The Index below provides information on health and safety topics. Please contact the Health and Safety Team for more information.

Local Health and Safety | Personal | Around the WorkplaceEnvironmental | Vehicles and Equipment | Substances | Radiation | Useful Links

Local Health and Safety

Health and Safety Policy

The University Health and Safety Policy requires that:

  • Each School/Support Service must produce its own Health and Safety Policy to supplement the University's Policy
  • The Policy must be signed and dated by the Head of School/ Support Service
  • The Policy must be reviewed annually and records of the review retained
  • The Policy must be communicated to all staff and students in the School/Support Service.
Risk Assessment

It is a legal requirement for the University to undertake and record risk assessments to protect its staff, students and others from harm. As a minimum the University must identify what could cause injury or illness, decide how likely it is that some could be harmed and how seriously and take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk. The Health, Safety and Resilience team has developed guidance and accompanying documentation to assist Schools and Professional Support Directorates, and these can be found below:

Training Records

The health and safety training needs of all members of staff and students should be identified and appropriate training provided. Records of training should be kept and these should contain an explicit acknowledgement from trainees that training has been received and understood.


The purpose of a health and safety inspection is to find out whether the arrangements which the local health and safety policy requires to be in place are actually in place and whether staff and students in the School or Support Service are doing what the policy requires of them.

An inspection should be much more than an examination of the physical workplace. It should look at what people are doing and it should also look at any written records which are required to be kept.

A report on an inspection should include not only details of what is wrong and needs improvement but also details of what is right and in full accordance with the requirements of the policy.

Reports should be produced principally for the Head of School or Support Service and should be one of the means by which he/she is informed about health and safety performance in the School/Support Service.

Following the issuing of a report, actions should be agreed with the Head of School/Support Service to remedy any deficiencies.

The main activities of the School are based in offices and teaching rooms on campus. There are also some trips for students to off-campus locations

The health and safety issues here are relatively straightforward ones Schools with a wider range of activities will clearly need to produce more detailed reports which cover the full range of their activities.

They may however choose to limit the scope of individual inspections to particular matters and cover the full range of activities over several inspections. If the scope of an inspection is limited, this should be clearly stated in the report on the inspection.

  • The report is just an example.
  • The format is not prescriptive.
  • The findings of an inspection can be documented in many different ways.
  • Some Schools/Support Services may wish to produce briefer reports consisting of bullet points and short notes rather than a narrative.
  • Some may choose simply to make notes on a pre-prepared checklist.

However the key points for any report are:

  • Find out if the requirements of the local health and safety policy are being met;
  • Note what is right as well as what is wrong;
  • Go beyond a physical examination of the workplace;
  • look at records and find out if people are doing what they should be doing;
  • Agree any remedial actions which are required.

When a contractor comes to carry out work at the University, both the contractor and the University have responsibilities for the health and safety aspects of the work.

Read our Policy and Guidance.


Personal Safety

Our campus is very safe however security is given the highest priority and as such is provided by in house teams who are on site 24 hours per day 365 days per year.

The security office is located at:

9A Dunbar Street
AB24 3UD

and can be contacted on the following telephone numbers:

  Emergency Non-emergency
Internal 3939 3327
From outside the University 01224 273939 01224 273327


  • Lock doors and drawers
  • If leaving your office unmanned, always lock the door
  • Don’t leave expensive items in your car
  • Padlock your bicycle to a secure railing remembering that wheels can be easily removed or enquire about getting a cycle locker - there are 30 at various locations on campus
  • Wear your ID card – if Security can see who you are, they can concentrate on individuals who should not be there.

Further information

Slips and Trips

We have more accidents at the University due to slips and trips than any other single cause.  The reasons behind these accidents are usually relatively simple and the risks are not difficult to manage.


  • Make sure the floor is clean and dry
  • Clear up spillages immediately
  • Remove any obstructions
  • Avoid causing trailing cables
  • Keep your workstation clear of obstacles
  • Ensure you have adequate lighting
  • Wear sensible footwear

Further information

Work at Height

Working at height means work in any place where a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. Employers and those in control of work at height must first assess the risks.


  • Do as much work as possible from the ground; avoid working at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so
  • Where work at height cannot be easily avoided, minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, by using the right type of equipment
  • Ensure equipment is suitable, stable and maintained regularly
  • Ensure workers can get safely to and from where they work at height
  • Provide protection from falling objects
  • Do not overload or overreach when working at height

Access to heights

  • From time to time staff have been seriously injured after falling while using an unsuitable means of access (usually a chair) to reach storage above head height. The only suitable means of access are a stepladder (in good condition) or a "kick stool". Staff should never use chairs, particularly swivel chairs, to reach high shelves.
  • To help ensure they remain in good condition they will be inspected every three months by the appropriate Section Safety Adviser for the section of the Office which houses the ladder. If anyone discovers any damage to a ladder they should take it out of use and report it immediately to the Estates Office to have it repaired or replaced.
  • When storing items on shelves do not place heavy items up high. They will be difficult to place on or remove from the shelves and if they were to fall they could cause serious injury. Place them at waist height or closer to the floor.

Further information

Manual Handling

Even in an office, injury resulting from manual handling is a common cause of accidents. An injury to the back caused by a momentary lapse of good practice may never recover fully. Also, cuts and bruising of hands and feet can occur when manual handling is not done correctly.

  • Before attempting to lift anything, size up the job. Do not hesitate to seek help with heavy or awkwardly shaped loads. Always look at the possibility of moving the load in an easier way (e.g. by using a trolley or some other form of mechanical assistance).
  • Seek help with heavy or awkwardly shaped loads. Porters can be requested to assist.
  • Look at moving the load by using a trolley or something similar. If in doubt discuss with your line manager. Managers should ensure that staff are not expected to carry out manual handling likely to cause injury.
  • In manual lifting it is the leg muscles that should be used and NEVER the back. Lifting an item from the floor should always require bending at the knees.
  • Anyone with any doubts about their ability to lift or carry a particular item, should discuss it with their immediate supervisor. It will usually be possible to work out a different way to move the load.

Everyone can make an important contribution to safety by keeping offices in a tidy condition.

  • Keep passageways and the area around where you work clear for access. People can be injured bumping into or tripping over items.
  • Keep cupboards and filing cabinet drawers closed. They can cause injury if left open and someone bumps into them.
  • Never allow wires and cables to pass across places where people might walk. They can be a serious trip hazard. If there is no alternative route ensure that special rubber cable protectors designed for the purpose cover a cable.
  • Do not let rubbish accumulate other than in rubbish bins. Any accumulation of material which can burn increases the risk of fire.
  • Keep any drink and food preparation areas clean and tidy.
  • Keep corridors and stairways clear of rubbish or furniture, etc. even for a short time.

Arrange for spillages to be cleaned up immediately before someone slips on it. If it is too large for easy cleaning, contact the Estates Section.

Building Maintenance

The Estates Section is responsible for maintaining the fabric of the University Buildings and for fixtures and fittings. Staff from the Estates Section regularly inspect buildings. However, those who work in a building are likely to be the first to notice anything unsafe.

