Storing hazardous substances safely is an important part of protecting you and your staff.



It’s best to keep your hazardous substances in the containers they are bought in. However, many businesses purchase hazardous substances in drums or large containers and then decant smaller amounts of the substance into other containers for use. While this may seem like a simple task, it needs to be done safely to avoid accidents. 



Not all hazardous substances can be stored together safely. Different types of substances can cause a fire or explosion if they come into contact with each other. These substances are often described as “incompatible” and it’s important that they are stored separately to prevent the substances from mixing if a leak or spill were to occur. The safety data sheet for a hazardous substance will tell you which substances and materials it should be kept away from, but the box below provides some general guidance.


Store Only What You Need

Keep the amount of hazardous substances you store to a minimum. This will make it easier to manage what you have and may reduce your compliance needs and costs.



Depending on the types and amounts of hazardous substances you have, you may need signs to warn people that hazardous substances are present. The signs should tell people about the hazards of the substances and the precautions and emergency actions to take.


Be Prepared For A Spill

Your workplace needs measures in place to control any hazardous substance spill or leak. For small spills, a spill kit might be sufficient to contain and clean up the spill. If you have large amounts of hazardous substances you are likely to need secondary containment also known as bunding.



Put A Lid On It!

Keep lids on your hazardous substance containers to keep the vapours inside. This stops the fumes and vapours from contaminating the air that you and your staff breathe. Keeping the lid firmly on the container also reduces the chance of a spill if the container were to fall over.


Gas Cylinders

If your business stores gas cylinders, it’s important that you handle and store them carefully to make sure that the cylinder isn’t damaged. If a cylinder is weakened, the contents of the cylinder can explode. Empty or near-empty cylinders should also be handled carefully


Worksafe New Zealand, New Zealand Government and Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment have put together a Hazardous Substance Toolbox to help you manage your hazardous Substances. 

You can download their practical guide here or visit