Safe Work Australia "Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals Code of Practice", July 2020.
Section 4: Labelling design and layout
https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-09/model_code_of_practice_labelling_of_workplace_hazardous_chemicals.pdf

Carcinogens, sensitisers, reproductive toxicants and specific target-organ toxicants: cut-off values

The duty of care by a school to its students is very high. Students are at a vulnerable stage of their physical and mental development. RiskAssess has therefore taken a cautious view on cut-off concentrations for chemicals and has chosen to use the conservative cut-off values in the latest GHS, which is promoted by the United Nations and supported especially by countries in Europe. Another reason for a conservative approach is that, for most chemicals, no human data are available with which to assess the exact cutoff values.

For chemicals which

  • may cause or are suspected to cause cancer
  • may damage fertility, the unborn child or breast-fed children
  • may cause allergy, asthma symptoms or breathing difficulties
  • may damage particular organs (e.g. liver or kidneys)

the cut-off values for hazardous properties in dilute mixtures recommended by Safe Work Australia [1] for manufacturers and suppliers are sometimes higher than those in the latest edition of the GHS [2]. The WorkSafe cutoff values range from 3 to 30 times higher.

What differences are there in practice?

There is no difference for pure chemicals.
There is no difference for concentrated solutions.
For some dilute solutions, however, the cut-off values recommended by Safe Work Australia mean that a pictogram or a hazard statement according to the latest GHS is not required. If a school wishes to follow the less conservative WorkSafe cutoff values, the extra pictogram or hazard statement can be covered, before clear tape or contact is applied to the label.

It is the policy of RiskAssess to provide schools with the most up-to-date information available. This means referencing the latest data provided by ECHA [3] and following the latest edition of the GHS [2].

Below the lowest cut-off concentration, a solution of a chemical is not considered by GHS to have any hazardous properties. In these situations, the RiskAssess label states that the chemical is "Not classified as a hazardous chemical according to GHS". As an additional safety precaution, RiskAssess alerts users to the hazardous properties of the pure chemical used to prepare the solution in the Potential hazards section of the risk assessment form, if the pure chemical is suspected of causing cancer, genetic defects or damage to fertility.

[1] Safe Work Australia "Guidance on the classification of hazardous chemicals under the WHS Regulations: implementation of the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)" April 2012.
http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/682/Classification%20Hazardous%20Chemicals.pdf

[2] United Nations "Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)" 8th ed., 2019.
https://unece.org/ghs-rev8-2019

[3] European Chemicals Agency "Classification and Labelling Inventory".
http://echa.europa.eu/information-on-chemicals/cl-inventory-database

Questions on hydrochloric acid

In the ECHA database (click here to see), if you enter "hydrochloric acid" and go down the page, you will see that hydrochloric acid has Specific Concentration Limits with
Eye Irrit. 2; H319: 10% ≤ C < 25%
Skin Irrit. 2; H315: 10% ≤ C < 25%

This means that below 10% wt/wt (~3 M), hydrochloric acid is no longer regarded as causing "Serious eye irritation" or "Skin irritation", according to the classifications reported to ECHA following GHS criteria. This does not mean that it has no irritant effects. It may still "Cause eye irritation" or "Cause mild skin irritation", but adequate data are not available for this. To cover the likely situation, RiskAssess has added the Potential hazards "Higher concentrations irritate eyes, lungs and skin". Just about anything that is not isotonic nor at physiological pH will irritate the eyes to some extent. There may also be large variations between people in terms of skin irritation.

The classifiers of chemicals are mostly interested in distinguishing between eye or skin damage, and skin or eye irritation. According to GHS criteria, irritation is reversible, whereas damage is not. The boundary between damage and irritation is often the subject of disagreement between different classifiers. In the case of hydrochloric acid, however, the quantity of data is very great (more than 2000 classifications, with broad agreement) and ECHA itself has provided the summary data on concentration limits.

Where can I find iodine solutions?

I2 reacts with I- to form I3- ions. Solutions containing both I2 and KI are therefore shown as KI3. I2 has only very low solubility in water and we only list aqueous solutions. We have the note "See 'potassium triiodide' for solutions containing both potassium iodide and iodine" in the standard handling procedures for "iodine, 0.001 M (0.03% wt/wt), saturated solution" to give people the hint.

Enter KI3 in the chemical search and you should find it!

Can I use a label printer (a special printer designed only to print labels)?

We chose to support standard A4 size paper and label sheets rather than specialised printers so that all schools would be able to use our labelling software without needing to buy a special printer at extra cost. RiskAssess labels can be printed on sticky labels including durable heavy duty labels. See Label Stationery for more details. Another popular option is to print on normal A4 paper, cut out labels and stick on with contact over the top.

More Information

Where can I find the user guides?

You can download the RiskAssess user guide or Student RiskAssess user guide.

Can I use RiskAssess for other school areas?

The structure and logic of RiskAssess is applicable to every school area (and indeed to every activity). The biggest problem with application to another school area is the database information - at the moment, we only cover Science with RiskAssess, and Food Tech/Studies and Hospitality with RiskAssess for Food Tech. Another area is the user interface - we need to develop an interface for each area that fits with the way people work (eg only Science commonly has a Laboratory Technician where as Food Tech usually has a Food Tech assistant).

We will be starting development of versions of RiskAssess for "Art" and for "Technology" subjects (variously named in different States, Provinces and countries). "Maintenance" and "Excursions" are planned as the the next efforts after that. Ultimately, we plan to provide versions of RiskAssess for all school areas.

My question is not here. How can I find out more?

The RiskAssess user guide and Student RiskAssess user guide are worth reading for further information.
If your question is still not answered and you are a staff member, please email us at . If you are a student with a question, please contact your teacher.