Controls for hazardous substances

When a hazardous substance is approved (either under a group standard or individually), controls (or rules) are put in place for their use, so that the risks are managed.

These controls are found in EPA Notices, group standards, or individual hazardous substance approvals.

To check which controls apply to a substance, search for the substance in the Approved Hazardous Substances with Controls database or read the group standard that you have assigned the substance to. 

Examples of controls include:

  • Hazardous substances must be appropriately packaged.
  • Hazardous substances must be used in such a way to minimise environmental effects.
  • Sites storing large quantities of liquid hazardous substances not in a workplace must have signage and secondary containment (bunding) in place.
  • Labelling and other information must clearly indicate the hazards of the substances.

How controls are assigned

The controls assigned to hazardous substances vary, depending on the hazard classification of the substance and on the type of hazard involved. For example, some toxic substances need child-resistant packaging and flammable substances must be stored away from ignition sources.

Some controls, such as secondary containment and signage, apply when hazardous substances are present above a certain threshold quantity.

More highly hazardous substances have a greater number of controls, as well as more stringent controls, such as certified handler and tracking requirements.

Prescribed controls

Each substance has a basic set of controls, known as prescribed controls, depending on the hazard classification of the substance. You can find these prescribed controls in the EPA Notices.

Similar controls can also be found in group standards to manage the risk of the particular type of group standards.

Additional controls

When a substance is approved, these default controls are often modified to make sure they are appropriate for the particular substance being approved. Additional controls may be assigned to them or deleted.

Emergency management

Any site containing large quantities of ecotoxic (class 9) hazardous substances needs appropriate emergency management. Emergency management involves preventing accidents and incidents as well as limiting the adverse effects of incidents, should they occur.

Requirements for emergency management are split between WorkSafe New Zealand (if a toxic substance is class 6 and in a workplace) and the EPA (if exotoxic, class 9, and not in workplaces). If you have a hazardous substance in a workplace please look at the requirements at WorkSafe.

Emergency management requirements

These can include:

  • Emergency information on labels, such as first aid instructions
  • Emergency information on safety data sheets, such as spill response procedures
  • Equipment, such as fire-extinguishers
  • Signage
  • Secondary containment (bunding)
  • Emergency response plans.

The level of emergency management required depends on the quantity and type of hazardous substances at the location. 

The requirements are listed in the Hazardous Substances (Hazardous Property Controls) Notice 2017 or are listed with WorkSafe.

Threshold quantities are based on the aggregated quantity of all hazardous substances held at that location for:

  • Fire extinguishers
  • Emergency response plans
  • Secondary containment
  • Signage requirements

Emergency management responsibilities

The supplier is responsible for providing labelling and safety data sheets with the substance and ensuring they meet the required performance standards. The person in charge is responsible for ensuring emergency management procedures are in place, wherever threshold quantities are exceeded, including that:

  • labelling requirements continue to be met
  • safety data sheets are available
  • the right number and type of fire extinguishers are present and correctly located
  • an emergency response plan has been prepared, tested and is available to staff
  • the site has appropriate signage
  • the site has appropriate secondary containment.

Emergency response plans

An emergency response plan is needed for sites where large quantities of hazardous substances are present. The plan describes the emergency procedures for the site and must cover all hazardous substances held, or likely to be held, at the site. The plan must be tested at least every 12 months or within three months of a change to the plan. The plan can be part of emergency planning documentation required under other legislation.

Tracking of hazardous substances

Tracking of hazardous substances in workplaces is now administrated by WorkSafe New Zealand. However if a person supplies a substance that triggers a certain threshold, they are required to retain a written record. See clause 13 of the Hazardous Substances (Hazardous Property Controls) Notice 2017 for more information.

Exposure Limits

Exposure limits, such as Tolerable Exposure Limits (TEL) and Environmental Exposure Limits (EEL), are set to protect human health and the environment.

Exposure limits that have been set are recorded in the spreadsheets below.

Tolerable Exposure Limits (TEL) (xlsx, 159KB)

Environmental Exposure Limits (EEL) (xlsx, 39KB)