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Last edited 16 Sep 2021
Many workplaces include hazardous substances (solids, liquids or gases) exposure to which can have negative affects on the body through contact with the skin, inhalation or ingestion. Exposure to hazardous substances can result in short or long term health effects. This includes serious health problems such as cancer, asthma and dermatitis.
Hazardous substances may include:
- Flowers, fruits, vegetables and bulbs, which can cause dermatitis.
- Working for prolonged periods with water and cleaning agents, which can cause dermatitis.
- Prolonged contact with wet cement which can lead to chemical burns or dermatitis.
- Dusty or fumy conditions which can cause lung diseases.
- Paint, glue, ink, lubricant, detergent and beauty products.
However, if the substances are used in the correct manner, potential ill health caused by them should be preventable.
There is a common law duty placed on all employers to protect employees and members of the public as well as general health and safety legislation that is applicable to employers and workplaces. There is also the specific legislation of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).
Under this legislation, hazardous substances are classified as toxic, very toxic, corrosive, harmful or irritant. They include those substances that are allocated a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL), large quantities of dust and certain biological agents that are used in the workplace.
Individuals that are at risk from hazardous substances include anyone who works with or is exposed to them. Individuals exposed for prolonged periods are generally more at risk than others. The groups of people that could have a higher risk of exposure to hazardous substances include:
- Bakery workers – The dust found in bakeries along with flour can result in irritation to the eyes and nose along with skin problems and asthma.
- Cleaners – Typical cleaning products can result in burns and skin irritations.
- Welders – Fumes from welding can cause damage to the lungs.
- Garage workers – Many products found within a garage including greases, solvents, oils and paints, along with exposure to exhaust fumes can damage health.
- Healthcare workers – Infections can be caused by exposure to biological agents.
- Hazardous substances consent – required when certain quantities of hazardous substances are present.
- Consideration during the preparation of Local Plans.
- Appropriate consideration of development proposals near hazardous installations.
NB Water for life and livelihoods, River basin management plans, Glossary, Published by the Environment Agency in 2016, defines hazardous substances as: ‘…any substance or group of substances that are toxic, persistent and liable to bio-accumulate. The Joint Agencies Groundwater Directive Advisory Group (JAGDAG) provide a mechanism for making UK wide determinations and compile a UK list of hazardous substances.’
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Approved Document C.
- Bird deterrent programmes.
- Business HAZMAT plans.
- Construction dust.
- Construction health risks.
- Construction waste.
- Contaminated land.
- Definition of waste: Code of practice.
- Deleterious materials.
- Designing to reduce the chemical, biological and radiological vulnerability of new buildings (IP 7/15).
- Hazardous waste.
- Health and safety.
- Health and Safety Executive.
- Inspections focus on occupational lung disease.
- Local plan.
- Personal protective equipment.
- Planning (Hazardous Substances) Act 1990.
- Principal contractor.
- Priority substances.
- Registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals REACH.
- Reporting accidents and injuries on construction sites.
- Risk assessment.
- Risk of rats in construction.
- Site storage.
- Site waste management plan.
- Volatile organic compounds.
- Waste water treatment research in Alborz.
- What is a hazard?
- Workplace exposure limits.
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