COSHH covers hazardous substances, such as those that are toxic or are irritants, but does not assess sufficiently those materials which also possess flammable or explosive properties, these being described as dangerous substance. Dangerous substances include all materials that are explosive, oxidising, extremely flammable, highly flammable, or flammable. Examples of such materials are chemical reagents, as well as solvents, paints, and varnishes, flammable liquids and gases, and dusts from various operations (such as machining and sanding), or produced in handling other materials (such as foodstuffs).
WHAT DO THE DSEAR REGULATIONS REQUIRE?
LIMITING THE IMPACT OF AN INCIDENT
DSEAR requires employers to:
Assess the risks
Adopt control measures
Mitigate the severity of any incident
Plan for emergencies
Inform, instruct and train employees
Ultimately, an employer has a responsibility under DSEAR to protect employees and other people such as visitors to site or premises, including the public, from risks associated with dangerous substances.
Limiting the effects of any incident, should one occur, can be achieved through any of the following.
By reducing the number of employees exposed to the risk
By providing plant that is explosion resistant
By using explosion suppression or explosion relief equipment
By taking measures to control or minimise the spread of fires or explosions
By providing suitable personal protective equipment
The steps taken to minimise the limits of an incident should, again, be appropriate to the nature of the process and consistent with the severity of any risk.
ASSESSING THE RISKS
PLAN FOR EMERGENCIES
Assessing the risks means:
Identifying dangerous substances in the workplace
Identifying processes in which dangerous substances are used
Assessing the risks of fires and explosions that may be caused by using dangerous substances in the workplace
If there is no risk to safety from fires or explosions, or the risk is determined to be trivial, no further action is needed under DSEAR.
Ideally, steps should be taken to completely eliminate the risk, for example by substituting a safer substance (one that is not so dangerous) or by modifying the process. However, this is not always possible. Where it is not possible to completely eliminate the risk, employers must take measures to control the risks and mitigate (reduce the severity of) the effects of any fire or explosion.
Control measures should be applied in the following order:
Reduce the quantity of dangerous substances to a minimum
Avoid or minimise releases of dangerous substances
Control releases of dangerous substances at source
Prevent the formation of a dangerous atmosphere
Collect, contain and remove any releases to a safe place (for example, through ventilation)
Avoid ignition sources
Avoid adverse conditions (for example, exceeding the limits of temperature or control settings) that could lead to danger
Keep incompatible substances apart
The control measures should be appropriate to the nature of the process and consistent with the severity of any risk.
The employer must develop plans and procedures to meet any emergency that arises through the use of dangerous substances. This could, if appropriate, include consultation with the safety services, and the Health and safety Executive. These arrangements should be proportionate to the nature of the risk, but could include:
Training in evacuation procedures
Training in fire fighting procedures
Use of warning or alarm systems
Use of robust methods of communication
If assessment indicates that plans and procedures need to be developed, these must be made available to the emergency services to allow them to comment on them, and to develop their own, if necessary.
TRAINING AND INSTRUCTION
Employers have a responsibility to provide employees with relevant information, instructions or training about dangerous substances in the workplace before the process which uses them is allowed to commence. Such advice should include details about:
The presence and properties of dangerous substances
Storage and transport of the dangerous substances
The process and the risks associated with it
Sources of information such as MSDS
Legislation applying to the substances and process
The findings of any risk assessments (also COSHH)
How to use control measures and about their maintenance
Procedures to follow in case of emergency
Contractors and other visitors to site should also be given approriate safety advice if involved in the use of the dangerous substances.