New Zealanders use products with hazardous properties (hazardous substances) on a daily basis both at home and at work. Around 150,000 workplaces throughout New Zealand use hazardous substances. Because of this frequent use though, it's easy to take them for granted. Common hazardous substances like commercial cleaning products, paints, adhesives, acids, bases and solvents can cause serious harm when they aren't used safely.
A substance hazardous to health is defined as any substance, or product containing a substance, to be used or produced in a workplace that is known or suspected to cause harm to health. This includes:
Your Hazard Register should also include a section on your chemicals. You may like to copy the Hazard Register and keep a completely separate chemical hazard register. The ACC Guide contains a good section on the hazard register and chemical management.
Unlike the risks of physical injury, the risks to health presented by exposure to hazardous substances often involve considerable uncertainty. Typically the risks at very high exposure levels are reasonably well documented, but at lower exposures there is often insufficient information to quantify the risk. Some argue that for most hazardous substances there is a threshold of exposure below which harm will not occur, others contend that the risk remains at lower exposures — but just difficult to measure (e.g, the “one fibre kills” asbestos theory).
WorkSafe - Hazardous Substances
WorkSafe have provided a number of tools to help with chemical hazards.
ToolBox - a hazardous substances tool box providing further information on hazardous chemicals, the rules and regulations around managing them and guidance. This also includes information on how to store hazardous substances.
Workplace Exposure Standards tool:
This tool provides advice to workplaces on how to control exposure to hazardous substances for a range of common workplace tasks and chemicals. The E-tool will take you through an assessment based on your tasks and chemicals, and give you advice specific to your workplace. The E-tool assessment will take several minutes to complete. Since the tool is UK based it is important to read the points below before you use the tool for New Zealand workplaces.
Hazardous substances are regulated based on the risks they pose to people and the environment. The hazardous properties of a substance are classified (put into groups) to determine how the risks can be managed. Each new hazardous substance imported or manufactured in New Zealand must be approved and have its classifications determined. Depending on its classification, rules are placed on a substance to manage the risks posed by that substance. These rules are known as controls.
It's estimated that between 500-800 New Zealanders die from occupational illness every year. Many of these deaths are from exposure to hazardous substances at work. Different hazardous substances affect 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 staff.
The more hazardous substances you have, the more rules you need to follow to keep safe. There may be different rules for products with different hazards. To stay safe, you need to know how to safely store the substances used at your business. We recommend keeping the amount of hazardous substances you store to a minimum. This will make it easier to manage what you have and may reduce your compliance needs and costs.
Test certificates are issued by test certifiers to show that users of hazardous substances have appropriate controls in place or have the appropriate knowledge and training. You might need a test certificate for people, locations or equipment.
A test certifier is an independent service provider approved by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to issue test certificates.