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 compliance Main audience Other


  • Boards
  • Principals and tumuaki
  • Proprietors
  • General staff/administrators
  • Teachers and kaiako
  • Health and 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, 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).

Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations(external link)

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 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(external link)

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.

Health, safety and wellbeing

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(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

Guidance for school exempt laboratories

The New Zealand Association of Science Educators (NZASE) has developed the guidance for Aotearoa New Zealand schools and kura (safety and science/pūtaiao). The document provides information on safety protocols and minimising hazards in school laboratories and will help you meet your obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

Guidance for Aotearoa New Zealand schools and kura (safety and science/pūtaiao)(external link)

This replaces Safety and science: a guidance manual for New Zealand schools (Ministry of Education, 2000), Code of Practice for school exempt laboratories (Environmental Risk Management Authority [ERMA], 2007), guidance to the Code of Practice for school exempt laboratories (Ministry of Education, 2016).

This comprehensive document covers:

  • managing school laboratories
  • appointing laboratory managers, responsibilities & skills
  • duties of people who are handling hazardous substances
  • using hazardous substances in teaching & how to deal with hazardous substances
  • security & basic safety rules
  • inventory, information, labelling and containers, storage and handling
  • emergency planning
  • design requirements
  • safe disposal & safe methods of use. 

More information

You can find more information about hazardous substances on the WorkSafe and Te Kete Ipurangi websites.

Hazardous substances – WorkSafe(external link) 

Planning for science programmes - Te Kete Ipurangi(external link)

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