Major hazard facilities

Any facility that has certain chemicals in excess of their threshold quantity is a major hazard facility.

Many major hazard facilities have more than one chemical that is under their threshold, but the aggregate total exceeds the threshold.

However, any facility that has chemicals in excess of 10 per cent of their threshold quantity, but does not exceed their threshold quantity, may also be determined to be a major hazard facility if we consider that there is a potential for a major incident to occur at the facility – eg a spill, leak, fire or explosion.

Major hazard facilities include sites like oil refineries, chemical manufacturing plants, LPG facilities, gas-processing plants and other sites that store, handle or process large quantities of hazardous chemicals.

There are 39 major hazard facilities in NSW.

Must do’s

There are specific laws about major hazard facilities. Here we summarise those laws and give you some practical tips.

Notify us

You must notify us within three months if you intend to operate a major hazard facility with chemicals present or likely to be present in a quantity that exceeds 10 per cent of the threshold quantities, as outlined in Schedule 15.

If your facility is determined to be a major hazard facility, you must also notify us if there is a change of operator.

If your facility was previously determined not to be a major hazard facility, you must notify us again if there is an increase in the quantity of Schedule 15 chemicals present or likely to be present.

Licensed major hazard facilities must also notify us of any change in the quantity of Schedule 15 chemicals present or likely to be present.

Prepare a safety case outline

Within three months after a facility is determined to be a major hazard facility, you must send us a safety case outline. It must include:

  • a written plan, including key steps and timelines for preparing the safety case
  • the methods to be used in preparing the safety case, including details of how the accuracy and currency of the safety case will be ensured
  • details of the resources, including the knowledge and experience, that will be used in preparing the safety case
  • details of consultation that occurred when preparing the outline
  • details of consultation that will occur when preparing the safety case
  • a draft of the emergency plan
  • a summary of security arrangements.

We may ask you to alter your safety case outline.

Manage risks

You must manage the risks associated your major hazard facility, whether licensed or not.

You must identify and keep a record of all major incidents and any hazards that could cause such incidents. It must include details of how you went about identifying the potential incidents and hazards, and outline any external conditions that may give rise to such incidents.

You must also do a comprehensive investigation of all major incidents that could occur and prepare a safety assessment that includes:

  • the nature and likelihood of each major incident and any hazard that might give rise to a major incident
  • the potential magnitude and severity should a major incident occur
  • the control measures considered
  • the control measures implemented.

Implement control measures that will minimise the magnitude and severity should a major incident occur – or, better still, eliminate the risk altogether.

Prepare an emergency plan

You must prepare an emergency plan after consulting with:

  • Fire and Rescue NSW
  • the NSW Rural Fire Service (if you’re in a rural fire district)
  • the local council.

The plan must:

  • address all health and safety consequences of a major incident occurring
  • include all matters outlined in Schedule 16
  • provide for testing of emergency procedures, including frequency of testing.

Give a copy of the plan to the emergency services you have consulted – and to any other relevant emergency services.

You must test the emergency plan before you apply for a licence. Also, implement the plan immediately if a major incident occurs or is likely to occur – and contact emergency services.

Prepare a safety management system

You must establish and implement a safety management system that includes:

  • your safety policy, including broad aims relating to safety
  • safety objectives, and the systems and procedures to achieve them
  • matters outlined in Schedule 17.

The system must be the principal means of ensuring the safe operation of the facility.

It must be documented and accessible to anyone who uses the system.

Arrange security

Make arrangements to secure the facility and give details of the arrangements to the police.

Review and revise

You must review and, if necessary, revise your:

  • safety assessment (so the control measures remain adequate)
  • emergency plan
  • safety management system.

Prepare a safety case

Within two years of the facility being determined to be a major hazard facility, you must send us a written safety case.

It must include:

  • a list of major incidents that have been identified and a summary of methods used to identify major incidents and major incident hazards
  • a summary of the safety assessment
  • a summary of the emergency plan
  • a summary of the safety management system
  • a description of the security arrangements
  • details about any consultation with workers in preparing the safety case
  • additional matters outlined in Schedule 18.

The safety case must also include a signed statement that confirms:

  • its accuracy
  • you understand the facility’s health and safety risks
  • the control measures to be implemented will minimise the risk of major incident occurring or, better still, will eliminate the risk
  • the control measures to be implemented will minimise the magnitude and severity of health and safety consequences should a major incident occur
  • the appropriate knowledge and skills of your workers.

In some circumstances, you may be required to prepare a safety case together with other major hazard facilities.

You must review and, if necessary, revise the safety case when:

  • a modification is proposed to the facility
  • a control measure is inadequate
  • a new risk is found
  • consultation indicates it is necessary
  • a health and safety representative requests it
  • we request it.

Get a licence

Once your facility has been determined to be a major hazard facility, you have two years in which to get a licence. In some circumstances, an extension may be granted.

The safety case forms part of your licence application.

Provide information

If you operate a licensed facility, anyone who visits must be given information about the hazards, safety precautions and emergency plans.

You must also give the local council:

  • the name and location of your facility
  • the name, position and contact details of someone from whom information can be obtained
  • a description of the facility’s operations
  • details about how a major incident will be communicated to the community
  • details about the actions to be taken by the community in the event of a major incident
  • a summary of the safety case.

Consult your workers

Operators of major hazard facilities, whether they are licensed or not, must enable their workers to contribute to how major incidents and hazards are identified, what control measures are best, and how and when reviews should be undertaken.

Consult your workers about the safety case outline, emergency plan and safety management system.

More information

For the specific laws about major hazard facilities, see clauses 530 – 608 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017.

There are also general work health and safety laws that will apply to you in any situation, including when working in confined spaces.

The guide for major hazard facilities: providing information to the community outlines who to provide information to and what information to provide.