If you need to report a fault or make a work request - the Estates Section operates a telephone help desk service for departments and members of staff to report faults/request work within or around any University building. It is important that faults are dealt with as soon as possible.

  • The telephone number dedicated to this service is 01224 27 3333. Outwith 9am - 5pm weekdays a voicemail system will operate
  • For Emergencies outwith 9am - 5pm weekdays please call 01224 27 3939/3327
  • For non-emergencies a report can be filled out online

On calling the service desk, members of staff will be asked to give their contact details, the building, location and a brief description of the work. They will, in return, be quoted a unique reference number for their report. Should they then wish to check the status of their report, they may call the service desk again and quote the reference number.

Drugs and Alcohol

The University of Aberdeen has a legal duty of care to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all staff, and the drugs and alcohol policy is intended to form an integral part of that approach.

Further information

Smoking in the Workplace

The University provides a smoke free environment for staff, students and visitors.
We rely upon the consideration and co-operation of smokers and non-smokers in implementing this policy and all employees, students, visitors and contractors are expected to respect the smoke free environment.


Members of Staff

In developing our health and safety arrangements we must give specific attention to the health and safety of female employees who are, or in future could be, new or expectant mothers. When a member of staff formally informs her School/Support Service that she is pregnant or breastfeeding we must carry out a specific assessment of the health and safety risks to that individual arising from their work.

To assist staff to undertake the assessment, a Risk Assessment Form for New & Expectant Mothers can be completed.

To help complete the risk assessment form the University guidance document Guidance on Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Aspects of Pregnancy should be referred to.

The Health and Safety Executive guidance for employers is on their web pages for New and Expectant Mothers.

In some circumstances, say if a member of staff works in a laboratory or has a job where there is a significant amount of manual handling, there are likely to be a number of factors to consider when carrying out the assessment. In other situations, say when a job is mainly office based, there will probably be less to consider but a formal assessment should still be undertaken once a member of staff has notified her department that she is pregnant or breastfeeding.

Those needing advice and/or assistance while carrying out assessments or with general enquiries about the health and safety regulations covering new and expectant mothers should contact their local Safety Adviser who can, in turn, contact the University Safety Adviser if required.

Chemicals: The Health and Safety Executive's web pages contain a section on chemical agents. It should be read in conjunction with this University guidance.


Although there is no specific legislation which requires us to carry out a further assessment if a student informs us that she is pregnant, it would be good practice to do so. The Health and Safety Executive's publication "New and expectant mothers at work - a guide for employers" should be regarded not only as setting out the legal requirements in respect of staff who inform us that they are pregnant but also as setting out good practice in respect of students, particularly for those students who undertake laboratory work.

A student who wishes to notify the University that she is pregnant will contact Student Support Services. If the student is undertaking laboratory work as part of her course of study, Student Support Services will contact the School(s) concerned asking that a specific risk assessment be undertaken.

As with assessments for staff, advice and assistance can be obtained from the School Safety Adviser who can, if necessary, contact the University Safety Adviser.

Overseas Travel

Visit the dedicated Travelling overseas on University business page for information on travelling overseas for University business.

Further information

Lone Working

We define a lone worker as someone who is working in circumstances where there is not someone else within calling distance who would be able to provide assistance if there were to be an accident.

It is important to understand the difference between lone working and out of hours working. You can be a lone worker in a laboratory during the normal working day if everyone else in the laboratory has gone for coffee. You can also be in a laboratory at 10pm in the evening and you would not be a lone worker if another lab worker were present providing that person would know what to do if there were an accident.

Supervisors are expected to determine whether particular tasks can be undertaken by lone workers or whether accompanied working is required. In general lone working should be limited to carrying out relatively simple low risk operations. In some circumstances, devices such as lone worker alarms can be provided to monitor lone workers and allow them to summon assistance.

Further information

Out of Hours Working

Out of hours working should not be confused with lone working. Out of hours working refers to work outside the normal or core working hours and may be times at which supervisory staff may not be available.

Supervisors should ensure that staff and students are aware of any restrictions on out of hours working. In laboratories and workshops the main safety risks outside normal working hours come from the absence of supervisory staff who can monitor the work being undertaken and who are readily available if problems are encountered in the work.

  • You must seek permission from your supervisor for out of hours working. Supervisors should provide guidance on working out of hours and ensure that staff and students are aware of any restrictions
  • Supervisors should indicate whether there must be someone else present within calling distance to avoid lone working
  • If working out of hours, let your supervisor or someone else know when and where you are working; exchange your name and contact number; phone or text to indicate when you leave.

Around the Workplace

Computer Workstations

The use of Display Screen Equipment (DSE) forms a part of many people's daily work.

DSE are devices or equipment that have alphanumerical or graphic display screens such as your computer or laptop. Some workers may experience fatigue, eye strain, upper limb problems and backache from overuse or improper use of DSE. These problems can also be experienced from poorly designed workstations or work environments. The causes may not always be obvious and can be due to a combination of factors.


  • Where possible, arrange your desk and screen to avoid glare or bright reflections
  • Make sure there is enough space to accommodate all of your documents and equipment
  • Make sure there is space under the desk to move your legs
  • A space in from of the keyboard can help you rest your hands and wrists when not typing
  • Place the mouse within easy reach, sit close to the desk to avoid working with the mouse arm stretched
  • Take short, frequent breaks, - stretch and change position, look into the distance from time to time or better still, take a short break away from your desk


Further information

  • Open Ergonomics- A step by step guide to setting up a computer workstation from a research and consultancy company associated with Loughborough University

Workstation Assessors


In May 2011, the Universities and Colleges Employees Association published new guidance on health and safety in Fieldwork. A copy of the guidance can be found here: UCEA Guidance on Health and Safety in Fieldwork.


The University does not permit children/young persons to be brought onto University premises unless they are supervised by a parent or guardian at all times. The University recognises there are times when staff and students bring children onto the premises for very short duration visits for example, to collect/drop off work; access facilities such as libraries or attend an open access event.

Work Experience Placements

Guidance for University Students

Guidance for School Pupils

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is equipment that protects the user against health or safety risks at work including items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, and high-visibility clothing. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

Further information

Glove manufacturer's websites

  • Ansel has an online chemical application and glove recommendation guide which indicates the recommended glove material for protection from various chemicals.
  • Best Manufacturing Company has an on-line catalogue plus a Chemical Resistance Guide as a free download:- where you select the chemical and it recommends a glove - the program also supplies information on chemical toxicity.
Confined Spaces

A confined space is a place which is substantially enclosed (though not always entirely), and where serious injury can occur from hazardous substances or conditions within the space or nearby (e.g. lack of oxygen).

A number of people are killed or seriously injured in the UK each year in confined spaces. These occur across a wide range of industries, from those involving complex plant through simple storage vessels. Those killed include not only people working in the confined spaces but those who try to rescue them without proper training or equipment.

