Hazardous substances

  • OBUHSN-19 Issue 06 June 2011


    1. This Health and Safety Notice must be read and understood by all appropriate employees of Oxford Brookes University. It should be brought to the attention of members of the student body, especially those where the use of chemicals forms an integral part of their studies. Where appropriate, it must also be brought to the attention of contractors' staff and visitors working at the University.
    2. The safe use, handling, disposal and storage of chemicals, hazardous and dangerous substances at Oxford Brookes University demands a positive and sustained realisation of the hazards involved. This involves all materials used or generated out of or in connection with any work activity under the control of the University (e.g. research, student studies, general laboratory work, cleaning, maintenance, etc.). Laboratories involve the use of a wider range of chemical substances than do most other work places, and some of the hazards involved call for precautions not ordinarily encountered elsewhere. Chemists, by virtue of their professional training and work experience, should be more aware of the hazard presented by the use of chemicals, and be prepared to deal with substances known to be, or suspected of being, hazardous. Many hazardous substances, some identified only by an obscure trade-name, are widely used in other work-places not always equipped to deal with a spill or other emergency.
    3. It is essential, therefore, before commencing any programme of work that persons involved should be aware of and understand the potential hazards associated with all the materials to be used. The material’s Health and Safety Data Sheet, available from the manufacturer, gives details of the risks associated with the materials and precautions to be followed. Persons unfamiliar with the materials and the associated risks must seek expert advice from their supervisor, Faculty/Directorate Safety Advisor, Poisons and Hazardous Materials Advisor, Senior Occupational Health Advisor or the Safety Officer. If necessary, local rules should be devised and formally published for the use, handling, disposal and storage of hazardous and/or unfamiliar materials.
    4. Consideration must also be given to the potential hazards associated with any chemical reaction, as the products of a reaction may be much more dangerous than the initial individual reagents.
    5. A proper system of labelling of containers is required to identify the hazardous substance and indicate the nature of the hazard.


    1. The Dean of Faculty or Director of Directorate will be responsible for making whatever arrangements may be considered necessary to acquaint their staff with the hazards associated with all materials to be used, handled, stored and disposed of within their area, and to provide such local safety rules as may be necessary. It is recommended practice that the precautions listed in the various Regulations and statutory provisions ( Statutory Regulations and Controls) are followed.


    1. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) are intended to protect employees and others against substances of any form (solid, liquid, gas, fume, vapour) which are hazardous to health and include:-
    • All those substances listed as being Very Toxic, Toxic, Harmful,
      Irritant, Corrosive [(as defined in the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging) Regulations (CHIP)]
    • Any other substance listed in the Authorised and Approved List;
    • Substances with a published Workplace Exposure Limit (W.E.L.)
    • Hazardous micro-organisms and allergens;
    • All dusts;
    • Any other substance with a comparable hazard.

    COSHH Assessments

    1. No Faculty or Directorate may carry on any work liable to expose staff, students or others to substances hazardous to their health unless a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks created by that work and of the steps needed to comply with COSHH in respect of it, have been made. The basic principles of the COSHH Regulations are:-
    • Assessment of the risk to health arising from any work activities associated with hazardous substances. An example of the type of form to be used to carry out an assessment is given in COSHH Assessment Form. A copy of all assessments must be sent to the University Safety Officer;
    • Prevent or control of the exposure of hazardous substances. This may be done by using an alternative non hazardous material, or using a safer form, e.g. pellets instead of powder. If this is not possible, use engineering controls, such as local exhaust ventilation, to minimise the exposure. If the assessment indicates that engineering controls will be insufficient, as a last resort, utilise appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks or respirators. Refer to OBUHSN-21 for guidance regarding selection and use of PPE.
    • Ensure that effective control and maintenance measures are in place for any engineering controls or PPE which are used to limit the exposure of hazardous substances;
    • If the risk assessment indicates that there may be a serious risk to health if control measures fail or that the Workplace Exposure Limits (W.E.L.) may be exceeded, the concentration of the hazardous substance in the breathable air must be measured. If the concentrations are found to be higher or close to the W.E.L. appropriate measures must taken to reduce the risk of exposure:
    • Health surveillance must be carried out if there is a reasonable likelihood that a detectable disease or adverse health effect may occur following the exposure to a hazardous substance. Health surveillance would usually be carried out by a member of the University’s Occupational Health Team. Associated medical records must be retained for forty years;
    • Plans and procedures must be drawn up to deal with exposure following the accidental spillage or release of substances which may pose a significant risk to the health of staff, visitors or those in the neighbourhood;
    • Inform, instruct and train employees, students and others about the risks and the precautions to be taken;
    • The assessment must be reviewed if there is reason to suspect that it is no longer valid or there has been a significant change in the work to which the assessment applies. All assessments must be reviewed annually and a report submitted to the Safety Officer.


