Reforms to the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme

The Australian Government Department of Health has announced reforms to NICNAS that streamline the assessment process for industrial chemicals to reduce the regulatory burden on the sector, while also ensuring Australia’s robust safety standards are maintained.

Page last updated: 16 June 2015

On 26 May 2015, the Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash, announced reforms to National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) that streamline the assessment process for industrial chemicals to reduce the regulatory burden on the sector, while also ensuring Australia’s robust safety standards are maintained. The reforms will ensure that the level of assessment of industrial chemicals is proportionate to the potential risks they pose.

The final Regulation Impact Statement associated with the reforms for NICNAS is available from the Office of Best Practice Regulation.

For further information on the reforms is available from NICNAS Reforms.

Implementation of the reforms to NICNAS

The Australian Government has announced that the reforms to the NICNAS will be fully implemented by 1 September 2018. Information on further opportunities for consultation on the detail of reform along with timing of specific reform implementation is available from NICNAS Reforms.

Background

NICNAS is a statutory scheme within the portfolio of the Minister for Health, with responsibility delegated to the Assistant Minister for Health. The Director of NICNAS is a statutory office holder with specific functions under the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (the Act), including the scientific assessment of chemical risks to public health, occupational health and safety and the environment. NICNAS also has some responsibilities for recommending the control of risks in relation to new and existing chemicals.

A review of NICNAS, initially progressed as a Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership between the Minister for Finance and Deregulation and the Minister for Health, was undertaken to evaluate and make recommendations on the regulatory settings for the notification, assessment and regulation of industrial chemicals, noting that any proposed changes to the regulatory arrangements for industrial chemicals should not weaken human health and environmental protection. The review considered:

  • the role and functions of NICNAS as set out in the Act and the extent to which they adequately reflect stakeholder expectations and international best practice, having regard to the broader context of chemicals regulation in Australia
  • the governance and consultation arrangements of NICNAS and the extent to which they support the effective delivery of NICNAS' functions
  • the efficiency and effectiveness of NICNAS' operating arrangements and business processes, with particular regard to the protection of human and environmental health, the management of risk, and compliance costs for business, and
  • any implications for the resourcing of functions currently cost recovered, should the review recommend changed responsibilities.

In considering the options for reform, the Australian Government had regard to:

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