A number of confined spaces have been identified at the University.  They are under the control of Estates Section and strict precautions are required before anyone is allowed to enter them.  They include the underground ducts - a network of tunnels which carry heating pipes and other building services around our campuses.

Schools could create confined spaces when they fabricate items of equipment.Strict procedures will then be required to control access. A range of guidance on confined spaces has been produced by the Health and Safety Executive.

First Aid

First Aid is provided by trained members of staff. Lists of qualified First Aiders should be on display within Schools/Support Services.

If you are interested in becoming a first aider, please read the expected duties of a first aider. Any request for first aid training will be considered on a risk based approach.

For information regarding First Aid training, please contact Health and Safety Team.

First Aid Boxes

What should a first-aid box in the workplace contain?

As a guide, where work activities involve low hazards, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends a minimum stock of first-aid items:








Guidance leaflet giving general guidance on first aid

(for example, HSE's leaflet Basic advice on first aid at work)

1 1 1
Plasters (individual; assorted sizes) 20 40 60
Eye Pads 2 4 6
Traingular bandages 4 6 8
Safety pins 12 12 12
Medium dressings 6 9 12
Large dressings 2 3 4
Disposable gloves (pair) 2 4 6
Alcohol-free wipes 10 10 20

Please note: this is only a suggested contents list.

What size of first-aid box is required?

The size of the first aid kit required is a combination of the level of risk and the number of employees in the workplace. British Standard Compliant (BS 8599-1) standard suggests:

Risk / # Employees




Low risk / less than 25 1    
Low risk / 25-100   1  
Low risk / 100 +     1
High risk / less than 5 1    
High risk / 5-25   1  
High risk / 25 +     1

Low risk environments include offices and teaching rooms.
High risk environments include laboratories, workshops or any area where special control measures are necessary to minimise risk.

Please note: this information is for guidance only: you should carry out a risk assessment for each workplace.

Further information


There are defibrillators available on both our Old Aberdeen and Foresterhill campuses and on the Hillhead Campus.

Old Aberdeen

  • Taylor Building (Block C Entrance)

The defibrillator is located in a secure box on the ground floor opposite the Food Story outlet. There is a key held within a break glass box for accessing the defibrillator.

  • Student Union Building

The defibrillator is located behind the bar on the ground floor. Ask bar staff for the defibrillator if required.

  • Elphinstone Hall

The defibrillator is located inside the main door between Elphinstone Hall and the Linklater Rooms. There is a key held within a break glass box for accessing the defibrillator.

  • Cruickshank Building

The defibrillator is located in a secure box on the ground floor just through the second set of doors at the main entrance to the Cruickshank Building. There is a key held within a break glass box for accessing the defibrillator.

  • Zoology Building

The defibrillator is located in a secure box on the wall outside the Porter’s Office in the main reception area. There is a key held within a break glass box for accessing the defibrillator.

  • Fraser Noble Building

The defibrillator is located in a secure box on the wall adjacent to the Porter’s Office in the main entrance to the building. There is a key held within a break glass box for accessing the defibrillator.

  • University Office

The defibrillator is located in a secure box near the Reception desk at the Visitor's entrance to the building. There is a key held within a break glass box for ease of access.

  • Sir Duncan Rice Library

The defibrillator is located at the Reception desk in the main atrium of the Library.

  • MacRobert Building

The defibrillator is located on the wall behind the Reception desk on the ground floor. There is a key on the right hand side of the box for accessing the defibrillator.

  • Bedford Road Yard

The defibrillator is located within the Bothy/Canteen area in the Bedford Road Maintenance Yard.


  • Medical Research Facility

The defibrillator is located in the receptionist’s office.

  • IMS Building

The defibrillator is located on the rear wall of the reception in the main atrium near the entrance door. There is a key to the left of the box for accessing the defibrillator.

  • Health Sciences Building

The defibrillator is located under the counter at the Reception desk. There is a key present for accessing the defibrillator.

  • Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health

The defibrillator is located behind the Reception desk in the main entrance to the building.

  • Polwarth Building

The defibrillator is located at the Porter's desk at the main reception of the building.

  • Suttie Building

There are two defibrillators in the Suttie. One at the reception and one in the first aid room. Please contact the reception if a defibrillator is required.

  • Liberty Building

The defibrillator is located in the reception lobby of the building.


  • Hillhead Central Building

The defibrillator is located behind reception. Call reception or ask reception staff for the defibrillator if required.

In addition to these, there are defibrillators available in the following locations:

  • One in the Aberdeen Sports Village (adult and paediatric), Old Aberdeen
  • One in the King's Pavilion, Old Aberdeen
  • Two in the Dental School, Foresterhill

These are not University controlled but are available in the event of an emergency. For the most effective response, defibrillators should be used in conjunction with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

We have a three tier approach to operating the defibrillators.

  1. In the first instance, we have first aiders who have received additional training in the use of the defibrillators.Whilst defibrillators are simple to use, and provide instructions to the operator at all times, having received additional training, these trained first aiders are able to provide a swifter response than those who have not received training. They also receive more frequent CPR refresher training, than untrained first aiders (annually as opposed to once every three years).
  2. If a trained first aider is not available, an untrained first aider could operate the defibrillator.
  3. If no first aiders were available, an untrained member of the public could then use the defibrillator.

It should be noted that we would not prevent an untrained person from having a go. The defibrillators monitor a person's heart rate, and you cannot shock a person who does not need to be shocked.

If a person is faced with someone suspected of suffering a cardiac arrest, the following steps should be taken:

  1. Assess the person; open their airway.
  2. Send someone to call 999 for an ambulance immediately, and send someone else to fetch the nearest defibrillator.
  3. Start CPR. Once the defibrillator arrives, follow the instructions given to you by the defibrillator. It will need one person to maintain CPR, and one person to operate the defibrillator.
  4. Send someone to the front entrance of the building to meet the ambulance.

Defibrillator Training

For First Aiders interested in renewing their defibrillator training, please contact Health, Safety and Wellbeing.



Accidents involving electricity are usually very serious.

  1. All items of portable electrical equipment will be inspected every three years by a competent person.
  2. If you have any reason to believe that any portable equipment is damaged or defective, you should:
    • Unplug the equipment
    • Take steps to prevent anyone plugging it in again (eg. tape a warning sign over the plug)
    • Inform the Estates Office who will arrange to have it repaired by a competent person (Electrician)
  3. You should regularly look at the condition of electrical equipment you use. If you see anything that looks unsafe eg. a cracked plug, frayed wire, report it immediately so that it can be repaired by an appropriately trained and qualified person.
  4. Electrical equipment, apart from new equipment, should never be used in the Office without first being inspected and passed by a competent person. Electrical appliances brought from home should not be used until they have been inspected. Contact Estates Office to arrange inspection of any equipment.

Further information

Fire Safety

Fire is probably the greatest single safety related threat to members of staff. Even if everyone were to escape safely from the building, a fire could destroy facilities and documents. We should do as much as we can to prevent fire. If a fire should start, a fast and effective response can help save life and property. Please take a few moments to watch this short video on basic fire safety awareness.

