What is the law?

The regulation of hazardous substances that affect human health and safety in the workplace sit under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

There are two main pieces of legislation that cover hazardous substances:

Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO)

HSNO aims to protect the environment and the health and safety of people from the adverse effects of hazardous substances. HSNO is largely implemented by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). The workplace requirements are enforced by WorkSafe.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA)

HSWA and its first phase of supporting regulations came into force in April 2016. It aims to protect people against harm to their health, safety and welfare caused by risks arising from work. HSWA is primarily implemented and enforced by WorkSafe.

The 1 December 2017 reforms

The rules around managing hazardous substances that affect human health and safety in the workplace transferred from HSNO to the Hazardous Substances Regulations under HSWA. The rules and duties to mitigate risks posed by hazardous substances sit under:

  • HSNO for non-work, public health and environmental risks; and specific requirements on importers and manufacturers of hazardous substances.
  • HSWA (including the Hazardous Substances Regulations) for work risks.

There are also two types of subordinate legislation:

There are also two new types of subordinate legislation:

  • Safe work instruments are developed by WorkSafe for approval by the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety. They have a number of uses, including defining detailed or technical matters that may change frequently.
  • EPA notices - most of the hazardous substance rules the EPA are responsible for are set in EPA Notices rather than by regulation. These particularly reflect the rules for importers and manufacturers of hazardous substances as well as non-workplace use, environmental controls and hazardous substances disposal controls. To see these notices and find out more about their purpose visit the EPA website(external link).