University of Bath

Chemical safety

Provision of guidance to control the significant risks to human health from chemicals people may be exposed to at work.

Introduction

This guidance applies to all users of hazardous chemicals at the University of Bath. This is not restricted to chemical laboratories but also includes cleaning chemicals, paints, oils etc. that are defined as hazardous under the Control of Hazardous Substances to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002.

To protect people’s health, the risks arising from work-related exposures to hazardous substances need to be assessed BEFORE any work is started. Controls need to be put in place and monitored to make sure they are maintained and are suitable and sufficient.

The UHSE Chemical Safety Guidance document provides more detailed information and should be read by all users. The following provides a basic overview of key aspects.

Labelling

All containers of chemicals should be labelled to ensure the hazards are clearly communicated. Labels should be:

  • Intact and can be read clearly

  • Provide information about the contents - chemical name, hazards and precautions for safe use

The use of hazard warning labels complying with the Classification Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulations are recommended.

Storage

There are three principles for safe storage of laboratory chemicals:

  • Segregation of incompatible chemicals

  • Separation of hazardous chemicals from unsuitable conditions for reasons of their toxicity, flammability or reactivity

  • Ventilation that will remove or dilute malodorous, noxious, toxic or flammable vapours and prevent their build-up

Basics of chemical storage:

  • Store like materials with like. It is essential to segregate antagonistic substances to prevent dangerous interactions.

  • Store the minimum stock levels of hazardous chemicals in the laboratory.

  • Dispose of hazardous chemicals that are no longer required.

  • Store large breakable containers, particularly of liquids, below shoulder height.

  • Ensure containers and bottle tops are sealed properly to avoid unnecessary leakage of fumes / vapours.

Types of specialised storage available:

  • Acid Cabinets are made of acid resistant materials and contain a tray to contain any leakage or spillage.

  • Flammable Solvent Cabinets are fire resistant metal cabinets typically used for the storage of flammable solvents. These offer fire resistance of at least 30 minutes and have a metal spill tray to contain spillages.

  • Ventilated Cabinets are cabinets fitted with forced ventilation and may be free-standing with their own extract system or positioned beneath a fume cupboard and attached to its duct.

Regulated and High Hazard Chemicals

There are chemicals that require more stringent controls due to potential significant health effects and/or regulatory requirements. These include:

Chemicals listed in Schedules 1 to 3 of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

Poisons as defined by the Poisons Act 1972

Highly Toxic Chemicals which may be fatal at very low doses

Carcinogens and Mutagens

Highly Reactive and potentially Explosive Chemicals

The principal aim must be to prevent exposure to any of these substances. They should not be used, or processes carried on, if there is a suitable non-hazardous or less hazardous substitute. Their use must be justified in the COSHH risk assessment.

Additional controls required will include restricted access control and stock control. Some substances may also require a licence for use. If unsure, advice should be sought prior to purchase of these types of chemicals.