Fire Prevention

The University’s no smoking policy eliminates one of the main ways in which a fire can start. Our systems for inspecting electrical equipment should reduce the chances of faulty electrical equipment being a source of fire. Other important precautions are:

  • Avoid accumulations of material, which might easily burn eg. waste paper, cardboard, and plastics, especially in corridors and stairwells
  • Do not obstruct the ventilation of electrical equipment or place material close to electrical appliances
  • Do not overload electrical sockets by connecting too many appliances to a single socket

How people are warned there is a fire

A siren sounds continuously throughout the building (the alarm will be actuated manually via the break glass fire alarm call points, or by operation of the fire detection system). In some classrooms a fire-crier system is in place which emits verbal instructions to occupants. In some areas with high background noise, such as workshops, flashing beacons are used as a visual indicator of an alarm.

Action on discovering a fire

If you discover a fire, it is important to take the following steps in the order given:

  • Sound the alarm by operating the nearest break glass fire alarm call point. No fire is too small for this. Fire alarm call points are situated in corridors or near fire doors into stairewells. A fire extinguisher should not be discharged until the alarm has been sounded.
  • Get someone to call the fire brigade by dialling 99 (or 9-999 from a University landline) and report the exact position of the fire if known.
  • Warn others in the vicinity. Shout fire and bang on doors!
  • Leave the building by the nearest fire exit and report to the Fire Marshal (wearing high visibility fluorescent vest) with information on the exact location of the fire and if any persons are injured or trapped before proceeding to the designated assembly point.

Action on hearing a fire alarm

If you hear the fire alarm:

  • Avoid putting yourself in any danger
  • Leave the building by the nearest exit and go to the designated assembly point closing all doors behind you. Departing staff should ensure that all office and communal areas are evacuated (bang loudly on any locked doors to ensure that nobody is inside).
    • Anyone clerking a meeting should ensure that all participants leave the building by the nearest exit and go to the assembly point
    • Students and visitors will be told to leave by the person in charge of the group or by a staff member
    • In centrally-timetabled areas, the person in charge must ensure that they are aware of the location of escape routes
    • The occupancy of buildings can vary daily, so an exact roll call may be impractical. It is vital that the premises are completely evacuated and the Fire Marshal informed of anyone who may still be in the building. If there is the slightest doubt, inform the Fire and Rescue Service on their arrival.
  • Nominated floor checkers should check all rooms and report to the person in charge who will be at the assembly point
  • Do not re-enter the building until the fire alarm has been silenced

Escape routes

Corridors and escape routes must be kept clear. Combustible materials should not be stored in corridors or on escape routes where they could become a source of fire and smoke. Furniture and other items should not be placed so they partially block escape routes as this will prevent people leaving the building quickly. In a corridor filled with smoke, furniture can create a serious obstacle.

Fire doors will help prevent the spread of smoke and fire through a building and make it easier for people to escape. They should therefore be kept closed at all times and never wedged open.

Fire drills and alarm tests

  • Fire drills are held in all the University buildings twice per year to test the efficiency of our evacuation arrangements.
  • The fire alarm is tested each week.

A quick guide for fire wardens

  • Avoid putting yourself in any danger
  • Working towards an exit you should check rooms and corridors in your designated area and instruct people to leave by the nearest exit
  • You should then leave by the nearest exit and liaise with the Fire Marshal (person wearing the high visibility fluorescent vest) at the main entrances reporting, to the best of your knowledge, the status of the evacuation in your designated area. If someone refuses to leave or if you cannot be sure that an area is clear, you should inform the Fire Marshal
  • You may then be asked to stand an outside door to prevent anyone from entering the building

A quick guide for fire marshals

  • Avoid putting yourself in any danger
  • On exit empty the fire information box in the foyer
  • Put on the high visibility fluorescent vest
  • Direct evacuees to designated assembly point
  • Delegate a member of staff to each entrance to prevent re-entry
  • If necessary delegate qualified First Aiders to look after casualties
  • Consult with evacuation team and members of staff to confirm their building area was emptying
  • Try to establish source of fire/alarm
  • Ensure emergency services have easy and fast access
  • Report to the emergency services on their arrival, passing on all relevant information which may include: location and nature of fire, potential hazards (floor plan), injuries, missing personnel
  • Permit re-entry to the building only with permission from the emergency services and after the alarms have been silenced

Further information


Noise is part of everyday life, but prolonged exposure to loud noise can permanently damage hearing.  Young or old, once someone loses their hearing they can never get it back.

Symptoms and early signs of hearing loss include

  • Conversation becoming difficult or impossible
  • Family members complaining about the television being too loud
  • Having trouble using the telephone
  • Finding it difficult to catch sounds like 't', 'd' and 's', so you confuse similar words
  • Permanent tinnitus (ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears) can also be caused

Generally hearing loss is gradual. By the time it is noticed it, it is probably too late. We aim instead to avoid exposure to levels of noise which could cause hearing loss.

Noise levels in the workplace require further investigation if people have to raise their voices to have a normal conversation when they are about 2 metres apart. Contact the University Safety Advisers who can arrange for a noise survey. Noise surveys should also be undertaken before hearing protection is provided so that we can confirm that the correct type of protection is being supplied.

Further information

Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive on the control of noise at work

Power Failure

Following a power failure affecting a University building, emergency lighting powered from batteries will switch on automatically.

The emergency lighting is expected to last for at least one hour. Its purpose is to illuminate exit routes from the building. It is not there to enable building occupants to remain in the building and continue working.

Read the Full guidance on actions to be taken following a power failure.

Vehicles and Equipment

Driving and Vehicles

All staff, students, contractors, delivery vehicles and visitors to the University must:

  • drive carefully
  • adhere to all directional signage and speed restrictions as displayed on campus
  • comply with instructions given by University staff (parking attendants)


Find out about the information on parking for staff and for visitors including the Parking Policy. Signs showing the Parking Regulations are displayed around the campus. By parking on campus you agree to comply with the posted regulations.


Members of staff MUST receive additional training before they drive minibuses.

To drive a minibus with up to 16 passenger seats on University business in the UK using a normal car driving licence a member of staff will need to

  • have passed his/her car driving test before 1st January 1997;
  • ensure that a "section 19 standard permit" is displayed on the vehicle;
  • have complete the necessary forms from the University's insurance office.

(Note: If the driver passed his/her driving test after the 1st January 1997 then it is not possible to drive a minibus on University business unless a further driving test is taken. It is also necessary for the driver to meet higher medical standards. Note also that arrangements outside the UK are very different. Those intending to take minibuses abroad, which includes the Republic of Ireland, should make careful enquiries.)


In addition, from 1st August 2005 the driver MUST have successfully completed an additional driver training course approved by the University as a condition of being allowed to drive a minibus. Drivers who have not completed an additional course will be driving without the University's permission and will not be covered by the University's insurance.

The University Safety Adviser maintains a list of providers of approved training courses and should be contacted for details.

