Update on hazardous substance reforms

As you will be aware, the government is making changes to the way hazardous substances are managed in New Zealand. The most significant change is that the rules around workplace use of hazardous substances will move from the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act and regulations to the new Health and Safety at Work (HSW) Act and regulations. These are overseen by WorkSafe New Zealand.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) will still be responsible for approving hazardous substances and setting the rules for classification, labelling, safety data sheets and packaging. They will be setting these rules in EPA notices, which are a new way for the EPA to set rules under HSNO.

New timing for reform
You may be aware that there is new timing for when these reforms will have effect. The new Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations and EPA Notices are being worked on now, and when finalised will be gazetted.

Submissions on EPA notices
Previously the EPA contacted invited submissions on proposals for four EPA notices: Classification, Labelling, Packaging and Safety Data Sheets.

They received 80 submissions on these proposals and the information supplied has been very useful in helping the EPA define their next steps. Based on the submissions, they’ve been refining the notice proposals. All of the submissions received can be found on the EPA website: Submissions received – Notice proposals for Classification, Labelling, Packaging and Safety Data Sheets.

Progressing the EPA notices
Taking into account this new timing and submissions, the EPA have made some decisions on how to progress the EPA notices that will be in force when the HSW (Hazardous Substances) regulations take effect.

The EPA focus over the next year is delivering the split in functions between WorkSafe and the EPA. The HSW (Hazardous Substances) regulations and EPA notices will be completed by the end of the year. The expected date for these coming into force is the middle - end of 2017. This will give the EPA time to prepare guidance and information to help you understand the new rules when they take effect.

Classification system for hazardous substances in New Zealand
To make sure the EPA can reach the end of year deadline for preparing the EPA notices, a decision around updating the current HSNO classification system to a more recent version of the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling (GHS) has been deferred.

Next steps – what this means for you

You don’t have to do anything right now.
The EPA will be contacting you again soon, inviting you to make submissions on the first of a series of EPA Notices, the first being the Hazardous Substances (Disposal) Notice. They will update you as they go with a timetable for further notices. You can also check the HSNO reform section of the EPA website for more information.

Meanwhile, if you have any questions about anything that is written here, please email [email protected] and they will get back to you as soon possible.