Person in white coat and blue gloves putting liquid in a glass beaker in a lab


Safe usage of chemicals and other hazardous substances while at the University.

Using chemicals or other hazardous substances at work or during your studies can put people's health at risk, controlling exposure to hazardous substances to prevent ill health is key to effectively managing these hazardous substances. The University has a duty to protect staff, students, and others who may be exposed to these hazardous substances also know as (COSHH).



Chemicals and hazardous substances which could harm your health are commonly used throughout the University. Example of these substances may be dusts, gases or fumes that you breathe in, or liquids, gels or powders that you may come into contact with. Work, learning and research at the University may involve working directly with chemicals and harmful substances, however these can also be present even if you do not directly use them and are contained in many everyday items such as cleaners, dusts, solder fume, or biohazardous material such as blood or waste.


COSHH materials may pose a range of risks impacting your health. Some substances may cause asthma or other diseases, while some may damage your skin or eyes, and others can cause serious long-term damage to lungs. Effects may be instantaneous, or take many years to take effect. Many long term or chronic effects cannot be cured once they have developed which is why it is important that we control these effectively and the risks these substances pose are adequately controlled in line with the COSHH regulations. This is done through various ways such as training, information, supervision and instruction.


Hazardous Substances are regulated by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) which places duties on organisations to ensure they effectively manage hazardous substances.

Application of COSHH

COSHH applies to virtually all substances hazardous to health, specifically these are: 


  1. Gases which act as simple asphyxiants
  2. Biological agents and micro-organisms

  3. Preparations and mixtures

  4. Dusts

  5. Substances which have been assigned a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL)

  6. Any substance not mentioned above which creates a hazard to health

  7. Generally, those which are classified as being:


  • Very toxic
  • Toxic
  • Harmful
  • Irritant
  • Corrosive
  • Sensitising
  • Carcinogenic
  • Mutagenic
  • Toxic to reproduction (teratogenic)


COSHH Does Not Apply to:

The following hazardous substances are subject to separate specific legislation and do not fall under COSHH:


COSHH Policy

This policy is designed to ensure the safe use, storage, transport, handling and disposal of substances classified under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, setting out the standards and arrangements for the management of their use. It is intended to ensure that the University is compliant with the requirements of legislation and sets out procedures on how to achieve safe environments for University staff, students, contractors and visitors.


The Policy is applicable to all University staff, students, visitors and contractors who, whilst on University owned and controlled property, or use substances in connection with the University as classified under COSHH or frequent areas where such substances are in use.


View a digital copy of:

Our COSHH Policy

Chemical Inventory Protocols

The Chemical Inventory (CI) Protocol has been introduced to help provide suitable arrangements for the management of hazardous substances throughout the University. The expectation for the Chemical Inventory Protocol is that a chemical inventory should exist for each Laboratory or area that stores chemicals or uses hazardous substances and that a member of staff is identified to be responsible for its upkeep. 


The protocol ensures that chemicals are categorised by hazard, e.g. explosive, flammable, oxidising, corrosive, toxic, health hazard (warning/irritant/sensitiser) and where possible, that expiry dates are included. The expiry information together with usage will determine whether chemicals should be disposed of. 


View a digital copy of:

CI Protocol  CI Form (Word)  CI Form (Excel)

COSHH Assessment

When working with known chemicals and hazardous substances, it is the expectation that a COSHH assessment will be completed. This process focuses on the hazards and risks posed by the relevant hazardous substances.


The key items to remember when undertaking a COSHH Assessment are:


  • Identify the hazards – Consider the harmful substances produced by your processes, such as cutting or grinding, or other processes which may emit dusts, fumes, vapours or gases.
  • Assess the risks – Consider who may be harmed and how, what you are already doing to control the risks, what further actions need to be undertaken to further control the risks and who is responsible for completing these actions.
  • Control the risks – Once you have carried out a COSHH risk assessment identifying the hazardous substances used and who may be harmed, consider how you will prevent exposure, using the hierarchy of controls. Further information can be found here.