SECTION 19 STANDARD PERMITS (or "minibus permits")

These are issued by Traffic Area Offices and must be displayed on minibuses being driven on University business. Permits issued after 6th April 2009 will show an expiry date.  Permits issued before 6th April 2009 are now time limited and will expire in April 2014.


Meeting all the requirements to enable someone to drive a minibus can involve a lot of work.  Have you considered hiring two people carriers (with up to 8 passenger seats) instead of a minibus?  These can be driven on a standard car driving licence with no need for further driver training or permits. This option should always be considered.


 See our Use of Drones Policy and Guidance.

Machinery Safety

It has long been established that precautions should be taken to protect the dangerous parts of machinery. Standards of guarding which are expected are also well established. That machinery is being used in a research or teaching environment can never be a reason for not taking precautions and for not guarding dangerous parts of machinery.

Neither can it be argued that 'skilled operators' do not need their machines to be suitably guarded. Appropriate guarding standards for workshop machines have been known and documented for decades and must always be implemented and used. All machines should be the subject of a risk assessment to identify the potential hazards and evaluate the effectiveness of the safeguards provided.

The following checklist shows some of the issues that should be covered when making such an assessment.

  • How could people be hurt? For example, from sharp edges, traps, rotating parts, cleaning, maintenance.
  • How obvious are the hazards?
  • Under what circumstances will  access be needed to the dangerous parts of a machine? Consider both normal operation of the machinery and 'abnormal' circumstances- e.g. maintenance, repair, attending to blockages.
  • How often might this be needed? How close to the dangerous parts do people need to get? And how long does the process take?
  • Is the machinery running or isolated at the time? Are there likely to be any other particular hazards at the time?
  • How easy is it to approach the danger area?
  • How far is access restricted by guarding or position?
  • To what extent can access be gained by removing or defeating safeguards?
  • Do the operators have the skills and motivation to take the full precautions that are necessary to avoid risk or injury?
  • Is human error likely to create a danger?
  • How can the risks be minimised?
  • What controls are used to ensure that precautions are maintained?
Lifting Equipment

Lifting equipment includes any equipment used for lifting or lowering loads, including attachments used for anchoring, fixing or supporting loads. Safety legislation covers a wide range of lifting equipment including, cranes, fork-lift trucks, lifts, hoists, mobile elevating work platforms, and vehicle inspection platform hoists as well as lifting accessories such as chains, slings, eyebolts.

Lifting equipment should be used only be competent people who have been authorised to use it. There should be a regime in place for ensuring the equipment is fit for purpose and that it is being regularly inspected (with certificates of inspection being readily available). Any use of the equipment for lifting operations should be properly planned and supervised.

Further information


Hand-arm vibration comes from the use of hand-held power tools and can cause long-term painful damage to your hands and fingers.

Read Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive on vibration.

Pressure Systems

If pressure equipment fails in use, it can seriously injure or kill people nearby and cause serious damage to property.

Principal causes of incidents are:

  • poor equipment and/or system design;
  • poor maintenance of equipment;
  • an unsafe system of work;
  • operator error, poor training/supervision;
  • poor installation; and
  • inadequate repairs or modifications.

The main hazards are:

  • impact from the blast of an explosion or release of compressed liquid or gas;
  • impact from parts of equipment that fail or any flying debris;
  • contact with the released liquid or gas, such as steam; and
  • fire resulting from the escape of flammable liquids or gases

Pressure equipment in the University is likely to be either

  • Part of equipment which is supplied onto the open market (e.g. an autoclave, a compressor); or
  • Equipment which has been manufactured for a specific application either within the University or by a contractor (e.g. for specialised equipment to be used in research).

In the former case, the equipment will be supplied with documentation showing that it has been inspected and certified by the supplier. Thereafter it will need to be inspected at intervals determined by the University's insurance inspector. The equipment should be registered with the inspector as soon as possible after receipt.

In the later case, arrangements must be made for the equipment to be inspected and certified by a competent person before it is put into use. It should be inspected at regular intervals thereafter by the insurance inspector.

Further information


The major hazards associated with centrifuges are:

  • Physical contact between the operator and the rotating head
  • Mechanical breakage of rotors caused by corrosion or use in excess of manufacturer's recommended limits
  • Severe vibration caused by an unbalanced rotor.

A rotor can be subject to the stresses which occur in high speed aircraft. The periphery of a 10cm rotor travelling at 50,000 rpm is travelling at over 1,100 miles per hour. The rotor is stressed by every acceleration / deceleration cycle and undergoes measurable stretching each time it accelerates.  Mechanical breakage of unbalanced rotors and the vibration resulting from an unbalanced rotor can cause extensive and expensive damage as well as having potential to cause severe injury to anyone in the same room as the centrifuge.

To prevent injury centrifuges should be

  1. Used in the correct manner and
  2. Regularly inspected and maintained.

Note: The formation of aerosols when samples of infectious material are centrifuged may also be a hazard and may require the use of sealed centrifuge buckets.

Correct use of centrifuges

  1. Centrifuges may be operated only by authorised people (records should be held of those who are authorised)
  2. The centrifuge lid must be closed whenever the rotor is in motion and must be interlocked so it cannot be opened when the rotor is in motion
  3. Do not stop the rotor by hand or indirectly by the application of an implement to the rotor. Stop the centrifuge by returning the control to zero, not by switching off the power supply.
  4. If there is any indication of malfunction, stop the machine immediately and contact the person designated as having responsibility for the centrifuge.
  5. Follow the manufacturer's instructions, particularly regarding balancing tolerances and operating speeds for different rotors. Note that balancing by volume is not suitable for dense solutions (e.g. sucrose must not be balanced with the same volume of water)
  6. Before starting a run, inspect the rotor and tube caps for signs of corrosion or cracks. Never use faulty parts
  7. Ensure that the outsides of containers are clear and free of drops of liquid before placing them into the rotors (the drops of liquid could be a cause of corrosion). If any liquid is spilt into a centrifuge or onto a rotor it is crucial that it is removed immediately and the equipment cleaned using an appropriate method.
  8. Never leave a centrifuge while it is accelerating. Many faults occur during the acceleration phase of a run.  If you are present, you can immediately turn the machine off.
  9. Always fill in the log book, giving all the details required. The replacement times for rotors and drive mechanisms are calculated from the data in the log book.
  10. Always clean and dry the rotor and the centrifuge carefully after use. It is important to remove all traces of materials that could promote corrosion or stress cracking. Mild detergent (e.g. Teepol), possibly with gentle brushing, is all that is required for cleaning. Avoid scratching a rotor.
  11. Always leave the lid "ajar" when the centrifuge is not in use.
  12. If you are unfamiliar with the operation of any machine, seek assistance.

Inspection and maintenance of centrifuges

  1. Someone should have overall responsibility for co-ordinating the regular inspection and maintenance of the centrifuges in the department. He/she should assign a nominated person to be responsible for each centrifuge.
  2. The nominated person will ensure that inspection of the centrifuge (and in particular the rotor) takes place at predetermined intervals and that the equipment is maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Where records are required of rotor use, the nominated person will be responsible for keeping the records.

