Hazardous substances are any substances that, because of their properties, have the potential to cause ill health or injury.
There are 3 sources of hazardous substance:
- substances that are bought; for example, resins, inks and dyes, cleaning chemicals
- substances that are created during a process; for example, wood, metal or ceramic dusts, fumes from laser cutting or soldering
- substances such as blood, urine or vomit that usually result from an accident.
Exposure to hazardous substances must be risk assessed and the risk of injury or ill health minimised. Your tutor or technician will have risk assessed the hazardous substances used or produced as part of your course but if there is anything that you wish to use that falls outside of your day-to-day course activities then you will need to talk to your tutor and/or technician about carrying out a risk assessment first.
Please do not attempt to work with any hazardous substances before talking to your tutor and technician to ensure that the substance has been risk assessed. See below for further information.
For training on working with hazardous substances and the risk assessment process please speak to your tutor about getting access to our health and safety e-learning courses.
Identifying hazardous substances
It’s easy to identify a hazardous substance if it is manufactured. The packaging and labelling will identify that it is hazardous with symbols (yellow and black or white, red and black) or short statements. Below is guidance on the labelling and packaging of hazardous substances.
Manufactured hazardous substances should always be supplied with a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) supplied.
This document details all the hazardous properties of the substance and how they should be controlled, including what personal protective equipment may be necessary, storage and disposal requirements. Manufacturers and suppliers are required by UK law to provide an up to date SDS for all hazardous substances.
The COSHH assessment tool used by the University, Sevron COSHH365 has a library of SDS and will also add SDS if they are missing. A username and password are needed to access COSHH365, talk to your tutor or technician if you need to carry out an assessment.
It isn’t always as easy to identify hazardous substances that are generated during a process. The SDS for manufactured hazardous substances will have information about any additional hazards that arise from using or disposing of a product.
If the original material isn’t hazardous there will be no SDS, for example wood isn’t hazardous but wood dust is. In practice very few hazardous substances are generated from completely non-hazardous substances apart from dust.
Any type of dust is hazardous over a concentration in air of 10milligrams/metre3 (mg/m3) and most organic dusts are explosive or a given concentration so it is very important to know what concentration of dust is likely to be created by a process and to control the dust properly.
All bodily fluids, human and animal should be considered hazardous because of the risk of disease and poisoning. There are other animal products that should also be considered, for example bone, horn and uncured skins. The University has a policy of prohibiting bringing animals or parts of animals onto any UAL site without the specific agreement of the Dean, health and safety adviser and site manager.
Assessing hazardous substances
All processes involving hazardous substances must be risk assessed. This is called a COSHH assessment (COSHH stands for the control of substances hazardous to health).
The university uses COSHH365 (also known as Sevron), which is an online COSHH assessment tool. The online COSHH assessment tool is currently used by staff only so speak to your tutor or technician if you need to complete a COSHH assessment. Your tutor or technician will have risk assessed the hazardous substances used or produced as part of your course but if there is anything that you wish to use that falls outside of your day-to-day course activities then you will need to talk to your tutor and/or technician about carrying out a risk assessment first.
Exposure to hazardous substances must be controlled to ensure that no one is at risk of ill health or injury. The best way to control exposure is to substitute the hazardous substance for something that is less hazardous or not hazardous at all.
Failing that, control measures such as local exhaust ventilation (LEV) that protect all those present should be considered rather that control measures that only protect an individual such as personal protective equipment (PPE).
Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) [PDF 410KB]