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The Purchase, Handling, Maintenance and Storage of Articles and Substances


 School of Engineering

ISSUE 3, July 2012


1. General

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, regulation 2 the Employer must "provide and maintain plant and systems of work that are, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health". This is expanded in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992, regulation 4, which states that Employers must "make and record arrangements to plan, organise, control, monitor and review precautions and controls". In addition the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, requires the University to ensure that any work equipment is fit for purpose, suitably designed and adequately maintained and gives specific criteria for guarding, controls and signage.

2. Purchasing 

All equipment must conform to the current regulations and standards, e.g. The Electromagnetic Compatibility (Amendment) Regulations 1994, The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 etc.. For substances brought into the Univeristy, a Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) must be obtained BEFORE any hazardous substance is purchased (or brought in). For the items listed under previously purchased chemicals a record of the MSDS will be held in Stores. For all other items you must ensure that you obtain a MSDS. Note that a supplier or manufacturer is duty bound to provide a MSDS for every hazardous substance. It is YOUR responsibility to evaluate the MSDS for the material prior to purchase as you need to ensure that you can put in relevant controls to safely handle, use and store the material. Many of these will be available online from the supplier and many can be accessed using the E-procurement system, OPeRA. Note when using OPeRA and when ordering hazardous equipment or chemical substances you must insert the relevant HAZARD LEVEL. See E-Procurement Guidance for further information.

When seleting any machinery, work equipment, access equipment, components, chemicals and materials, etc. to use in the School of Engineering, consideration should be given to their impact on yourself and others with a view to minimise the risks to health, safety and the environment in addition to ensuring legislative compliance.

All items of work equipment shall be maintained on the School of Engineering Asset Register where applicable.

Consider how you intend to store the item prior to its use if you are not intending to put it straight into use. Do you have suitable storage facilities that may be relevant? Does it need to be kept secure?

Consideration at the purchasing stage should also be made to how you will safely dispose of the material or item once you have finished with it - this includes residues of chemicals, which may constitute hazardous waste. Only order what you require for your work so far as reasonably practicable. Be aware of any shelf-life that may be applicable and ensure that good stock control ensures you use items prior to their use by dates.

3. 'Gifts and Samples'

'Gifts' of equipment, equipment on loan or otherwise obtained are covered by the same regulations as new goods. The recipient of such equipment should make all the necessary enquires BEFORE the equipment arrives on site and should keep records detailing the origin of the equipment and its conformance to the regulations. All equipment must be held on the Asset Register, whether provided free of charge or purchased.

Samples of substances must be accompanied by MSDS sheets and a COSHH assessment performed BEFORE the substance is used. If they are not supplied, you should request these.

4. Stores Procedure

On arrival in stores or otherwise on site the 'owner' must make arrangements for equipment to be examined and/or tested. Stores will not release any item until they have been examined and/or tested. In order the prevent congestion in the stores, the 'owner' of equipment should determine when equipment is due to arrive and plan examination and/or testing around this date. This is particularly relevant to the purchase of gas cylinders as there is a limit to the number of gas bottles that can be stored in the compound outside.

5. Inspections

Any work equipment which is a risk to health and safety requires an inspection before first use, after reassembly in a new area and at suitable intervals. An inspection is NOT a substitute for maintenance. Some items require statutory inspection and testing such as portable electrical appliances, fume cabinets, glove boxes and other ventilation systems, ladders and other access equipment, lifting equipment and lifting accessories. If you are purchasing any of these items ensure that the Health and Safety Advisor or Technical Services Manager is notified (for all items except for portable electrical appliances) as they will ensure that the items are added to the statutory testing regime.

6. Maintenance

Arrangements should be made BEFORE equipment arrives on site for the provision of such resources necessary to maintain equipment. This includes adequate laboratory / workshop space, the provision of services and funding for consumables, running costs and staffing.

Ideally, facilities should be prepared such that equipment can be installed and then commissioned in the least possible time.

Manufacturer's guidance should be followed in relation to maintenance regimes for regularly used items brought into the department. Deviations from these are possible where items are infrequently used where the risks of failure would not impact on a person's health and safety AND where they would not result in damage to the environment AND where there are no statutory maintenance requirements laid down. For such items, deviations must have been evaluated by risk assessment.

7. Handling

'Owners' of equipment should plan ahead for any mechanical lifting requirements and make arrangements with technicians for movement of larger items.

A variety of lifting aids are available to assist the movement of items around the department to reduce the need for manual handling; these are available via Stores. Note that some will require specific training or use by only competent staff.

Staff and students should consider other risks associated with handling, including the wearing of suitable gloves where appropriate (e.g. for protection against chemical or physical hazards).

Manual handling training is available via the Health and Safety Advisor.

8. Storage

Arrangements should be made for the correct storage of materials and substances brought into the department. This includes flammable substances being kept inside flammable storage cabinets when not in use. Ensure incompatible materials are kept separate.

All storage should consider the impact on others. Items should be left in a safe condition so that they do not topple out onto others or pose a bump or tripping or other hazard. Consideration should be paid to storing heavy, often accessed items at waist height to reduce the impact of manual handling injury. Only light items should be stored above head height whenever possible.

Gas cylinders should be stored outside whenever they are not in use in the gas cylinder compound. Wherever reasonably practicable flammable or toxic gas cylinders should be suitably housed outside and piped into the building. Under these circumstances, suitable storage should be in place to ensure that they are adequately protected from the environment and persons.

Health and Safety Advisor


Relevant links:

Buying machinery

E-Procurement Guidance

for those wanting to purchase laboratory and workshop equipment, materials and chemical substances

Gas Cylinder Guidance

Guidance on how to interpret MSDS - use these to determine safe handling and storage for any hazardous substances and materials.

Lifting and Handling (manual handling guidance)

Selecting Equipment for Working at Height HSE Guidance

Access to e-Procurement System