Your Practical Guide to working safely with hazardous substances provides you with the supporting reference material for working through the 5 Steps to Safety. It provides you with information about using and storing your hazardous substances safely. 

The guide can be downloaded as PDF sections below or in full by clicking here.


About 150,000 workplaces throughout New Zealand use hazardous substances. The risks they pose are often underestimated. For example, common hazardous substances like commercial cleaning products, paints, adhesives, acids, bases and solvents can cause serious harm if not used safely.


  • About Your Practical Guide
  • What are hazardous substances?
  • How hazardous substances are classified
  • Controls for managing hazardous substances
  • Managing risk
  • ‘So far as is reasonably practicable’
  • Health and safety duties in the workplace
  • More about the PCBU
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Approvals, Hazard Classifications and Controls

Every hazardous substance imported into New Zealand or manufactured in New Zealand must be approved and have its classifications determined under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO). Depending on its classification, rules are placed on a substance to manage the risks posed by that substance. These rules are known as controls.


  • Approvals
  • Hazard classifications
  • Controls for managing hazardous substances
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Manage Hazardous Substance Risks

Not understanding the harm that can occur when working with hazardous substances is a serious problem with serious consequences. Between 600 and 900 New Zealanders are estimated to die from work-related illness every year, many from exposure to hazardous substances. Exposure to different hazardous substances affects people in different ways. Health effects can include personality changes, sleep disorders, memory loss, cancer, fertility problems and even death. These serious health risks are why it's so important to safely manage the hazardous substances at your workplace and protect your health and the health of your workers and others.


  • Hazardous substances can damage your health
  • Applying substance controls
  • Prepare an inventory of your hazardous substances
  • Find and implement the key controls
  • Manage remaining hazardous substances risks
  • Review control measures
  • Health and exposure monitoring
  • Information, instruction and training
  • Young people
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Hazardous Substance Information

Labels, safety data sheets and signs are all sources of information to warn people about the risks of the hazardous substances at your workplace.


  • Label all hazardous substances
  • Symbols on labels and signs
  • Safety data sheets
  • Signage
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Store Hazardous Substances Safely

Storing hazardous substances safely is an important part of protecting yourself, your workers, other people at the workplace, neighbouring properties and the environment.


  • Decanting or transferring hazardous substances
  • Incompatibles
  • Store only what you need, store it safely
  • Gas cylinders
  • Oxy-acetylene welding
  • Flammable substances
  • Other substances
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Emergency Preparation

Even the most safety conscious organisation can have an emergency. So you, your workers, and emergency service workers need to know what to do, and who is responsible for what in an emergency.


  • Prepare for an emergency
  • Spill kits
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Signage
  • Secondary containment
  • Emergency response plans
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Compliance Certificates

Compliance certificates are issued by compliance certifiers to show that users of hazardous substances have appropriate controls in place or have the appropriate knowledge and training. You might need a compliance certificate for people, locations or equipment.

A compliance certifier is an independent service provider authorised by WorkSafe New Zealand to issue compliance certificates.


  • What are compliance certificates?
  • Certified handler compliance certificates
  • Approved filler certificates
  • Location compliance certificates
  • Stationary container system compliance certificates
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Tracking Very Hazardous Substances

Some very hazardous substances must be tracked, recording what happens to them from when they were imported into New Zealand or manufactured, through their distribution and transport, to their final use or disposal.


  • Where does tracking start?
  • The competent person’s responsibilities
  • Keeping tracking records
  • Information needed in tracking records
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Further Information

 Section Contents

  • Resources
  • Glossary
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