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New rules for laboratories

The new Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations apply to laboratories.

From 1 December there will be new requirements for all laboratories. However, those involved in research and development, teaching and analytical testing will have a different set of requirements to laboratories not involved in these areas.


What is a laboratory?

A vehicle, room, building, or any other structure set aside and equipped for scientific experiments or research, for teaching science, or for the development of chemical or medicinal products.


Are laboratories exempt from the Regulations?

No. The Regulations apply to all laboratories.


Do the same rules apply to all laboratories?

No. Under the Hazardous Substances Regulations, laboratories fall into two groups:

  • those involved in research and development, teaching or analytical testing which meet certain conditions
  • those not involved in these areas, or which don’t meet the conditions.

For the latter group, all the relevant requirements under the Regulations apply, including new general requirements relating to:

There are specific requirements for laboratories involved in research and development, teaching or analytical testing – provided they:

  • do not sell substances, or
  • only sell to laboratories in New Zealand or overseas involved in research and development, teaching or analytical testing, and
  • if selling to an overseas laboratory, have evidence showing that laboratory is involved in research and development, teaching or analytical testing.


What requirements apply to these laboratories?

The person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) with management or control of the laboratory must designate a laboratory manager, ensure the manager has the knowledge and skills to handle and dispose of the substances used, and that the laboratory is secured if the manager or their nominated replacement is absent.

The PCBU must also ensure that:

  • Every person handling hazardous substances has the required information.
  • Entrances to the laboratory have signs warning people that only authorised people are permitted inside, and that the signs are of the required standard.
  • All parts of the laboratory that could come into contact with a hazardous substance are made of materials unable to absorb or retain the substance, or that the area is covered by disposable material capable of absorbing or retaining the substance.
  • The laboratory is designed and operated in a way that prevents any hazardous substances from escaping.
  • Any approved hazardous substance is handled, packaged or stored as required for its substance class, except those requirements relating to certified handlers or location compliance certificates.
  • Any unapproved hazardous substance meets the handling, packaging and storage requirements for equivalent substance classes, except those requirements relating to certified handlers or location compliance certificates.
  • An inventory of all unapproved hazardous substances, and all approved substances that would otherwise be subject to tracking requirements, is kept at the workplace, and for at least 12 months after the substance is consumed or removed from the laboratory.
  • The laboratory has an emergency response plan (ERP).


Do I need a location compliance certificate?

Laboratories do not require a location compliance certificate, however one will be required for the hazardous substances storage area, if that is separate from the laboratory.


What happens to the codes of practice?

Under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO), codes of practice were used to help guide those in charge of laboratories through what they needed to do to comply with the relevant regulations.

These codes of practice do not apply under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA). The Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories and the Code of Practice for CRI and University Exempt Laboratories will be replaced with equivalent guidance from WorkSafe on what you need to do to be compliant.


What else is changing that can affect laboratories?

If a laboratory imports, stores or uses 1080, there are specific recording and notification requirements, including that notifications now go to WorkSafe.

Information about substances in small containers will need to be clearly written on the container, so far as is reasonably practicable, rather than accessible within 10 seconds.

From 1 June 2019, the Regulations will apply to the use, handling and storage of hazardous waste.

Last updated 17 August 2017