7 Tips to control Dangerous Substances in the workplace

A dangerous substance includes any substance or preparation that, because of its properties or the way it is used, could cause harm to people from fire, explosion or exposure. Some further risks can be created as a result of processes in the workplace, for example welding fumes or wood dust can cause some serious health problems for staff and others.

1. Employers have a general duty to manage risks related to exposure to dangerous substances. So conduct an audit to identify all substances used in your workplace.

2. Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002: Many of these substances are likely to fall under the COSHH regulations, to comply with COSHH employers need to follow a 8 step process designed to reduce or eliminate risk. http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/ or http://www.coshh-essentials.org.uk/

3. Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of Chemicals (REACH).
REACH operates alongside COSHH and is designed so that better information on the hazards of chemicals and how to use them safely will be passed down the supply chain by chemical manufactures and imported through improved safety data sheets. Further information can be found on HSE’s website: www.hse.gov.uk/reach and www.echa.europa.eu/home en.asp

4. Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres (DSEAR) Regulations 2002 covers substances like gases, solvents and some dusts that can all carry a risk of fire or explosion if used inappropriately that can put safety at risk from fire and explosion. Identify such substances and conduct risk assessments in their use to eliminate / reduce risks.

5. Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia. It was named after an outbreak of severe pneumonia that affected a meeting of the American Legion in 1976. It is an uncommon but serious disease. To prevent exposure to the legionella bacteria, you as a duty holder, must comply with legislation that requires you to manage, maintain and treat water systems in your premises properly. This will include, but not be limited to, appropriate water treatment and cleaning regimes. Call in a reputable company to check if you are responsible for the water / heating systems to see if you need to comply or check http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/

6. Chemical hazards and poisons – The chemical hazards and poisons division of the Health Protection Agency (HPA) provides comprehensive expert advice and support for chemical incidents and other health issues for example flu across England and Wales. Such potential health threats might involve chemical fires, chemical contamination of the environment, or the deliberate release of chemicals and poisons. For further information on chemical hazards and poisons, see www.hpa.org.uk

7. Other dangerous substances that may need to be considered in the workplace are Radiation / X rays, disease from waste / storage of waste, food stuffs and radioactive materials. Check what you use in your workplace and identify measures to reduce risk by conducting appropriate assessments.