What is happening with Approved Handler Certificates?

By Paul C Pritchard EPA + Worksafe Compliance Certifier, IICRC Approved Instructor, MHSPNZ

You may be aware that changes in legislation, specifically the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) and the HSNO Amendment Act 2015, will affect the Approved Handler Regime, which has been one of the key ways hazardous substances have been managed for the last 10 years.

Worksafe and the EPA still have some of the finer points to be worked out but essentially as of December 2017 there will be no requirement to have an Approved Handler Certificate to purchase or use the hazardous substances (most pesticide sprays and some cleaning products) that currently require it from your supplier.

After 1 December 2017 there will be a requirement for anyone wishing to purchase or use any Class 6.1A or 6.1B products to have a Certified Handlers Certificate (basically the same as an Approved Handlers Certificate). These products are of course the highly toxic products such as cyanide, 1080 and for our industry the carbamates (such as Ficam, Bendi 800) and the organophosphates like dichlorvos (Nuvos). There will be no purchase restrictions on Class 2, 3, 4, 5 & 8 products (commonly found in hazardous cleaning products).

The EPA are still deciding if an additional requirement to purchase and use Class 9’s (the hazardous to the environment) products will need to be put in place. Most likely evidence of industry recognized or NZQA based training will be required but as yet to be decided.

What does this mean for you? It's business as usual up to 1 December 2017.

  1. If you are not currently an Approved Handler you still need to become one to purchase or use the restricted products.
  2. If your currently an Approved Handler ensure your certification does not expire!

Why? Whatever the EPA decide with regards to what will be required after 1 December 2017 your current Approved Handler Certification will be “grandfathered” to when it normally expires allowing you time to get whatever qualification is decided. For example if you were approved this year you don’t need to do anything until the corresponding month in 2020.

What does this mean for our industry? Your guess is as good as mine. It will be largely deregulated with anyone having access to previously restricted products.

One thing to keep in mind was that even with the Approved Handler “license” regime there was very little enforcement being carried out. An analogy could be everyone was expected to get a WOF to drive (you couldn’t by a car without one essentially) but there wasn’t any police on the road to check safety. Worksafe are essentially saying “you don’t need a WOF for your car but if your car doesn’t meet the safety standards we’ll throw the book at you and we are flooding the roads with hundreds of police!”

Under the Approved Handler regime the liability was placed firmly on the individual Approved Handler, much like the driver of a car. Now the liability is on the employer (PCBU).

Worksafe will be not asking for a license or certificate from the worker or operator, they will be asking for evidence of training from the employer! The penalties are significant and they will be using them!

With this greater emphasis on training rather than certification you will need to have training and education records of who, what, where and when for each staff member and yourself. So your existing training providers such as PestNetwork and IICRC will still provide the bulk of this. This is not to say you can’t train your own staff and much of the day to day operational training can still be done by you. But you need to ask yourself these questions in regard to training:

  1. Is it really cost effective to take time out of the business to train my own staff?
  2. Am I prepared to take the liability or would I rather pass that to my training provider?
  3. Will my training be valid i.e. meet their needs, have proper training resources such as a training manual etc?

I would encourage you to think about how these changes are going to affect you and start making plans now. We will endeavour to advise you as best we can but as you can appreciate we simply do not have the time to sit down and chat with everyone on an individual basis, you need to attend as many events and read as much as you can about these changes yourself. You can start with calling 0800030040 and asking for the special guide Introduction to the Health & Safety At Work Act 2015 or visit http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/about/reform.