Hazardous substances on school sites

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

On this page:

Determine if a substance is hazardous

Under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996, a hazardous substance is any substance that has one or more of the following properties above specified levels.

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

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

You can find more information about hazardous substances from the Environmental Protection Authority (external link) .

Common hazardous substances on school sites

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

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

See the Environmental Protection Authority’s website (external link) for more information.

Safely manage hazardous substances at your school

You have a responsibility to protect people at your school from being harmed by hazardous substances under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (external link) .

We recommend you review your school’s health and safety systems against the 11 key components of an effective health and safety system. This will help you meet the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (external link) .

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

You can also find detailed information about how to manage hazardous substances on the WorkSafe website (external link) . This website is 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

Under the HSNO Act, teaching and research laboratories may be exempted from certain parts of the Act. But these exemptions only apply if they meet the requirements of the HSNO Regulations.

The New Zealand Association of Science Educators (NZASE) has developed the Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories (the Code). Although you do not 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.

For the full code, go to the Code of Practice for School Exempt Laboratories (Environmental Protection Authority 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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