The seventh revised edition of the Globally Harmonised System (GHS 7) has been adopted as New Zealand’s official hazard classification system. It takes effect from 30 April 2021.

The GHS 7 is an international hazard classification system for chemicals created by the United Nations. The classifications are communicated on labels and safety data sheets including the safe way to store, use and dispose of chemicals.

It has been adopted by more than 50 countries, including all of New Zealand’s major trading partners.

What is changing?

Adopting the GHS 7 means:

  • the HSNO hazard classification system implemented in 2001 will no longer be used
  • EPA notices and group standards are updated to reflect GHS 7 requirements
  • for hazardous substances approved before 30 April 2021 you must:
    • update labelling, safety data sheets and packaging requirements by 2025
    • follow the rules under the Hazardous Substances (Importers and Manufacturers) Notice 2017, Hazardous Substances (Hazardous Property Controls) Notice 2017 and Hazardous Substances (Disposal) Notice 2017 by April 2021
  • you must follow all updated rules and use the GHS 7 classification on your labels and safety data sheets for new approvals issued after 30 April 2021.

Read more about what rules apply when 

Explaining GHS hazard classifications Plus

A hazard classification comes in two parts:

  • hazard class – refers to the nature of the hazard the substance poses, and are grouped into physical, health or environmental hazards
  • hazard category – refers to hazard severity within a hazard class; the lower the category number the more severe the hazard.

For example:

  • acute oral toxicity Category 1: acute oral toxicity is the hazard class, and Category 1 is the category
  • a substance with the hazard classification acute oral toxicity Category 1 is more toxic than a substance with the hazard classification acute oral toxicity Category 4.

Some of the hazard classes have sub categories, types, divisions or groups as well as or instead of categories. These can differ based on severity, how the substance is packaged or on various physical properties.

Hazard classes Plus

The GHS 7 assigns classifications to a substance based on its:

  • physical hazards (such as flammability)
  • human health hazards (such as acute toxicity)
  • environmental hazards (such as whether it is hazardous to the aquatic environment). 

Physical hazards

  • Explosives
  • Flammable gases
  • Aerosols
  • Oxidising gases
  • Gases under pressure
  • Flammable liquids
  • Flammable solids
  • Self-reactive substances and mixtures
  • Pyrophoric liquids
  • Pyrophoric solids
  • Self-heating substances and mixtures
  • Substances and mixtures which, in contact with water, emit flammable gases 
  • Oxidising liquids
  • Oxidising solids
  • Organic peroxides
  • Corrosive to metals
  • Desensitised explosives

Health hazards

  • Acute toxicity
  • Skin corrosion/irritation
  • Serious eye damage/eye irritation
  • Respiratory or skin sensitisation
  • Germ cell mutagenicity
  • Carcinogenicity
  • Reproductive toxicity
  • Specific target organ – toxicity single exposure
  • Specific target organ toxicity – repeated exposure
  • Aspiration hazard

Environmental hazards

  • Hazardous to the aquatic environment
  • Hazardous to the terrestrial environment. (This hazard class is not part of the GHS 7 classification system, but was added to ensure risks to the terrestrial environment continue to be managed.)
We have tailored GHS 7 Plus

We have tailored GHS 7 for New Zealand. The GHS system allows regulators some flexibility when they adopt certain hazard classifications and concentration cut-offs.

  • We have not adopted acute toxicity Category 5. This is the equivalent of HSNO 6.1E acute toxicity classification. Substances that were 6.1E due to aspiration hazard will be captured under aspiration hazard Category 1.
  • We have not adopted skin irritation Category 3. This is the equivalent of HSNO 6.3B.
  • We have not adopted aspiration hazard Category 2.
  • We have not adopted hazardous to the aquatic environment acute Categories 2 and 3.
  • We have not adopted hazardous to the ozone layer.
  • Where the GHS 7 provides optional concentration cut-off values for classification of mixtures, we adopted the lower concentration cut-off values. This is consistent with pre-existing HSNO cut-offs.

We have introduced an additional hazard class to GHS 7 of “substances that are hazardous to the terrestrial environment”. It is applied only to agrichemicals or active ingredients used in the manufacture of certain agrichemicals.

This hazard class comprises four hazard classifications that effectively maintain previous HSNO classifications:

  • hazardous to soil organisms (replaces HSNO 9.2A – D)
  • hazardous to terrestrial vertebrates (replaces HSNO 9.3A – C)
  • hazardous to terrestrial invertebrates (replaces HSNO 9.4A – C)
  • designed for biocidal action (replaces HSNO 9.1D biocide).
There are changes to group standards and EPA notices  Plus

Hazard Classification Notice 2020

We have issued a new Hazard Classification Notice. While the majority of GHS 7 is incorporated by referring to the GHS documentation directly, where the GHS provides for options, these are set out in the notice. The notice also includes a New Zealand-specific terrestrial ecotoxicity hazard framework.

The Hazardous Substances (Labelling) Notice 2017 and Hazardous Substances (Safety Data Sheets) Notice 2017, which are already based on GHS requirements, are now aligned with the Hazardous Substances (Hazard Classification) Notice 2020.

Updated EPA notices

There is a four-year transition period to comply with the updated labelling, safety data sheets and packaging notices to give importers and manufacturers time to meet requirements.

The Hazardous Substances (Hazard Classification) Notice 2020 also contains a schedule to convert between the new hazard classification system and the previous hazard classification system.

See the changes to the EPA notices

There are new group standards

The new group standards incorporate the GHS 7 classifications.

Go to the group standards 2020 

Find out about the changes to the group standards

Individual approvals

We are currently updating all individual approvals to incorporate the GHS 7 classifications. There are three separate processes: reissuing, reassessing or revoking the individual approvals.

Approvals will be: 

  • reassessed if they were approved after 1 December 2017
  • reissued if they were approved before 1 December 2017
  • revoked if they fit within the scope of a different approval, or a group standard.

While we are doing this work, we will keep you up to date with our progress and what we intend to do with each approval. We have already consulted on these potential changes and there is further information on the consultation page.

Go to the GHS consultation page

Updating systems and staff training

While we believe that adopting the GHS 7 is beneficial, we also recognise that there is a one-off cost to update systems and train staff. Some importers and manufacturers may also need to update their labels and safety data sheets if these do not already comply with the GHS 7.