Using chemicals safely
The safe management of chemically-based materials during purchase, storage, use and disposal is outlined here.
These resources are relevant to laboratory workers and anyone working with a chemically-based substance including paints, glues and cleaning fluid who must assess whether hazardous chemicals are being used:
- in sufficient concentration or quantity
- in a way that poses a significant risk to either health, environment or property.
Purpose: Guidance on the purchase, use and storage of named drug precursors. The University of Bristol has duties imposed by the Home Office under the various European regulations with regard to the monitoring of trade in drug precursors within the EU and between the community and third countries.
How to use: Licenses are needed to demonstrate proper control, and establish efficient two-way reporting mechanisms, within users and between the Home Office and the University.
Relevant for: Schools that may use or wish to use category 1 drug precursors for any reason within the usual bounds of research and teaching.
Further guidance on less sensitive precursors and other specifically controlled substances may be found in other guidance from Safety and Health Services.
Hazard warning signs
Purpose: Since the COSHH Regulations were introduced in 1988 there has been an increasing demand for standardised hazard information; this is needed to assist users downstream of the chemicals’ manufacturer or supplier to be able to clearly recognise their hazardous properties. In turn, that helps the user to estimate the potential risks that those substances present.
The lack of quality in safety data sheets and the international non-uniformity of labelling have led to many revisions. This briefing note clarifies the current situation and describes some expected developments in the near future.
Resource: Hazard warning signs guidance
Laboratories and control of hazardous chemicals
Purpose: Providing University laboratory users with the essential basic knowledge and practical advice needed to work safely in a laboratory environment.
How to use: This set of resources is intended to complement the health and safety guidance issued by the University of Bristol, which should be adhered to at all times. Modules covering different aspects of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) consist of tutorials and assessments, as well as some links to video demonstrations, worked examples and other resources. If you are unfamiliar with COSHH, work sequentially through each of the modules. Before moving on to the next module, complete the assessment and check you have understood and can apply the contents of a module.
Resource: Guidance modules
Produced by: Royal Society of Chemistry
Relevant for: All University laboratory users, but particularly applicable to Principal Investigators and postgraduate students and researchers.
This resource has been developed from existing good practice guides produced by the Royal Society of Chemistry and material kindly supplied by UK University Chemistry Departments. Any advice given has been carefully formulated but is necessarily based on the information available, and the RSC and cannot be held responsible for accuracy or completeness. In this respect, the RSC owes no duty of care and shall not be liable for any resulting damage or loss.
Further information about working safely in a laboratory environment
The guidance from the Health and Safety Executive means you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. Health and safety inspectors seek to secure compliance with the law, and may refer to this guidance as illustrating good practice.
Safe storage of chemicals
Purpose: Advice on appropriate measures to take to ensure their chemicals are stored correctly, safely and in compliance with regulatory requirements.
How to use: The safe management of hazardous chemicals includes storing these substances in an appropriate manner to reduce the risk of injury or physical damage from unintended exposure, spills, leaks or breakages.
Resource: Safe storage of chemicals guidance
Relevant for: Individuals who may handle or are responsible for the use and storage of hazardous substances.
Guidance on the management and use of fume cupboards
Purpose: The University has a responsibility under health and safety legislation to provide and maintain plant and systems of work, which are safe and without risk to health. Hence there is a duty to ensure that fume cupboards used within the University effectively protect staff and students from exposure to substances that may be hazardous to their health.
Resource: Laboratory fume cupboard guidance
Transporting chemicals for events
Purpose: It is often necessary to move chemicals around for the purposes of lectures, demonstrations, competitions or other hands-on practical activities. The Royal Society of Chemistry has published guidance on the hazards of transporting small quantities of chemicals and the appropriate measures to follow to ensure this is done safely and in compliance with legislation.
Produced by: The Royal Society of Chemistry
Purpose: Guidance for establishing a safe workplace and good safety practice when working with particulate nanomaterials. This is applicable to a wide range of nanomaterials, including:
The guidance also recognises previous and current uncertainty in developing effective risk management when dealing with nanomaterials and advocates a precautionary strategy to minimise potential exposure.
Waste and spills
Chemical waste disposal route
The chemical waste disposal route is managed by staff from Sustainability. Contact them for further information and documentation, including the waste disposal form.
Resource: Sustainability chemical waste route
Produced by: Rose Rooney, Sustainability, University of Bristol
Chemical waste guidance
Purpose: Laboratory waste is considered hazardous when it contains properties that are harmful to human health and to the wider environment. This resource provides guidance on chemical and laboratory waste.
Resource: Chemical waste guidance
Chemical spill guidance
Purpose: This framework for chemical spill response planning is designed to prepare staff for spill clean-ups. It provides an overview on handling spill incidents from planning through to using spill equipment correctly.
Resource: Guide for Chemical Spill Response Planning in Laboratories
Produced by: American Chemical Society
Risk assessments and checklists
Risk assessments templates
Purpose: Example risk assessment forms and templates for work involving hazardous chemicals.
- COSHH chemical risk assessment form
- COSHH chemical risk assessment example 1
- COSHH chemical risk assessment example 2
Produced by: Andy Macquiban
Chemical risk assessment video
Purpose: This short video provides an overview of the reasons why conducting a risk assessment of laboratory work is so important for maintaining situational awareness as laboratory work proceeds.
Resource: Lab risk assessment video
DSEAR classification checklist
Purpose: A checklist for dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres area classification.
The DSEAR risk assessment template and checklist should be used when assessing fire and explosive hazards posed by the use and storage of flammable and explosive substances and gases. This is an additional assessment that should be carried out where a general risk assessment identifies there is potential for flammable or explosive atmospheres to develop as a result of the activity.
Respiratory Protection Equipment (RPE)
RPE is used in many work situations to protect wearers from exposure to hazardous substances such as:
RPE comes in many different types and must be the right one for the substance, task and work environment to provide adequate protection.
HSE and Healthy Working Lives have developed the RPE selector tool to help users select the most appropriate type of RPE for their requirements.
Read the policy on hazardous chemical management.
Chemical hazard information
- HSE: Labelling and packaging
- HSE: Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)
- HSE: COSHH essentials
- ChemSpider: Chemical structure database
- INCHEM: Internationally peer reviewed chemical safety information
- ECHA: Information on chemicals
- IFA: GESTIS Substance Database
- CCPS: Chemical Reactivity Worksheet