What do toothpaste, explosives, veterinary medicine and solvents have in common? They are all classified as hazardous substances, which we regulate.
Hazardous substances are any chemical, or mixture of chemicals, that meets hazardous classification criteria. These criteria include:
- toxicity to people
- ability to cause cancer
- toxicity to the environment
- their ability to generate a different hazardous substance on contact with air or water.
Hazardous substances – including petrol, solvents, explosives, industrial chemicals, fireworks, agrichemicals, household cleaners and cosmetics — need to be approved before they can be used in New Zealand.
We are New Zealand's environmental regulator
We regulate pesticides, household chemicals and other dangerous goods and substances under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996. We make decisions on whether to approve new hazardous substances. We put rules in place called controls to manage the risks of hazardous substances and to safeguard people and the environment.
Our approvals for hazardous substances are recorded in the HSNO application register. We do not provide certification of previous approvals and we don't issue registration certificates, composition certificates, or the like. Anyone can access the HSNO application register to confirm whether a substance is approved or not.
A substance can only be approved if the positive effects (the benefits) outweigh the adverse effects (the risks and costs).
As well as evaluating and approving substances, we can reassess substances and make new decisions about whether the controls need to be updated, or whether the substance needs to be banned.
We also administer hazardous waste and ozone-depleting substances.
Our Safer Homes programme has advice on keeping yourself, whānau, and the environment safe around hazardous substances.
How we assess applications and make decisions
HSNO Risk Assessment Model
We rely on information from scientific data and evidence, economic information, grass-roots and local information, as well as cultural perspectives.
Our five key areas
Information is gathered and assessed against five areas to determine the risks and benefits:
- Public health
- People and communications
- Māori culture.
As assessment of magnitude and likelihood is made to determine the weighting of each risk and benefit:
- Significant benefit
- Significant risk.
Benefits versus risks
Combined benefits and risks are compared to achieve a complete picture.
Based on an evaluation of risks, benefits and risk management options, a decision is reached.
All hazardous substances must have be covered by a HSNO approval. You must also comply with any workplace regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
We are responsible for:
- approving all hazardous substances for use in New Zealand, and for setting the rules to protect the environment and people in non-workplaces
- setting rules at the top of the supply chain to ensure hazardous substances are appropriately labelled and packaged, and that safety data sheets have the right information on them
- setting rules for the disposal of hazardous substances
- enforcing the rules for importers, manufacturers and suppliers of hazardous substances.
We can set hazardous substance rules under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996. These are detailed in EPA notices. Proposed EPA notices must go through a public consultation period and are approved by the EPA Board rather than going through Cabinet. This allows the notices to be updated quickly, allowing us to keep up-to-date with international and technological changes.
Hazardous substances in the workplace
WorkSafe New Zealand enforces the rules relating to the use, handling and storage of hazardous substances in the workplace under the Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017.
WorkSafe New Zealand:
- implements the rules by providing guidance, managing the compliance certification regime, and developing more detailed and technical rules for some hazardous substances
- enforces the ecotoxic and disposal requirements in the workplace
- provides information and tools to help businesses understand their obligations.
Hazardous substance roles and responsibilities of the EPA and WorkSafe
This diagram shows who has responsibility for hazardous substances management under different Acts: