Safety precautions in handling hazardous substances

Hazardous substances are an integral part of our day to day living. Their use is wide spread across individual, household and industrial activity yet their mismanagement can cause fatal irreversible environmental and health impacts.

What is the role of EMA?

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) plays an important role in regulating hazardous substances in Zimbabwe.

A hazardous substance is any chemical substance that has; toxic, irritant, flammable, sensitising or corrosive properties.

Hazardous substances controlled by EMA are generally those that have mass-disaster potential, are highly toxic and pollute, and/or generate toxic wastes that can only be disposed of with greater difficulty.

Some common examples are petrol, diesel, mercury, cyanide, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), pesticides and herbicides.

Which legislation is used?

The transportation, sale and use of hazardous substances should be done under a license issued by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) according to the following pieces of legislation;

Statutory Instrument (SI) 12 of 2007, Environmental Management (Hazardous Substance, Pesticides and other Toxic Substances) Regulations;

SI 77 of 2007, Environmental Management (Importation and Transit of Hazardous Substances and Waste) regulations;

SI 10 of 2007; Environmental Management (Hazardous Waste Management) regulations;

SI 99 of 2008; Environmental Management (Hazardous Substance, Pesticides and other Toxic Substances) regulations and

SI 5 of 2011, Environmental and Natural Resources Management (Hazardous Substance, Pesticides and other Toxic Substances) Amendment.

Who needs a license?

Any individual or organisation responsible for the; disposal, generation, recycling, storage, transportation, selling or use of the hazardous waste/substance, requires a licence. Application forms are available on our website <>, and the requirements are as follows:

Completed application form

National ID for company director,

Certificate of incorporation and material safety data sheet,

Fitness certificates,

Road transport operator’s license and

Vehicle registration books in the case of transportation licenses

How are hazardous substances labelled?

Containers of hazardous substance should have a securely attached label which should consist of an equilateral triangle of a Red, Amber or Green colour, depending on the classification.

Appropriate words to be printed on the label, include; DANGER, CAUTION, KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN among others. The size of the triangle and the words should be relative to the size of the container.

In the event of an accidental spillage;

The transporter/use/handler of the hazardous substance should:

Make a report both verbally and in writing to EMA within 8hours.

Carry out emergency procedures according to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

Clean-up the area to retain its usable state.

The general public is advised;

To move away from the accidental spillage site,

Not to collect or taste substances from a spillage site.

To take heed of all instructions from EMA, police and the truck driver.

Other precautionary measures

The containers into which hazardous substances are packaged should be resilient enough to avoid leakages and should not react with the substance.

The hazardous substances should not be directly accessible by the public and contamination of food should be avoided at all costs.

Employers should ensure that persons handling the hazardous substances: are aware of the prescribed warnings, signs, symbols and risks involved in the exposure to such substances and have all the necessary protective clothing. A person to administer appropriate first aid treatment should be on standby.


NB: The night travelling restriction for hazardous substances transporters has been adjusted to the following times;

0500hrs – 2000hrs for the period 1 August to 30 April.

0500hrs – 1900hrs for the period 1 May to 31 July.

Eco quiz for primary and secondary school children

List five examples of hazardous substances common in Zimbabwe.

All answers should be sent through our WhatsApp platform 0779565707 by March 20, 2017.

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