Hazardous substances on school sites

As a board 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.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • Boards
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Proprietors
  • General Staff/Administrators
  • Teachers and Kaiako
  • Health & Safety Officer(s)

The Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017 governs the rules that the PCBU (Board, Proprietor and Principal) must follow to protect their school’s students, staff and visitors from being harmed by hazardous substances. Common hazardous substances at school include bleach, diesel, and aerosols to name a few. Schools need to have proper procedures in place to ensure the safety of their students, staff and any visitors. 

Determine if a substance is hazardous

Under the Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations(external link), 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 (accelerate a fire)
  • corrosiveness
  • acute or chronic toxicity (toxic to humans)
  • ecotoxicity (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.

Common hazardous substances on school sites

There are some Hazardous substances(external link) 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.

Safely manage hazardous substances at your school

School Boards have a responsibility to protect people at their schools from being harmed by hazardous substances, as per health, safety and wellbeing requirements.

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 will also find detailed information about how to manage hazardous substances on the WorkSafe website(external link).

It is 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)(external link).

Although you do not have to follow the Code, complying with it:

  • will help you to comply with the law
  • will help you meet your obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
  • may give you a defence if the school is prosecuted under the HSNO Act and/or the HSNO Regulations.

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.

Further information

You can find more information about hazardous substances on the WorkSafe website(external link)

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