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Hazardous Substances Storage Legislation – What You Need To Know

Due to their nature, there is a significant amount of legislation governing the use of hazardous or dangerous substances in the UK:

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (CoSHH)

The CoSHH regulations require employers to take responsibility for implementing effective measures to control exposure to hazardous substances and protect the health of their employees.  This includes conducting a suitable risk assessment detailing the substances that may be hazardous to their employees’ health, all potential avenues of exposure and taking suitable control measures to avoid or limit them.  Exposure can happen through inhalation, skin contact, swallowing, through the eyes or by skin puncture.  Attention should be paid to any labels or safety data sheets that are supplied with products and any relevant action taken.  When choosing control measures the HSE recommends in order of priority:

  • Eliminating the use of a harmful substance and using a safer one if possible
  • Using a safer form of the substance so as to eliminate or mitigate risk (e.g. a paste instead of a powder)
  • Alter the work procedure to eliminate or limit exposure to the substance
  • Take measures to extract emissions of the substance to a safe place
  • Limit as much as possible the number of people at risk of exposure
  • Provide suitable personal protective equipment (PPE)

If implementing any one of the last three control measures make sure that the other two are also implemented and that they all work together.

When not in use the products should be stored suitably so as to limit their potential risks and any routes of possible exposure.

If you employ more than five members of staff your risk assessment should be recorded.  All risk assessments and control measures should be checked regularly as to their effectiveness and any appropriate action taken to ensure their continued suitability.

The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR)

The DSEAR Regulations cover the use of substances that could cause harm to people through fire, explosion or similar event (such as uncontrolled chemical reaction). Critical in adhering to DSEAR is carrying out a detailed assessment of the risks from dangerous substances and taking, so far as is reasonably practicable, measures to avoid or limit these risks.  An important principle in reducing the risks posed from dangerous substances relates to their storage – employers are required to provide safe storage for substances classified as dangerous (exact performance details of storage facilities can be found in paragraph 189, paragraphs 196-199, together with Appendices 4 and 5 of the DSEAR ACOP).  This is to provide a physical barrier to limit or avoid their involvement in a potential fire and allow evacuation and emergency containment procedures to be implemented.  The HSE also recommends and requires that:

  • Storage areas should be separate from work process areas if sharing premises.
  • Where activities require the convenient availability of flammable substances a limited quantity may be stored in suitable cabinets or bins of fire resisting construction (these should be designed to retain spills and capable of retaining 110% of the volume of the largest vessel usually stored within)
  • The storage facilities should be in well ventilated areas and not obstruct the means of escape from work process areas.
  • Flammable liquids should be stored separately from other dangerous substances (if risk is increased by not doing so)
  • In cabinets and bins no more than 50 litres of a highly flammable substance or substance with a flashpoint of below the maximum ambient temperature of the area may be stored and no more than 250 litres of substances with a flashpoint of up to 60 degrees may be stored.

As regards the labelling of potentially harmful or dangerous substances, The CLP (classification, labelling and packaging of substances) Regulation adopts in the UK the United Nations’ Globally Harmonised System for the labelling and classification of chemicals.  These include new hazard pictograms (quite similar to the old ones) that will aid in identification internationally.  This has been applied to all substances placed on the market since December 2010 and has applied to all chemical mixtures since June 1st 2015.  Chemical mixtures already on the market had to be re-labelled and re-packaged by at the latest June 1st 2017.  They replaced the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009.

The European Union regulation on the Regulation, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of CHemicals (REACH) brought in new requirements for businesses that manufacture or import (from outside the EU) 1 tonne or more of any given substance.  These businesses must now register a dossier of information about that substance with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki, Finland.  Suppliers must also provide a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to their clients with substances classified as dangerous.

For more information on COSHH, DSEAR, CLP and REACH and how they could apply to you, you can visit the HSE website.