Click the relevant button below to access necessary COSHH forms:


COSHH Assessment Form (Single)  COSHH Assessment Form (Multiple)

COSHH Guidance

For further information on working with COSHH substances, please see the following technical guidance notes:


Handling, Storing and Using Chemicals  Labelling  Hazard Codes  Precautionary Codes




Training forms a key element to effectively managing hazardous substances in the University, this alongside information, instruction and supervision provide the fundamentals to safely handling, using, storing, transporting and disposing of hazardous substances. As such, staff and students should only work with COSHH substances where they have received suitable training:


All of our students who may be required to work with hazardous substances will be given guidance and instruction from their academic staff and school technical staff. Should you have an enquiry or question regarding COSHH training, please contact your School or speak to one of the technical staff.


All University staff have access to training which is carried out by the Corporate Health and Safety Department. If you work with hazardous substances you should have already undertaken COSHH training, if you require training or have a question regarding training, please contact the Corporate Health and Safety Department. the links below provide some more information which may be of use:



Get in touch 




Frequently asked questions and answers.

A COSHH Assessment is required when a product or chemical has a hazard symbol on the container (with the exception of fire related symbols) or the Safety Data Sheet. Some products may contain written warnings on their container instead of a hazard symbol so this should be checked.


The COSHH Assessment carried out will depend on the risk and hazards from the chemical and the tasks being carried out. Lower risk environments should use the basic COSHH Assessment whereas more high-risk areas, should use the more detailed forms.


A COSHH Assessment is also required for any substance:


  • For which the Health and Safety Executive has approved a Workplace Exposure Limit
  • Which is a biological agent
  • Which is dust of any kind, except dust which is a substance above, when present at a concentration in air equal to or greater than: 10 mg/m3 as a time weighted average over an 8 hour period of inhalable dust or 4mg/m3 as a time weighted average over an 8 hour period of respirable dust (these will require a dust survey to be carried out to confirm)
  • Which, not being a substance falling within the description above, because of its chemical or toxicological properties and the way it is used or is present at the workplace creates a risk to health 

The assessment should be reviewed immediately if:


  • There is any reason to suppose that the original assessment is no longer valid, e.g. evidence from the results of examining and testing engineering controls,
  • There have been reports from supervisors about defects in control systems;
  • Any of the circumstances of the work should change significantly and especially one which may have affected employee’s exposure to a hazardous substance
  • The work involves a pregnant or new mother
  • There has been an accident or a near miss


Otherwise COSHH Assessments should be carried out in accordance with the level of risk. For high risk substances this could be as regularly as 3 months. For lower risks, up to 3 years, this should be determined during the initial assessment.

The Safety Data Sheet (SDS) can be an aid in selecting the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment for use with hazardous products. However, there is no distinction on the SDS for how a product is used, so high volume use is treated the same on the SDS as a small controlled use. For example, in microbiology recognised good practice is to avoid wearing gloves unless the person carrying out the activity has broken skin, as the gloves present a risk when working close to a Bunsen burner.


There may be times where the recommended PPE is substituted for something simpler, but with added control measures for example small amounts and short periods of use. For example, an SDS stating that you wear chemical gauntlets to use superglue. By instead controlling the amount of glue used, and the time for which the glue is being used (short duration) you can reduce the level of PPE recommended.

The PPE will be selected by using the SDS and the risk assessment for the task being carried out. This will identify the factors of:


  • Which substances are being used,
  • The form of the substances - mists, liquid, vapour, solid
  • The quantity being used
  • The risk of splashing
  • How the substance is being handled
  • Routes of entry and target organs

It should be noted that standard spectacles are not adequate PPE, and should be worn with safety specs on top to offer protection from splashes. Alternatively, prescription safety glasses are available.

Ideally gloves should be replaced after a task is completed, or between chemicals if there is a risk of reaction occurring or where there is a risk of cross contamination.


Gloves are not a replacement for good hygiene and hands should be washed after the safe removal of gloves. Gloves should also be removed when moving between or around laboratories. If you have to have gloves on, only one should be worn. The one glove policy exists in BIO and PHBMS.

Removal of gloves (video by HSE):

PPE must be stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This is extremely important as leaving PPE lying around increases the risk of parts deteriorating by exposure to dirt, oil, UV rays, sunlight etc. It also ensures that you are only wearing your specific PPE and not someone else’s. For biological safety, gloves should be stored in the containment laboratory, or decontaminated before disposal or removal from laboratory.