In December last year, the Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017 came into effect and replaced HSNO for workplaces. We hosted a series of workshops across New Zealand, to discuss the changes of these new regulations.

Though the regulations were largely transferred from HSNO, we identified some challenges which could have an impact on the re-certification of your site.

Ingeborg Vanloon – Technical Director shares her personal experience of these challenges based on her work with several operators and compliance certifiers over the last few months.

Clear documentation for site re-certification

Clear documentation is key to achieve re-certification. We found that the compliance plan documentation operators thought was in place when HSNO came into effect in 2004, either does not clearly describe what has been agreed, or there is no record of a compliance plan with WorkSafe. This means operators can’t use existing plans to re-certify their site.

To re-certify, operators will have to apply for an exemption for any non-compliances with the current regulations – even though their operation has not changed. This exemption process is new and lengthy and compliance certifiers are not always able to re-certify while the exemption is processed.

It’s taking longer to re-certify sites

Compliance certifiers are busy people and are required to do more checks under the new regulations (e.g. training, competencies) before Location Compliance Certificates can be issued. This means certifiers are needing longer to re-certify sites. Additionally, some experienced certifiers have retired, and some of the new certifiers are still getting up to speed. All of this can contribute to delays for re-certification. We recommend keeping this in mind and plan your re-certification ahead of time.

‘Approved Handler’ has been replaced

A key change brought about by the new regulations is the replacement of the ‘Approved Handler’ role. Coming into effect on 1 June 2018, organisations will be required to have a ‘Certified Handler’ who are trained to control certain types of substances. In addition, PCBUs must ensure all workers who use, store, handle or manufacture hazardous substances are fully trained (as of 1 December 2017).

I get a lot of questions from clients, including what training would be appropriate for ‘all workers’? And, if the ‘Approved Handler’ training from HSNO is specific enough? The training for all workers needs to be specific enough to cover the hazardous substances they work with – it can’t be a generic course. I’ve heard training providers are still working through the content for Certified Handler courses. This means PCBUs may need a combination of internal and external training to meet the requirements. We recommend you review the training requirements from Regulation 4.3 and 4.5 and discuss with your training provider what can be provided externally, and determine if the rest can be provided internally through training or supervision by competent staff.

Risks must be managed

The new regulations require all risks associated with the use, store, handle and manufacture of hazardous substances to be managed. I’ve noticed that for some sites, this has led to risk-adverse behaviour, where controls are specified over and above what the regulations require or intend. I’m all about managing risks, but this needs to be combined with an open discussion about what is required and what is a ‘nice to have’.

When HSNO came into effect in 2004, the new regulations generated a lot of discussion. Similarly, as we transfer from HSNO to the new Hazardous Substances Regulations, there will be a period of learning and adaption. On the face of it, it should be business-as-usual, as the bulk of the regulations have been transferred from HSNO. However, I have seen a step change as WorkSafe is demanding consistency in how the new regulations are applied. PCBUs will need to ensure they’re aware of this step change. Consistency is good, but it does mean a step-up for PCBUs to understand the regulations better and not rely solely on the Compliance Certifier to pick up any issues.

Please contact Ingeborg if you need assistance or have any further questions regarding the new hazardous substances regulations.

Want to know more? Read our answers to some key questions and concerns raised about the new regulations during our workshops in November 2017.

About the Author
Ingeborg Vanloon

Technical Director - Project Management

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