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 you need to know

The new hazard classification system takes effect on 30 April 2021, replacing the 2001 HSNO classification system.

  • The updated EPA notices explain the new product labelling, safety data sheet and packaging requirements. You’re encouraged to comply sooner rather than later.
  • Substances that have an individual approval issued after 30 April 2021 must comply with these three notices immediately upon the date of their approval.
  • For individual approvals issued before 30 April 2021 there is a four-year transfer period, through to 30 April 2025, to comply with the updated Labelling, Safety Data Sheets and Packaging Notices.
  • Substances managed under a group standard must also comply with these three notices by 30 April 2025, regardless of when the substance was imported into, or manufactured in, New Zealand.

Read the EPA Labelling, Safety Data Sheets and Packaging Notices

What happens to my approval

  • You will need to check what approval your substance is assigned to, especially if it is an individual approval, as some have changed and some no longer exist. We have revoked more than 5,000 individual approvals that will be managed under one or more group standards.
  • While the majority of group standards have the same scope as the previous group standards a very small number, such as those for aerosols, have changed. You will need to check the group standard you have currently assigned to your substance, to ensure it is still appropriate.
  • If the individual approval you use has been revoked, we’ve suggested a group standard your substance may fit into. However, it’s possible another group standard may be a better fit for your particular substance and you should check this.
  • You must also check your self-assignment records are up to date as soon as possible after 30 April 2021.
  • We have kept the approval numbers the same so you do not need to update these.

Search the list of reissued, revoked and reassessed approvals

Read more about what rules apply when 

Explaining GHS hazard classifications Plus

A hazard classification comes in two parts:

  1. Hazard class – this refers to the nature of the hazard the substance poses, and are grouped into physical, health or environmental hazards
  2. Hazard category – this 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, 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

New group standards

There are new group standards which 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.