It is a legal requirement that all autoclaves, regardless of size, are periodically examined by a person who is competent to assess their suitability for continued safe use.

We use Allianz Cornhill Engineering to examine our autoclaves. The examinations which they carry out for us are coordinated by Estates however individual Schools remain responsible for ensuring that their autoclaves are examined at appropriate intervals. The following actions should be taken to achieve this.

  1. Schools should have copies on file of reports of examination for each of their autoclaves. A report will state the date beyond which the autoclave must not be operated without a further examination. An autoclave should not be used unless the School has an in-date report showing that the autoclave is suitable for further service.

  2. Schools should have copies of the "written scheme of examination" for each of their autoclaves. This is a document which specifies the frequency of examination, the parts to be examined and the examination methods. These written schemes are usually prepared by Allianz Cornhill Engineering but copies must be held by Schools. The reference number of each written scheme is recorded on the report of the examination. Copies of written schemes can be obtained from the surveyor from Allianz Cornhill Engineering when he next visits to carry out an examination of an autoclave.

  3. Schools should ensure that Allianz Cornhill Engineering are informed of any new autoclaves as soon as they are delivered so that they can be incorporated into the examination schedule. Contact Malcolm Scott in Estates with details of new autoclaves and he will inform Allianz Cornhill Engineering.

Contact the University Safety Adviser, if further advice or assistance with autoclave safety is needed.



Occupational asthma is an allergic reaction that can occur in some people when they are exposed to substances in the workplace.

These substances are called 'respiratory sensitizers' or asthmagens. They can cause a change in people’s airways, known as the 'hypersensitive state'.

Not everyone who becomes sensitised goes on to get asthma. But once the lungs become hypersensitive, further exposure to the substance, even at quite low levels, may trigger an attack.

There area  wide range of substances encountered in University research laboratories as well as in the Support Services which can cause occupational asthma.

Particular care is needed when working with these substances and expert advice should always be obtained.

Further information

Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive on occupational asthma

Biological Hazards

Further information

See ' Transport of Dangerous Goods' in our H&S Index for guidance on the packaging of infectious materials and Genetically Modified Organisms for shipment off-site

Health and Safety Executive Biosafety Links:

Chemical Hazards

Read our guidance document

Chemical Weapons

Some toxic chemicals and their precursors are controlled by law because they could be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons.  The University is obliged to keep records of our use of these chemicals and to make annual returns to the UK Government.

The chemicals which are controlled are listed in three separate Schedules (1, 2 and 3) on the Department of Energy and Climate Change's website.


  1. You must have agreed with the University Safety Adviser what record keeping requirements are required before you hold stocks of Schedule 2 and Schedule 3 chemicals
  2. You must have obtained a licence from the UK Government before you can hold stocks of chemicals listed Schedule 1.
  3. There are restrictions on the inport and export of Schedule 2 and 3 chemicals from/to countries which are not party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. These countries are Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea, South Sudan, Syria. Contact the University Safety Advisers before importing or exporting any Schedule 2 or 3 chemicals.
Compressed Gases

 The main hazards associated with cylinders of compressed gas are:

  • Those related to the explosive release of energy stored in a cylinder in event of an uncontrolled discharge (cylinders can become jet propelled)
  • Those related to the mass of the cylinder (cylinders are tall, thin and heavy; they can inflict damage and injury if they fall over)
  • Those related to the properties of the gas stored in the cylinder (e.g. flammable, asphyxiating, toxic, corrosive, oxidant)

To prevent them becoming a source of harm, cylinders should be

  1. Stored correctly
  2. Moved correctly
  3. Used correctly

Storage of cylinders

  1. All cylinders not in use (i.e. not connected to equipment) should be stored outside the building in the cylinder store
  2. Someone should be appointed as responsible for the cylinder store. He/she should ensure that access to the store is controlled and that it is kept locked when access is not required
  3. Cylinders in the store are correctly secured in a vertical position (acetylene and propane in particular should never under any circumstances be placed horizontally either in storage or in use) 4) Cylinders in the store are segregated in accordance with industry guidelines (to help limit the consequences in event of a leak of gas or a fire) stock is rotated so that oldest stock is used first 5) Nothing is kept in the store (other than cylinders).

Movement of cylinders

  1. Cylinders must be transported only when secured vertically in a cylinder trolley
  2. Within the cylinder store and in the laboratory cylinders should be "milk churned" to get them into position.  Cylinders must never be rolled along the ground.
  3. Cylinders should not be transported with the pressure regulator attached unless on a trolley specifically designed for this purpose.
  4. While moving cylinders out of the store or into position in the laboratory, always keep unsecured vertical cylinders under your direct control - never turn your back on a free standing cylinder. The consequences of it falling over can be severe.
  5. Anyone handling gas cylinders should wear protective footwear and industrial gloves
  6. If a lift is used to move cylinders between floors, a system must be employed to ensure that a cylinder is never in a lift with a lift passenger. Cylinders must always travel unaccompanied in lifts. A leak in any type of cylinder could cause the air in a lift car to become unbreathable.  If this were to happen while a lift was stuck between floors, the consequences could be fatal. Anyone who has seen the bursting disc of a carbon dioxide cylinder fail (and it can happen without warning) will know how rapidly carbon dioxide can flood out of a cylinder and would not want to have been in a confined space with the cylinder with no immediate means of escape.

Use of cylinders

  1. All cylinders in a laboratory must be mounted vertically on a stand or secured to the bench or to the wall. Acetylene and propane must never be used or stored in a horizontal position.
  2. Cylinders should be fitted with a regulator valve of the correct type (e.g. it is not safe to fit a nitrogen regulator to an oxygen cylinder). The cylinder key should be secured to the gauge so it is always available to enable an emergency cut off.
  3. Regulators should be replaced every five years (from date of manufacture) regardless of the amount of use they have received
  4. Do not use excessive force on valves and gauges. If a cylinder valve cannot be opened readily, it should be returned to the supplier.
  5. Never use oil or grease on any part of a valve or regulator. Do not use PTFE tape on any part of a compressed gas system. If a gas tight seal cannot be obtained, change the fittings.
  6. Always open valves slowly. Rapid opening may result in an explosion.
  7. Check your equipment regularly for leaks. Always use the proprietary liquids which are intended for detecting leaks. (Do not get into the habit of using soap and water.  Some soaps contain fats which react violently with oxygen.)
  8. Regulator valves are not intended for use with low flow rates and low back pressures. Always use a needle valve to control gas flow from the low pressure side.  These can be obtained from "BOC" as FINE CONTROL VALVES, the thread depending on the gas to be controlled.
  9. All connections should be secure; a "jubilee" clip is ideal. A safety valve of some form is advisable to prevent high pressure being applied to your apparatus.
  10. Gas supplies feeding a source of ignition (e.g. a welding or glass working torch) must be fitted with non-return valves or explosion preventers.
  11. After use, always shut off the gas at the cylinder valve, and release the pressure in the gauges before finally shutting all valves. Do not rely on the regulator to stop the gas flow for more than brief periods.
  12. Understand the hazardous properties of the compressed gases you are using (e.g. flammability, toxicity).
Cryogenic Fluids

