Fifty years ago, farmers and others sprayed toxic chemicals onto weeds in blissful ignorance of the need for personal protective equipment.

How things have changed! Today, regulations govern the handling and use of all hazardous substances. And, like many other safety matters, those regulations are being constantly reviewed.

If work brings you or your staff into contact with hazardous substances, from 1 December you’ll have to follow the new hazardous substance rules under the Health and Safety at Work Act. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) will also have a new enforcement responsibility in relation to importers and manufacturers.

What you will need to do differently

You will still work with the EPA to apply for new hazardous substances approvals. The EPA will still manage applications for new approvals – whether for new substances, or for particular persons – but the safety rules move from the EPA into the Health and Safety at Work Act that will be implemented by WorkSafe. WorkSafe will then decide if the requirements in the HSW HS regulations will manage the risks to people in workplaces.

Under the new regulations, fewer substances will require certified handlers. However, handlers will get more training, better information and be subject to more robust competency requirements.

When the new regime comes in to effect, all currently approved hazardous substances will remain approved. They will also retain the same approval number.