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Hazardous Substances

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Hazardous substances are an integral part of modern society. They are found across a wide range of industries, including:

  • agrichemicals used in primary production
  • fuels that run our transport fleet
  • explosives for mining and quarrying
  • solvents and other general chemicals used in manufacturing
  • cleaning solutions that are critical for safe food production, and
  • speciality chemicals that underpin research and development.

Did you know?

There are over 150,000 businesses in New Zealand that manufacture, use, handle or store hazardous substances.

New Hazardous Substances Regulations

On 4 April 2016 the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) came into force along with the majority of the first phase of supporting regulations.

The Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations are currently being developed and will come into force in early December 2017. They will be an important chapter in the Government’s Working Safer reforms.

By their very nature hazardous substances can be extremely dangerous. Used safely they contribute to New Zealand’s economic growth and prosperity. Used incorrectly they can cause catastrophic accidents, such as fires and explosions, and serious harm to people who are exposed to them.

Occupational exposure to hazardous substances may occur over many years and result in slow and debilitating diseases, many of which are fatal. Around 600 – 900 people die prematurely every year from workplace-related disease including from exposure to hazardous substances.

Reducing harm from work-related exposure to hazardous substances

Specific controls (rules) are required to help manage the risks associated with manufacturing, using, handling or storing hazardous substances in the workplace and to protect the health and safety of workers. Currently, these controls are set under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996 but in 2017 they will be transferred to the Health and Safety at Work Act and a new set of Hazardous Substances Regulations. These Regulations are in development and are expected to be finalised in the first half of 2017. They will come into force in December 2017.

The Hazardous Substances Toolbox has a package of useful information. It takes you through the 5 Steps to Safety, includes the Practical Guide to Working Safely with Hazardous Substances and provides the Hazardous Substances Calculator that can help you evaluate whether your business needs to comply with any key HSNO controls.