Working Safely with Hazardous Substances

The Hazardous Substances Toolbox has been created to help businesses know how to work safely with hazardous substances. It offers some key health and safety principles and will help you to comply with your responsibilities.

What’s inside the Toolbox?

The Toolbox helps you know your responsibilities under the Hazardous Substances Regulations.

  • The Hazardous Substances Calculator helps you create your inventory and tells you the controls you need to put in place.
  • The Workbook gives you instructions for filling out your inventory and an inventory form. The form is set up so that you will record all of the information needed to use the Hazardous Substances Calculator
  • Your practical guide to working safely with hazardous substances describes what you need to do to be safe around hazardous substances and includes useful tables and checklists.
  • The 5 Steps to Safety sets out a 5 step process you must follow no matter what hazardous substances you use and store.

The Emergency Management Flipchart

WorkSafe has developed an emergency management flipchart as a template for an emergency response plan. This will help you document your processes for a range of potential emergencies in your workplace. Emergency management flipchart (PDF).

Five Steps
  • Step 1

    prepare an inventory
    • Use your Workbook to make a list of all of the substances at your workplace and how much you have of each substance. Your Workbook helps you to record all of the information needed to use the Hazardous Substances Calculator.
    Step 2
  • Step 2

    • Apply the controls for your substance listed in the Calculator
    • Consider worker exposure to hazardous substances
    • Where possible, eliminate or substitute hazardous substances in your workplace
    • If you cannot eliminate or substitute the hazardous substances, minimise people's exposure to them by isolating them or applying engineering controls
    • If risks remain, put administrative controls in place
    • If risks still remain, make sure personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided and used
    Step 3
  • Step 3

    use and store your substances safely
    • Train your workers about the substances they use and how to protect themselves
    • Provide workers with the correct safety gear
    • Store only what you need
    • Store your hazardous substances in labelled, leak-proof containers
    • Store incompatibles separately
    • Store gas cylinders safely
    • Store oxidisers safely
    • Be aware that flammable vapour can build up and accidently ignite.
    Step 4
  • Step 4

    get ready for an emergency
    • Have an annual emergency drill (not just a fire drill)
    • Make sure workers know how to use the safety equipment, personal protective equipment and how to give first aid
    • Be prepared for a spill.
    Step 5
  • Step 5


    As well as generic controls that apply to all substances, the Hazardous Substances Calculator will tell you whether you need the following key controls:

    • Certified handlers
    • Emergency response plans
    • Fire extinguishers
    • Hazardous areas
    • Location compliance certificates
    • Secondary containment (bunding)
    • Secured substances
    • Signage
    • Stationary container system compliance certificates
    • Tracking