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New hazardous substances regulations about to take effect

On December 1, 2018, the Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017 will come into force, addressing the safe handling and management of hazardous substances.

The purpose of the new legislation is to address the immediate harm to people and longer-term illnesses caused by hazardous substances in workplaces.

It is estimated that every year around 600 to 900 people die prematurely from workplace-related disease, including from exposure to hazardous substances, and it is for this reason changes are occurring.

As a result, business owners will need to review their current use, safe handling, storage, labelling and/or sales of hazardous substances.

A hazardous substance is any product or chemical that has explosive, flammable, oxidising, toxic or corrosive properties — and they’re everywhere.

Around one in three New Zealand workplaces use, manufacture, handle or store them. This includes factories, farmers and growers, as well as printers, panelbeaters, hairdressers and retailers.

They are in commonly used products such as fuels and LPG, solvents, cleaning solutions and agrichemicals.

The new regulations are likely to be relevant to the practices and compliance costs of companies that store or use hazardous substances.

This is because everyone in those businesses will be expected to know what substances they are working with, the risks they pose, and how to manage those risks.

Key changes to the legislation include:

 

Inventory

There is a new mandatory requirement to keep an inventory of all hazardous substances used, handled, manufactured or stored in the workplace, including hazardous waste. The inventory must be current and available to emergency services workers.

 

Safety Data Sheets

Safety Data Sheets are a key source of information about managing hazardous substances, and details amongst other things, how the substance should be safely used, stored, transported and disposed of.

Businesses must have a Safety Data Sheet for all hazardous substances in the workplace, regardless of the quantity held (some exceptions apply).

 

Information, instruction, training and supervision

The regulations have specific requirements around providing information, instruction, supervision and training to ensure workers know how to safely use, handle, store and dispose of the hazardous substances in their workplace — and also what to do in an emergency. 

Business owners must also keep a record of training and instruction provided to each worker.

 

Signage

There are some new requirements for signage which continues to be an important part of hazardous substances management, as they warn people in the workplace and emergency services that hazardous substances are on site.

 

Labelling containers of hazardous substances and hazardous waste

There are new requirements for ensuring hazardous substance containers in the workplace are labelled, as well as maintaining the labels on substances supplied to a business.

 

Emergency plans

Whilst a business should already be managing risks to avoid an emergency, there is now a requirement to plan for one.

The regulations set out specific requirements about how to plan for an emergency, and also address all “reasonably foreseeable” emergencies based on the type and volume of the hazardous substances used or stored.

Workers’ understanding of procedures to deal with emergencies is also required.

 

Risk assessment and elimination or minimisation

It is important to manage the risks associated with hazardous substances and to review what the business has in place to keep people healthy and safe.

Eliminate risks if reasonably practicable, and minimise risk where elimination is not possible.

For further information about the new Hazardous Substances Regulations, or how your business is required to manage them, call 0508 424 723 or email info@safebusiness.co.nz.

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