The hazards arising from the use of low temperature liquefied gases (cryogenic fluids) are:

  • Asphyxiation from oxygen deficient atmospheres (This is a problem particularly in poorly ventilated areas);
  • Cold burns from the intense cold (The damage to the skin is similar to that caused by heat burns. The eyes are particularly vulnerable to damage.);
  • Overpressurisation from the large volume expansion ratio from liquid to gas on evaporation.;
  • Explosion of vials stored in liquid nitrogen if the cap on the vial leaks - see guidance
  • Fire in oxygen enriched atmospheres (While obviously a problem with liquid oxygen, it can also be a problem with liquid helium and sometimes with liquid nitrogen. Near the surface of the cryogenic fluid is possible for oxygen to be condensed from the atmosphere causing localised oxygen enrichment.);
  • The effects of very low temperatures on materials, (For example, normally ductile materials can become brittle and methods of jointing need careful consideration because of possible differential rates of contraction.)

Asphyxiation hazards

The ratio of volume of gas to volume of liquid for low temperature liquefied gases can be relatively high.  At 15 oC and 101.3 kPa the ratios are:
Nitrogen 682
Helium 738
Argon 822

Thus 1 litre of liquid nitrogen will produce 682 litres of gas. Air normally contains 20.9% oxygen. If liquid nitrogen is spilled in a room it is possible for an oxygen deficient atmosphere to be produced which can be hazardous to anyone in the room. Oxygen deficiency initially leads to loss of mental alertness and distortion of judgement and performance. This happens within a relatively short time, without the person's knowledge and without prior warning.

Oxygen content
(Vol %)

Effects and symptoms
(at atmospheric pressure)

14-20.9 Increasing pulse rate and tiredness
11-14 Diminution of physical and intellectual performance without person's knowledge
8-11 Possibility of fainting after a short period without prior warning.
6-8 Fainting within a few minutes; resuscitation possible if carried out immediately.
0-6 Fainting almost immediately, death ensues; brain damage even if rescued

It is important therefore that cryogenic fluids which could give rise to oxygen deficient atmospheres are stored and used in adequately ventilated rooms.  In determining whether ventilation is adequate consideration should be given to:

  • Normal evaporation of the cryogenic fluids in the room;
  • Filling losses from filling vessels from a warm condition;
  • Spillage of the contents of the largest container in the room or boiling off due to failures such as loss of vacuum insulation or rupture of a bursting disc.
  • The following simple calculation can be used to establish a threshold for the amount of liquid nitrogen held in a room beneath which it is unlikely to be necessary to investigate further the possibility of an oxygen deficient atmosphere developing:
    • 1 litre of liquid nitrogen can produce up to approximately 700 litres of nitrogen gas.  As a rule of thumb, a spillage or instantaneous release of 1/7th litre of liquid nitrogen per cubic metre of room volume, even in an unventilated room, may be dismissed as it will reduce the oxygen content by only 2%.
    • Above this threshold more detailed scrutiny will needed and the adequacy and reliability of the ventilation in the room assessed. Ventilation should prevent oxygen content falling below 18%. If ventilation is not adequate consideration should be given to the use of oxygen monitors. (It should also be remembered that cold nitrogen gas will be heavier than air and may accumulate at a low level.)
    • Even if a room is adequately ventilated, consideration should be given to the possibility of a failure of the ventilation system and whether those working in the room would be aware of the failure. Installation of alarms to indicate failure of ventilation or, in some circumstances, installation of oxygen monitors might be necessary.

Use of cryogenic fluids

  1. No one should work with cryogenic fluids until they have been thoroughly instructed and trained in the nature of the hazards and the precautions to be taken. The hazards associated with cryogenic fluids will not be readily apparent to someone who has not received appropriate training.
  2. If contact with the cryogenic fluid is possible, goggles (or preferably a full face visor) must be worn. Other protective clothing should be worn depending on the risk associated with the work. Clothing should be non-absorbent and not have features which could trap a spillage of fluid (e.g. open pockets, turn-ups on trousers). Trousers should be worn outside boots. Watches and jewellery which could trap cryogenic fluid close to the skin should not be worn.If gloves are worn they should ideally by "Cryo-gloves". (These are gloves which are specially designed for low temperature work. If other gloves are used they should be non-absorbent leather gloves and they should be a loose fit so they can easily be removed if fluid should splash into them. Sleeves should cover the ends of the gloves. Gauntlet gloves should not be used as they increase the likelihood of a spillage going into the glove. Those working with cryogenic fluids must be aware of the first aid treatment for cold burns
  3. Cryogenic fluids should be dispensed only into vessels of a type which have been designed for use with the particular fluids concerned. The vessels must have vented lids (unless they are of the self-pressurised type in which case they should be fitted with safety relief valves). The lid on a vessel should be secured down only if the securing method is integral to the manufacturer's design of the lid and permits the vessel to vent even when the lid is secured in place. Vessels should be clearly labelled to identify the cryogenic fluid which they contain.
  4. When using liquid oxygen it is vital to ensure that equipment is scrupulously clean as dirt, oil or grease can pose a serious fire or explosion hazard. Any jointing materials must also be oxygen compatible. When using other cryogenic fluids it is good practice to use oxygen compatible materials in these cases as well.
  5. Materials used in experiments involving cryogenic fluids must be chosen with care. The most significant considerations are that of brittle fracture and ensuring that joints are suitable for the temperatures which will be established.

Storage of bulk stocks of cryogenic fluids

1. Someone should be responsible for ensuring that

  • the storage areas are maintained in a satisfactory condition
  • adequate ventilation is provided
  • if necessary, oxygen monitors are installed and maintained according to manufacturer's recommendations
  • necessary personal protective equipment is available
  • appropriate warning notices are posted
  •  containers used for storage are suitable for purpose and are maintained in good condition

2. A face visor and appropriate gloves must be worn when dispensing from or otherwise handling bulk stocks.

3. If an oxygen monitor is fitted there should be arrangements for its operation which should include a prohibition on entering the area if the alarm has activated and a requirement to leave the area immediately if the alarm should activate. Staff must receive training so they know the action to take should the alarm activate.

Transport of cryogenic fluids

Cryogenic fluids must never be transported in lifts accompanied by people. They must always travel unaccompanied. A lift cage is a confined space.  If the lift were to become trapped between floors for a period it is possible that rapid evaporation of the fluid due to failure of the container could cause the air to become unbreathable.

