How to Work Safely with Hazardous Substances


Health and Safety in all areas of all businesses small or large is important for the health and well-being of employees and visitors. The responsibility for policies and procedures to comply with relevant legislation lies with the owner of a business. Small companies may not have the budget or scale of business for a full-time health and safety officer, but compliance is still necessary.

What is the Hazardous Substances Toolbox?

The toolbox has been produced to help persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU’s)
who manage or own small industrial businesses to work in a safe manner with hazardous substances. One of the main aims of the information presented in the toolbox documentation and workbooks is to assist with compliance of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO). The HSNO was brought into effect in 1996 but was updated and amended in 2015.

The toolbox covers 5 Steps to Safety:

1. Prepare an Inventory
– use the workbook to list all hazardous substances in your workplace and identify quantities of each (important to use the workbook to record the information in the correct format for the HSNO online calculator in step 5)

2. Assess the risks and eliminate, isolate and minimise
– read labels to assess if substance hazardous
– identify level of staff exposure
– eliminate the substance from your workplace if possible
– isolate the substances, if elimination not possible to avoid contact with people
– if exposure is unavoidable, steps should be taken to minimise exposure and reduce negative impacts

3. Use and Store your substances safely
– staff training for protection
– good quality, suitable for the job safety gear
– storage in well-labelled, secure containers and areas
– don’t store potentially volatile combinations of goods in the same area
– gas cylinders should be stored safely
– storage areas should be assessed for container leaks regularly

4.Get Ready For An Emergency
– annual emergency drills are a minimum – not just a fire drill but an accidental spillage drill
– staff training in how to use safety and personal protection equipment
– have multiple staff trained in emergency first aid – ideally all staff should be competent in immediate emergency first aid
– be prepared for a spill or personal accident

5. The HSNO calculator will help you determine whether you need the following:
– Fire extinguishers
– Signs
– Approved handler(s)
– Location test certificate
– Hazardous atmosphere zones
– Emergency response plan
– Secondary containment (bunding).

Note: the toolbox documentation is no longer available in printed form but can be downloaded from this site where there are online tools to assist you with your compliance and employee safety.

Why should you have a hazardous substances management plan?
Accidental or long-term exposure to hazardous substances can be bad for health and ultimately can kill! Important to note that different people may react differently. However, common symptoms of exposure may include: headaches, drowsiness, forgetfulness, feeling nauseous and/or dizzy, mood changes (especially grumpiness), sore eyes or skin.

Continued exposure particularly through inhalation can cause problems with sleep and memory loss. Damage to internal organs like the liver and kidneys can occur over time as toxins build up without elimination, causing damage and even cancer. Genetic and fertility issues are a major concern with damage to unborn children. Death is possible in some cases depending on the substance and exposure rate.

How should you manage hazardous substances in your workplace?

Depending on your business use of hazardous substances will depend on whether you need the services of a dedicated storage facility. You may need certain chemicals infrequently and may find that storing them on site is not practical. In this situation finding a business that specialises in dangerous goods storage in New Zealand (NZ) may be your wisest solution.

Disposal of hazardous substances

When it comes time to dispose of expired chemicals, leftovers or simply used containers there are best practice procedures to minimise the risk of harm to persons, animals or the environment. This is where you should follow the guidelines set out in the toolbox and employ the services of a business experienced in storage, handling and disposal of hazardous substances. Seek help from HSNO approved handler in NZ.

NZ Chemical Storage and Care

With our principal storage facility in Otahuhu, Auckland we are well situated close to transport networks and industry to have easy access to the whole of New Zealand as well as import/export facilities. We have been offering our services for dangerous good storage NZ wide since 1998. We are accredited and experienced in handling the needs of your business when it comes to storage of hazardous chemicals in NZ. For Hazardous good storage and disposal contact our team at NZ Chemical Care today for a quote to meet your business needs.