    1. The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations (DSEAR) are intended to protect employees and others against the risk of fires or explosions which may be caused by dangerous substances in the workplace. Dangerous substances include:-
    • Substances or mixtures of substances classified as explosive, oxidising, extremely flammable, highly flammable, or flammable [as defined in the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging) Regulations (CHIP)],
    • Any kind of dust that when spread in air to form a cloud may explode,
    • Any other substances which, although not covered by CHIP, may, because of the way they are handled, create a risk of fire and explosions, for example, high flash point materials being handled at elevated temperatures.
    1. Examples of the types of activities covered by DSEAR include
    • The storage of fuel for vehicles and horticultural machinery
    • The use of flammable gases, such as acetylene
    • The use of flammable liquids in laboratories
    • The handling and storage of flammable wastes
    • The transportation of flammable materials about the workplace
    1. DSEAR requires that
    • dangerous substances in the workplace are identified and that, regardless of their amounts, risk assessments are carried out in relation to the hazards of fire and or explosion. Guidance in the carrying out of risk assessments can be found in the University Safety Notice OBUHSN-36. DSEAR Assessment Form gives an example of the type of matrix which may be used to carry out and record a DSEAR risk assessment;.
    • in addition to considering routine activities, the risk assessment take into account non-routine events such as maintenance operations;
    • control measures be put in place to either remove those risks or, where this is not possible to control them;
    • controls be put in place to reduce the effects of any incidents involving dangerous substances;
    • plans and procedures be put in place to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving dangerous substances;
    • employees and those affected are properly informed about and trained to control or deal with the risks from the dangerous substances;
    • areas of the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur are identified and classified. These areas must be indicated by the use of appropriate EX signs, which comply with The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations. Ignition sources (from unprotected equipment, for example) are to be avoided in these areas.

    Practical guidance on the Regulations is given in some detail in Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations Approved Code of Practice and Guidance published by the HSE.


    1. Control over the acquisition and use of Poisonous Substances (see List of Scheduled Poisons) is governed by the Poisons Act together with the Poisons Rules and Poisons Lists Orders which have been or may be issued and amended from time to time under the authority of the Secretary of State, Home Office. Whilst these relate primarily to retail pharmacies and not directly applicable to Oxford Brookes University, they nevertheless form useful guidelines in determining which materials justify special control. The Dean of Faculty or Director of Directorate or an appointed Poisons Officer will be responsible for the acquisition, safe custody, control and use of all scheduled materials, except those drugs for which a license is required. All such materials must be safely stored in a suitable locked cupboard in accordance with legal requirements and local regulations. Any person required to use scheduled materials must be sufficiently knowledgeable to use them safely.

    Material storage, handling and waste disposal

    1. Many materials can pose problems if stored incorrectly or by virtue of the overall quantity of material involved. It may also be important to isolate certain materials from each other because of the possible danger of interaction. It is important to follow the manufacturers’ instructions on methods of storage. It is important to restrict the quantities of waste materials held within buildings and laboratories to the minimum amount consistent with efficient working requirements and the hazards involved.
    2. Hazardous waste must be disposed of in accordance with the manufacturer/suppliers’ instructions. The creator of the waste will be responsible for its safe disposal in compliance with current legalisation.
    3. The number of compressed gas cylinders held within a building should be kept to an absolute minimum. Ideally gas cylinders should be stored securely, out of doors, in a locked cage or similar facility, full and empty cylinders should be segregated.
    4. Basic safety rules for the use, handling, disposal and storage of chemicals are given here.

    Training and information

    1. Specific training will be provided for appointed staff. This will enable them to carry out effective COSHH assessments.
    • COSHH assessments and data sheets will be made available to any members of staff, students or others who require to see them.
    • If further information is required reference can be made to those people listed in paragraph 3.

    Guidance literature