Fume Cupboards

Fume cupboards are intended to keep harmful substances away from the person using fume cupboard and away from other users of the laboratory. The cupboard will do this effectively only if:

  1. It is used in the correct manner and
  2. It is regularly maintained

Use of a fume cupboard

  1. Fume cupboards should be used only for experimental work and not as storage areas. Use for storage will interfere with the air flow within the cupboard and will increase the likelihood of harmful substances being released from the cupboard into the laboratory. If there were to be an accident, the presence of stored chemicals in the cupboard would increase the risks. No one should carry out an experiment in a fume cupboard that is being used as a store.
  2. Do not set up equipment close to the front edge of the fume cupboard. This will increase the likelihood of turbulent flow in the air stream being drawn in at the front of the cupboard. Turbulent flow can result in "eddies" in the air stream with a consequently greater risk of harmful substances being released into the laboratory. As general guide, equipment should be set back at least 150mm from the plane of the sash. Equipment should not be put so far back that it obstructs the extract slot at the bottom of the back of the cupboard (or so far back that the operator has to put his/her head in the fume cupboard to operate the equipment!).
  3. Avoid unnecessary clutter. Large objects such as safety screens, ovens, trays etc will all cause turbulence in the air being drawn across the base of the cupboard. The effect can be minimised by raising all large objects about 50mm above the base of the cupboard with blocks.
  4. Avoid rapid movements in front of and within the fume cupboard. Any sudden movement is liable to disturb the air flow and allow harmful substances to escape
  5. Fume cupboards are not designed for work with micro-organisms. Microbiological safety cabinets must be used for work with hazardous micro-organisms.

Maintenance of fume cupboards

The best designed and engineered installation will cease to perform effectively if not maintained on a regular basis. It is a legal requirement that all fume cupboards are maintained and that their performance is measured at least every 14 months. Inspection and maintenance is carried out in accordance with the relevant British Standard.

1. Someone should be responsible for ensuring that

  • fume cupboards in the School are inspected and maintained
  • records are kept of inspection and maintenance and certificates provided by maintenance contractors are kept on file
  • face velocities are marked on the cupboards. (Face velocity is the speed at which air is drawn in through the front of the fume cupboard.)
  • any fume cupboard which is not inspected on schedule or which fails its inspection is taken out of use.

2. Every 12 months contractors arranged by Estates will

  • check the condition of services to the fume cupboard and the functioning of any alarms and controls
  • carry out a face velocity test and record the face velocity and the date of measurement on a label on the outside of the fume cupboard.
  • carry out a detailed check on the condition of the fan
  • check the stability and condition of the discharge stack
  • check and clean duct work as is necessary
  • check that the make up air into the laboratory is satisfactory
  • provide a certificate of inspection
Highly Flammable Liquids

Highly flammable liquids (HFLs) should be treated carefully so

  • They do not become a source of fire
  • They do not fuel an existing fire

A HFL is a liquid with a flash point below 32 deg C (The flash point of a liquid is the lowest temperature at which the liquid gives off vapour in sufficient concentration to form a combustible mixture with air near the surface of the liquid.) The flash points of some common laboratory solvents are:

  • ethanol +12 deg C
  • toluene +4 deg C
  • acetone-19 deg C
  • carbon disulphide -30 deg C
  • diethyl ether -45 deg C

As the flash points of all these liquids are below room temperature the liquids will always constitute a major fire and explosion hazard. The last three liquids have flash points below the temperatures which may be found in a refrigerator or freezer and will therefore constitute an explosion hazard even when in cold storage.

Bulk stocks

  1. Bulk stocks of HFLs must be kept in the solvent store
  2. Entry to the store should be restricted to authorised keyholders
  3. Bottles of HFLs should be issued only to people with sealed bottle carriers capable of containing the contents of the bottle in event of spillage. The bottle carriers must be used to transport the HFLs to the laboratory.

Laboratory stocks

  1. The total volume of HFLs in any laboratory or room in the department (other than the designated bulk solvent store) must be kept as low as possible and under no circumstances must it exceed 50 litres.  (The 50 litre limit is set by legislation.)
  2. All HFLs in a laboratory must be stored in specially designed and approved fire resisting cabinets.(Ordinary metal storage cabinets are not acceptable.)  Cabinets should be located away from exits from the laboratory. Cabinets must be conspicuously marked with the approved labels to indicate that they contain HFLs. Cabinets should be used only for solvents and never for oxidants, acids, alkalis or other materials which could react with the solvents or cause corrosion of the cabinets. HFLs should not be stored on the open bench or in fume cupboards.
  3. Bottles of HFLs temporarily removed from their storage cabinets should not be left on the open bench in direct sunlight. (Even in Aberdeen during the winter a relatively short period in sunlight can be enough to break a bottle through the build up of pressure caused by the heating effect of the sunlight.)

Refrigerator storage

  1. If it is necessary to place HFLs in a refrigerator or freezer it is essential that a special refrigerator / freezer is used. It must be spark proofed and protected against an explosion. Even a very small amount of HFL in an ordinary refrigerator or freezer can create an explosive atmosphere which can then be ignited by a very low energy spark (e.g. from a thermostat). The consequences can be devastating. It is very likely that the resulting explosion will, at the very least, completely destroy the laboratory containing the refrigerator or freezer. Even in a protected refrigerator the HFLs must be kept in closed containers impervious to the solvent concerned. (Many plastics are not suitable.)
  2. All refrigerators, freezers and cold rooms which are not spark proofed must be labelled with a sign indicating that they are not suitable for storage of any HFL (in either open or closed containers). Even if the flash point of the liquid is above that of the working temperature inside the refrigerator, storage is still not permitted. If the cooling system were to fail, the temperature could rise above the flash point and an explosive atmosphere could result.

Empty bottles

Empty bottles which once contained HFLs should be handled and stored as carefully as full bottles as they may contain explosive vapours.

Work with Highly Flammable Liquids

  1. Those working with HFLs must be aware of the flash points of the liquids and must take care to exclude ignition sources from the work area. The risk assessment for the work must address how this will be done.
  2. In deciding what might be a possible source of ignition, note must be taken of the autoignition temperature of the HFL. (The autoignition temperature is the minimum temperature required to initiate combustion.)  It is not only sparks and naked flames which can be a source of ignition. If the vapour of the HFL comes into contact with a surface at a temperature in excess of the autoignition temperature, the vapour can ignite.  The autoignition temperatures of two common solvents are:
  • carbon disulphide 100 deg C
  • diethyl ether 160 deg C
  • Carbon disulphide vapour can ignite if it comes into contact with pipes carrying super-heated steam. The temperature of the element of a heating mantle or the surface of a hot plate will be higher than the autoignition temperature of diethyl ether.

Further information

Guidance on the operation of solvent stores

Transport of Dangerous Goods

Visit the University's dedicated Waste web pages.

Useful Links

  • Health and Safety Executive home page
  • Leaflets about hazards at work- the text of a wide range of HSE leaflets on workplace hazards covering topics from Agriculture to Zoonoses
  • HSE Workers web page - covering the roles and responsibilities of employers and workers, problems in the workplace, making complaints (including whistle blowing), reporting accidents, contact points and further information

Health and safety data sheets (sometimes referred to as "MSDS" - material safety data sheets)