Managing hazardous substances in your lab

The Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations apply to laboratories. However, those involved in research and development, teaching and analytical testing have a different set of requirements to laboratories not involved in these areas.

What is a laboratory?

A vehicle, room, building, or any other structure set aside and equipped for scientific experiments or research, for teaching science, or for the development of chemical or medicinal products.

Are laboratories exempt from the Hazardous Substances Regulations?

No. The Regulations apply to all laboratories.

Do the same rules apply to all laboratories?

No. Under the Hazardous Substances Regulations, laboratories fall into two groups:

  • those involved in research and development, teaching or analytical testing which meet certain conditions
  • those not involved in these areas, or which don’t meet the conditions.

For the latter group, all the relevant requirements under the Regulations apply, including general requirements relating to:

Different requirements for some labs

Labs involved in research and development, teaching and analytical testing have a different set of requirements providing:

  • they do not sell substances, or
  • only sell to laboratories in New Zealand or overseas involved in research and development, teaching or analytical testing, and
  • if selling to an overseas laboratory, have evidence showing that laboratory is involved in research and development, teaching or analytical testing.

What requirements apply to these laboratories?

The person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) with management or control of the laboratory must designate a laboratory manager, ensure the manager has the knowledge and skills to handle and dispose of the substances used, and that the laboratory is secured if the manager or their nominated replacement is absent.

The PCBU must also ensure that:

  • Every person handling hazardous substances has the required information.
  • Entrances to the laboratory have signs warning people that only authorised people are permitted inside, and that the signs are of the required standard.
  • All parts of the laboratory that could come into contact with a hazardous substance are made of materials unable to absorb or retain the substance, or that the area is covered by disposable material capable of absorbing or retaining the substance.
  • The laboratory is designed and operated in a way that prevents any hazardous substances from escaping.
  • Any approved hazardous substance is handled, packaged or stored as required for its substance class, except those requirements relating to certified handlers or location compliance certificates.
  • Any unapproved hazardous substance meets the handling, packaging and storage requirements for equivalent substance classes, except those requirements relating to certified handlers or location compliance certificates.
  • An inventory of all unapproved hazardous substances, and all approved substances that would otherwise be subject to tracking requirements, is kept at the workplace, and for at least 12 months after the substance is consumed or removed from the laboratory.
  • The laboratory has an emergency response plan (ERP).

What about the storage area?

Laboratories do not require a location compliance certificate, however one will be required for the hazardous substances storage area, if that is separate from the laboratory

Guidance for labs involved in research and development, teaching and analytical testing

We have produced guidance on the safe handling of hazardous substances in labs involved in research and development, teaching and analytical testing.

Code of Practice for CRI and university exempt laboratories (PDF 598 KB)

Code of Practice for school exempt laboratories (PDF 556 KB)

While this guidance has not been updated to reflect current work health and safety legislation (the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and regulations), it may still contain relevant information and practices to keep workers and others healthy and safe.

Please read this guidance in conjunction with all relevant industry standards that apply to you as a PCBU. This guidance will be progressively reviewed and either updated, replaced with other guidance, or revoked.

Compliance certification requirements

Depending on the type and quantity of chemicals held at your site, you may require one or more of the following compliance certificates:

If you are unsure about your compliance certification requirements, contact a compliance certifier for advice.

Find a compliance certifier(external link)

As a general rule, you should keep the quantities of hazardous substances stored on your site to a minimum. In this way the risks may be reduced and the need for compliance certification reduced.