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Certified Handlers

Under the new Hazardous Substances Regulations there will be fewer substances that require certified handlers (than currently require approved handlers). This page outlines when you will need a certified handler under the new Regulations, how to become one, and what to do if you are currently an approved handler.


What are certified handlers?

Certified handlers are people who are skilled and competent to handle very hazardous substances in your workplace. They must demonstrate competency in their particular area and must be certified by a compliance certifier. Currently, under HSNO, certified handlers are called approved handlers.


When do I need a certified Handler?

You will need a certified handler for the following substances:

  • Certain substances requiring a controlled substance licence, including  certain explosives, vertebrate toxic agents (VTAs) and fumigants.
  • Class 6.1 A and 6.1 B (acutely toxic substances that can be fatal)

You may need more than one certified handler to cover shift work, holidays and sick days; or to cover different classes and types of substances.

Under certain circumstances a person who is not a certified handler can handle these substances.

You will not need a certified handler for the following substances (which currently need an approved handler):

  • Class 2 substances (flammable gases)
  • Class 3 substances (flammable liquids)
  • Class 4 substances (flammable solids)
  • Class 5 substances (oxidising substances)
  • Class 6.1C (acutely toxic) and 6.7A (carcinogens)
  • Class 8 substances (corrosive substances)
  • Class 9 substances (those that are toxic to the environment)


Will the certified handler requirements be stronger under the new Regulations?

Under the new Regulations the system for those who handle hazardous substances will be significantly stronger:

  • There will be a greater emphasis on training, supervision and instruction for workers handling hazardous substances. So while not all substances will require a certified handler as they may have done under HSNO, our expectation is that a person handling those substances will, as a minimum, have the same level of knowledge and competence.
  • Workers will have greater access to information about the substances they work with including through mandatory inventories and safety data sheets.
  • For those substances that do require a certified handler, the competency requirements to be a certified handler are more robust.  WorkSafe is also expecting a more consistent level of performance of training providers and of compliance certifiers in determining whether the training is adequate for a certified handler certificate to be issued.
  • There will be higher expectations on the compliance certifiers that issue certificates to certified handlers. They will work to mandatory performance standards and be audited regularly.

Together this makes for a far more robust system. All workers must have the appropriate and relevant information, training, instruction and supervision to carry out their work safely. Certified handlers, when required, will demonstrate a higher level of competency and there is a greater performance expectation on the compliance certifiers who issue the certificates.


How do I become a certified handler?

All people that handle or use hazardous substances in the workplace must have the required level of practical and supervised workplace experience. Certified handlers, however, require a greater depth of understanding (information, instruction and training) about the substances they are certified to deal with. This includes knowing the substance’s hazardous properties; how to work with the substance; how to protect people from potential adverse effects; what’s required under law; and what to do in an emergency involving the hazardous substance.

In some circumstances, certified handlers will also need to supervise, and provide guidance and assistance to others who are handling these substances.

Contact a compliance certifier (currently called a test certifier) who will check that you, or the person you’ve identified to be your certified handler, meets all the competency requirements and has sufficient training to safely handle the hazardous substances they use.

Find a list of current test certifiers.


What do I need to do if I’m currently an Approved Handler?

If you are an approved handler now, you will hold a current test certificate issued by a test certifier. When the new Regulations come into force your certificate will continue to be valid for the full period for which it was issued. When it expires, you will need to apply for a certified handler certificate (if you require one).

You’ll see a few places where terminology has changed under the new Regulations including:

  • ‘test certificates’ will become ‘compliance certificates’
  • ‘test certifiers’ will be known as ‘compliance certifiers’.


Do certified handler certificates need to be renewed?

A certified handler certificate must be renewed every five years. At that point the certified handler will be completely re-assessed against the required competencies.


Is there a cost to being a certified handler?

There will be a cost to applying for, or renewing, certified handler certification. This cost is set by compliance certifiers. We recommend that you contact several certifiers to determine the quality of their training as well as their services and fees.


Where can I find more information?

You can find out more about Approved Handlers under the current HSNO regime.

Last updated 30 August 2017