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Chemical Services > Health and Safety

When you think about them, the words "Healthy", and "Safe" describe conditions we would all wish for ourselves, whether at work or at play. Interestingly though, these can often be the last things we think about, unless of course we are paid to think about them, or until after an incident has occurred!

The importance of health and safety, especially in the workplace cannot be over-emphasized. This is true for both employers, who must show a duty of care to their employees as well as satisfying legislative requirements, and employees, who work with substances or materials which have the potential to cause harm. 

Each profession can be expected to have issues of health and safety associated with materials they use that are particular to the kind of work being carried out. For example:

  • The crime scene examiner who uses aluminium flake to dust for fingerprints will be exposed to the very fine particles of this material in the air around the surface being dusted


  • The technician in the police fingerprint development laboratory will be exposed to reagents such as ninhydrin, and organic solvents used in revealing invisible fingerprints


  • Students and their tutors will be exposed to a wide range of substances whilst pursuing chemical or biological practical investigations in school and university laboratories


  • Motor engineers and mechanics will be exposed to oils and greases and aggressive degreasing materials when carrying out vehicle repairs and maintenance in the garage

Health and Safety at Work

To remain healthy and safe whilst at work, whilst handling hazardous or dangerous substances, you need to know:

What substances you and others can become exposed to
What it is about the substances that has the potential to
cause harm
How you might become exposed to the substances
How exposure will affect your health
What steps to take to minimize and control the risk of
exposure
What to do if or when you have been exposed
How to record and monitor any exposure and its effects on
your health
How to keep others informed

Getting answers to these issues involves gathering information and carrying out a risk assessment.

Material Safety Data Sheets

If you know which substances you use, details about their hazardous properties, how you might become exposed, and the possible effects of exposure, can each be obtained from material safety data sheets (MSDS). These are normally provided by the supplier of any substance purchased from them. Information about other sources of MSDS, and examples of their use can be found on the Material Safety Data Sheets page on this site.  Go there ...

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (SI 2677) set out what an employer must do to ensure the health and safety of employees working with hazardous substances. So once you have obtained safety data, you use it to inform an assessment of risks, and in the UK, to meet the requirements of the COSHH Regulations. The full Regulations can be viewed at the Office of Public Sector Information web site: HERE. (new window)

A full, worked example of a COSHH assessment can be found on further pages of this site.
Go there ...

Key Legislation

There are several key pieces of legislation which set out the legal framework relating to chemical substances. These include:

The (COSHH) Control of Substances Hazardous to Health
Regulations 2002 No. 2677

The (DSEAR) Dangerous Substances and Explosive
Atmospheres Regulations 2002 No. 2776

The (CHIP) Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for
Supply) Regulations 2009 No. 716

The (REACH) Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and
Restriction of Chemicals Enforcement Regulations 2008
No. 2852

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Indeed, there are many other regulations which apply for example to the manufacture, carriage, supply, and uses of all manner of chemical substances such as explosives, fireworks, drugs, human and veterinary medicines, foodstuffs and drinks, biocides, radioactive materials, and substances subject to customs duties.

Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres

Dangerous substances are those defined as substances or mixtures of substances classified as explosive, oxidising, extremely flammable, highly flammable, or flammable under the current CHIP Regulations. So, if the substances you are using are dangerous - because they are flammable or explosive or form explosive mixtures in the air - then there may also be a need to assess these under DSEAR, which include considerations not covered under COSHH.
The full Regulations can be viewed at the Office of Public Sector Information web site:
HERE. (new window)

Further information is given in our DSEAR page.
Go there ...

The Health and Safety Executive

In the UK, both practical advice, and help with meeting the various legislative requirements regarding health and safety are available directly from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Go there ... 


Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations

The CHIP [Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply)] Regulations 2009, deal with the marketing of dangerous substances and preparations. CHIP is aimed at suppliers of hazardous / dangerous substances and requires suppliers of chemicals to:

Decide whether the substances are dangerous
State in what way they are dangerous
Clearly label, and package the products properly

The full Regulations can be viewed at the Office of Public Sector Information web site:
HERE. (new window)

REACH Regulations

The (REACH) Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals Enforcement Regulations 2008 has several key aims:

To provide a high level of protection of both human health
and the environment from the use of chemicals
To make the people who place chemicals on the market
responsible for understanding and managing the risks
associated with their use
To permit the free movement of substances on the
European market
To promote innovation and competitiveness in the European
chemicals industry
To promote alternative methods for the assessment of the
hazardous properties of substances

The full Regulations can be viewed at the Office Of Public Sector Information web site:
HERE. (pdf file;new window)

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