Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Chemical Safety

Many substances have hazards associated with them. The term hazardous substances includes biological and micro-organisms, laboratory reagents, common cleaning products, engineering oils, woodworking dusts, and soldering fluxes to mention a few. Often the hazards are affected by the physical form of the material, for instance whether the substance is a solid, liquid, gas, or nanomaterial.

The risks associated with hazardous substances are that they may cause injury or affect your health, or damage the environment; they may be highly reactive; cause fire or explosion; or react with other materials to generate other hazards. There are also risks associated with the use to which the substances might be put or when they are disposed of.

Guidance on how to obtain information about the properties of chemicals or gases is provided in the safety data sheets from the supplier. The University has provided guidance on how to interpret these - please refer to this before purchasing or using the substance as you may need additional storage cabinets, engineering controls (such as fume cabinets, glove boxes), specialist personal protective equipment and a new waste stream to consider. For more guidance relating to this and other hazards in laboratories, see the 'Good Lab Practice guide' as well as the Laboratories, Workshops & Associated Stores and the Chemical Segregation pages.

Laboratories, workshops, cleaning activities and other facilities or activities that handle or generate hazardous substances must be risk assessed.

Substances with additional requirements

Below is a list of materials which may have requirements in addition to the substance assessment. Further useful links can be found in the right column:

Health surveillance is arranged via Occupational Health. Exposure monitoring is arranged via Health and Safety Services.

In all cases a suitable current risk assessment must be provided.

Lead or Lead Compounds

Lead or lead compounds might be disturbed, displaced or released into the atmosphere, whether that be through maintenance or research activities.

Work with lead not liable to result in significant exposure

  • Handling clean metallic lead
  • Low-temperature melting of lead (below 500°C) e.g. during soldering (specialist activities, requires justification)
  • Insignificant amounts of lead and its compounds being handled infrequently (not alkyl lead)

Medical surveillance when

  • There is risk of skin contact with alkyl lead
  • The amount of lead and its compounds is significant
  • High temperature melting of lead – above 500°C
Vinyl chloride monomer

Medical surveillance when this material is used, stored or polymerised.

Ortho-toluidine and its salts. Dianisidine and its salts. Dichlorobenzidine and its salts.

Medical surveillance when these substances are used.

Carbon disulphide. Disulphur dichloride. Benzene, including benzol. Carbon tetrachloride. Trichlorethylene.

Medical surveillance when these substances are used, or given off as vapour.

Any substance/compound assigned a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) in EH40

Exposure monitoring when it is believed exposure levels are approaching half the assigned WEL

Drug Precursors – (Home Office requirements) due to their potential for mis-use

Category 3 substances

Category 2 substances

Category 1 substances

Controlled Drugs (Home Office requirements)

Schedule 1 Controlled Drugs

Schedules 2 to 5 substances

Substances covered by the Chemical Weapons Convention

 Schedule 1 substances

 Schedules 2 substances

 Schedule 3 substances