Hazardous substances on school sites

As a board of trustees one of your health and safety responsibilities is to protect people at your school from being harmed by hazardous substances. These people include students, employees and anyone coming onto the school site.

Determine if a substance is hazardous

Under the Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations, a hazardous substance is any substance that has 1 or more of the following properties above specified levels. 

  • an explosive nature
  • flammability
  • ability to oxidise (that is, accelerate a fire)
  • corrosiveness
  • acute or chronic toxicity (toxic to humans)
  • ecotoxicity (that is, can kill living things either directly or by building up in the environment).

Health and Safety at Work Regulations — NZ Legislation website (external link)

Hazardous substances can have more than 1 hazardous property. For example, methylated spirits and petrol are flammable and toxic.

You can find more information about hazardous substances on the WorkSafe website

Hazardous substances — WorkSafe website (external link)

Common hazardous substances on school sites

There are some hazardous substances that are commonly found on school sites. These include:

  • aerosols, for example paints, air fresheners and fly sprays
  • bleach
  • diesel
  • flammable paint and solvents
  • liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)
  • pesticides/agrichemicals
  • petrol
  • pool chemicals.

Hazardous substances — WorkSafe website (external link)

Safely manage hazardous substances at your school

You have a responsibility to protect people at your school from being harmed by hazardous substances. 

Health, safety and wellbeing

This will help you meet your obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 — NZ Legislation website (external link)

WorkSafe has developed a Hazardous Substances Toolbox which has clear steps and up-to-date information about how to manage hazards on your site appropriately.

Hazardous Substances Toolbox — WorkSafe website (external link)

You'll also find detailed information about how to manage hazardous substances.

WorkSafe website (external link)

It's also your source for codes of practice for specific hazardous substances, and general information about the regulatory regime.

Hazardous substances in school laboratories

The Code of Practice for exempt laboratories

The New Zealand Association of Science Educators (NZASE) has developed the Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories (the Code). Although you don't have to follow the Code, complying with it:

  • will help you to comply with the law, and
  • may give you a defence if the school is prosecuted under the HSNO Act and/or the HSNO Regulations.

Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories — WorkSafe website (external link)

What the Code covers

The Code includes advice for schools about:

  • managing school laboratories
  • appointing laboratory managers
  • laboratory managers’ responsibilities
  • skills and knowledge required for laboratory managers and people in charge
  • duties of people who are handling hazardous substances
  • using hazardous substances in teaching.

It also includes advice about how to deal with hazardous substances. It covers:

  • security
  • basic safety rules
  • inventory, information, labelling and containers
  • storage and handling
  • emergency planning
  • design requirements
  • safe disposal
  • safe methods of use.

The appendices in the Code set out:

  • the categories of substances allowed for or prohibited from use in schools
  • maximum total quantities of hazardous substances that may be stored.

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