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Do the cytotoxic drugs used in the Oncology department at our workplace require Safety Data Sheets (SDS)?

The short answer is ‘yes’.

The term 'Cytotoxic' refers to substances or processes that can damage cells or cause them to die. 'Cyto' means cell and 'toxic' means poison. The term is often used when discussing chemotherapy drugs that kill cancer cells.

Cytotoxic drugs are classified as hazardous substances under Victorian OHS regulations due to their potential to cause harm to workers' health through exposure. These regulations require employers to implement control measures, provide appropriate training, and ensure proper handling, storage, and disposal of such substances to minimise risks.

We think you’ll find our Cytotoxic drugs webpage helpful. It includes advice for HSRs and explains employers’ legal duties under our OHS Act and regulations.

Additionally, we strongly recommend Hazardous Substances Compliance Code. Part 3 details employer duties, which include obtaining and providing Safety Data Sheets (SDSs):

“An employer must ensure that the current SDS for a hazardous substance is readily accessible to any employees who could be exposed to the substance” - OHS Regulations r156.

We also recommend the ANMF VIC Branch’s guidelines on the Prevention of exposure to harmful substances, which require employers to prevent and minimize the risk of exposure to cytotoxic drugs.

Lastly, you may find WorkSafe Victoria’s Handling cytotoxic drugs in the workplace helpful.

Worth noting: WorkSafe’s cytotoxic medicines guidance is currently being reviewed and updated.

Of course, knowing our rights is only half the battle – we need the power to enforce our rights under the law and the principles of health and safety while maintaining a good working relationship with our employer. We strongly encourage you to contact your Union for expert advice and representation.

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