What rules have changed?

New rules for hazardous substances came into effect on 1 December 2017. Find out how this affects you.

Over recent years, the regulations for managing hazardous substances were reformed to further protect New Zealanders from harm. The changes mean that we're working with WorkSafe New Zealand to ensure these substances are managed safely.

See our summary table below showing the responsibilities of the EPA and WorkSafe New Zealand.

Summary of EPA and WorkSafe New Zealand responsibilities (pdf, 82 KB)

How we can help you Plus

We are responsible for approving all hazardous substances for use in New Zealand, and for setting the rules to protect the environment and people in non-workplaces. We also set the disposal rules for hazardous substances.

To ensure your management of a hazardous substance complies with the rules, we have developed and published EPA Notices. These consolidate and simplify many of these rules and replace many of the regulations currently under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO). E​PA Notices are also easier than regulations to update or amend so we—and you—can be more responsive to new developments and technologies.

We are also responsible for enforcing the rules for importers, manufacturers and suppliers of hazardous substances.

Got questions? We are here to help. If you have questions about the changes since 1 December 2017, you can email us.

How WorkSafe New Zealand can help you Plus

WorkSafe New Zealand enforces the rules relating to the use, handling and storage of hazardous substances in the workplace under the Health & Safety at Work Act (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017. The regulations are available on the New Zealand Legislation website. WorkSafe New Zealand also: 

  • implements the rules by providing guidance, managing the compliance certification regime, and developing more detailed and technical rules for some hazardous substances
  • enforces the ecotoxic and disposal requirements in the workplace, which are set under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO)
  • provides information and tools to help businesses understand their obligations. 

There is more information on the WorkSafe New Zealand website. 

Additional EPA Notices Plus

The EPA can set hazardous substance rules under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act. These are detailed in EPA Notices. EPA Notices are approved by the EPA Board rather than going through Cabinet. This allows the notices to be updated quickly, allowing the EPA to keep up to date with international and technological changes. Although they are approved by the EPA Board, proposed EPA Notices must go through a public consultation period. 

A number of new EPA Notices came into force on 1 December 2017.

New timeframes for individual approvals of substances Plus

If the hazardous substance in your product was approved for use before 1 December 2017, your product will remain approved, with the same approval number, until that approval is legally reissued. Until then, the existing HSNO regulations will continue to apply, alongside the Health & Safety at Work Act (Hazardous Substances) Regulations.

Once your product's approval is re-issued, you will have between two and four years to comply with the new requirements in the EPA Notices on Labelling, Safety Data Sheets and Packaging. However, you must comply with the Disposal Notice immediately upon re-issue of your approval. 

Hazardous substances approved for use after 1 December 2017 must comply with all of the EPA Notices immediately.

Note that regardless of when the substance was approved for use, you will need to comply with some rules in the EPA Notice on Hazardous Property Controls from 1 December 2017 onwards.

See our summary of timeframes below for more information on which rules need to be complied with, and when.

Timeframes for 2017 Group Standards Plus

Group standards are approvals for a group of hazardous substances of a similar nature, type or use. A group standard sets out conditions that enable a group of hazardous substances to be managed safely.  

The 2017 group standards​ have been updated to align with the new regulatory regime introduced on 1 December 2017 and the EPA Notices. 

If your hazardous substance is assigned to a group standard, you will have four years, until 1 December 2021, to comply with the new requirements in the EPA Notices for packaging, labelling and safety data sheets. However, you will need to comply with the Disposal Notice and the Hazardous Property Controls Notice immediately, i.e. from 1 December 2017.

See the summary of timeframes below, and the section on EPA Notices, for what you need to do to comply. Where there are differences between the rules set in an EPA Notice and what is required under a group standard, the group standard provides specific information about these differences. ​

Summary of timeframes for compliance with EPA Notices Plus

There are some important dates by which you need to comply with the EPA Notices. These are listed in this Summary table.

Summary of timeframes for compliance with EPA Notices (pdf 11KB)

Use our controls database so you know what rules you need to follow.

Approved Hazardous Substances with Controls database

Changes to the process for new approvals for hazardous substances Plus

Your role in the application process for approvals for hazardous substances is not changing. You will still work with us at the EPA to apply for new hazardous substances approvals.

We will manage the application process but after 1 December 2017, but we will no longer set the rules for work-related health and safety activities involving hazardous substances. Most of these rules will be set by WorkSafe New Zealand.

This means that during the application process, we will work collaboratively with WorkSafe and advise them about the risk assessment for the hazardous substance. From the risk assessment, WorkSafe will check if the requirements in the regulations will manage the risks to people in workplaces sufficiently.

In some situations, WorkSafe New Zealand may decide that additional requirements are needed to protect workers and other people from the potential harm from a substance. In this case, they may advise the EPA that a Safe Work Instrument (SWI) should be developed to address the work-related human health risks identified. An SWI may modify or set some additional requirements to those provided in the regulations. We'll keep you informed if an SWI is needed. 

If an SWI is required, WorkSafe will need time to develop one and to obtain the Minister’s agreement before the substance can be approved. This process will take time to complete and you will be advised if additional time is needed to process your application.

Public consultation during these changes Plus

Public consultations were held on the proposed EPA Notices, which gave people chance to have their say.

You can read all documentation relating to the EPA Notices consultations, including the consultation documents, the submissions received, and analyses of the submissions.

EPA Notices consultations