New era in chemical management


The new regime for classifying hazardous substances is now in effect, in the interests of making it safer for New Zealanders using chemicals.

New Zealand is now using the Globally Harmonised System (GHS 7), an internationally agreed way of classifying chemicals. It captures physical hazards such as flammability, human health hazards such as skin irritation, and environmental hazards such as how toxic a chemical is in water.

The changes primarily require importers and manufacturers to update their hazard classification, labelling, and safety data sheets. Consumers should start to see the GHS pictograms appearing on product labels, as New Zealand’s chemical labelling aligns with the rest of the world.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has led the three-year project, engaging with the European Chemicals Agency, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), domestic regulators and stakeholders including industry and the public.

“Chemicals touch every area of our lives. The world of chemical management is dynamic and fast-moving, so it’s important we stay on top of best practice,” says the EPA’s General Manager of Compliance, Monitoring, and Enforcement, Gayle Holmes.

The project received $820,000 of funding in Budget 2019, to bring New Zealand’s 20-year-old hazard classification system up to date.

“The changes align our chemical management with the rest of the world, support international trade, and facilitate improved regulatory compliance,” says Gayle Holmes.

Although there is a transition period through to 2025 for many requirements, the EPA is strongly encouraging industry to comply with the various changes sooner rather than later.

A large and diverse number of chemicals classed as hazardous substances are in use in New Zealand. The EPA is responsible for approvals covering more than 150,000 hazardous substances regulated under the HSNO Act.

The next phase of the project is to complete a move to the International Uniform Chemical Information Database, later in 2021.

“Once all the chemical data is migrated, the database will provide a solid foundation for our chemical management regime into the future,” says Gayle Holmes.

Read more about the changes

EPA New Zealand, 30 April 2021