Frequently asked questions - NZS 8409


What does NZS8409 cover?

NZS 8409 is the New Zealand Standard for the Management of Agrichemicals and informs the use of agricultural chemicals including plant protection products (herbicides, insecticides etc) and veterinary medicines.

Why does the Standard use the term person-in-charge (PIC) rather than PCBU?

PCBU is a term used in the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) and associated regulations. The Standard incorporates requirements from many other acts and regulations, so we wanted to use a term that was more generic, and potentially easier to understand. The definition of PIC in the Standard clarifies that PIC has the same meaning as PCBU when used in relation to HSWA.


When was the Standard last reviewed?

The Standard was reviewed in 2021 as changes in the regulatory environment relating to hazardous substances in December 2017 made a review necessary.

What was the process?

A Standards Development Committee (SDC) with representatives from industry, central and local government and agrichemical users was established in November 2019. The SDC was supported by NZAET’s technical advisor, John-Paul Praat, and a project manager, Mel Dingle. In addition, five Working Groups were formed to look at specific elements of the Standard. Working Groups included both members of the Standards Development Committee and external technical and industry experts to review specialist topics. The five topics were: application technology; notification, signage and spray drift; off-label use; dairy detergents; and drones (and aerial application).

Every section of the NZS8409:2004 Standard was thoroughly reviewed with input from numerous experts, including technical and regulatory advisers. The team managing the review led by Jane Lamb, General Manager of NZAET incorporated feedback, put together a preliminary draft and identified specific issues that needed to be considered by the SDC. In August 2020, the SDC members discussed the proposed changes and debated areas where there wasn’t full agreement. A final draft was then prepared, discussed and approved to go out for public comment. There was a 12 week public consultation phase before all feedback was reviewed, final edits made and the document published in August 2021.

Changes from the previous Standard

How has the scope of the Standard changed?

A key change to the scope of the Standard is to limit its application to the workplace. The Hazardous Substances Regulations 2017 are a significant determinant of the rules applying to hazardous substances and these regulations only apply to the workplace. However, many of the other parts of the regulatory framework apply to both workplace and non-workplace use, and NZS8409 will continue to provide useful guidance to agrichemical users outside the workplace.

The proposed Standard has been expanded to include dairy detergents.  Fumigants, on the other hand, have been excluded from the new Standard due their very specific requirements and low number of users.  Vertebrate Toxic Agents (VTAs) remain outside the scope of the Standard.  In order to distinguish herbicides, fungicides etc from other agrichemicals such as dairy detergents, the term ‘plant protection products’ has been introduced. This is in line with usage overseas. Many plant protection products are sprayed onto the target plant which introduces particular risks to be managed.

The new scope also recognises that agrichemicals, particularly plant protection products, are used well beyond agricultural and horticultural activities.  For example, the conservation sector is a big user of herbicides as are the amenity and recreation sectors.

What changes are there to planning, notification and signage requirements?

The previous Standard had some gaps in relation to notification and signage. In most regions, these gaps have been filled through regional plan rules.  However, this means there is significant variation between regions. Appendix C of the proposed Standard includes requirements for the preparation of a spray plan, notification of affected parties and signage when spraying. The concept of an ‘on-site risk assessment’ to be undertaken immediately prior to spraying is also introduced. This risk assessment is an opportunity to consider whether the job can be done safely and effectively given the conditions on-site on the day.

Have you incorporated the new GHS system of hazard classification?

The EPA have advised a move from our current system of classification of hazards to the GHS (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals). This is being progressively introduced onto agrichemical labels and product data.

The Standard provides both the new and the old classifications when discussing hazard classifications including a translation table in Appendix A. For ease of understanding, new terms such as ‘high human toxicity’, ‘high ecotoxicity’ and ‘very high human toxicity’ have been introduced to reflect common groupings of classes subject to particular controls under Hazardous Substances Regulations or the EPA. 

What changes to good practice have been incorporated?

  • Appendix R covering personal protective equipment (PPE) has been rewritten to reflect the changes to technology and the regulatory environment. A new subsection has been added on the assessment of risk factors along with a table of risk factors similar to the widely used spray drift table of risk factors. There is also a new section on the use of enclosed vehicle cabs and procedures for avoiding contamination. More detail has also been provided on the selection of gloves.
  • The disposal section (and Appendix M) has been updated to reflect current practice and higher environmental standards. Recycling of empty containers has been prioritised against other disposal options and the option for burning empty containers has been removed. More detail has been provided on how to dispose of contaminated water, for example, from sprayer washings and contaminated absorbent material used to clean up spills.

What regulatory changes have been incorporated?

All relevant regulatory changes have been included.  Some of these include:
  • Changes to storage rules including thresholds for location compliance certificates
  • Requirements for training and certification such as certified handler and EPA requirements
  • Changes to tracking requirements
  • Inventory and recording of agrichemical use
  • Signage.