Flammable Dust, Gases and Vapour
Many actions in the workplace generate dusts, gases and vapours of varying types these can be hazardous by the nature of their properties; e.g. flammable or harmful.
The substances produced can be:
- Harmless but annoying.
- Harmless but obstruct vision.
- Irritanting to eyes, nose, mouth and lungs.
- Hazardous by inhalation or ingestion.
- Hazardous from flammable or explosive mixtures when mixed with air.
Many work processes generate dusts for example:
- Working with wood.
- Concrete mixing.
- Stone cutting.
Dust can arise from sweeping up the work shop floor to transfering powders within the working environment.
Gases and Vapours
Gases and Vapours can:
- Arise from the substances being used in the workplace e.g. the use of solvents.
- Be generated by the work activity itself e.g. gases released by welding activities.
- Less commonly be part of the general environment e.g. methane from biological sources.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (CoSHH)
An assessment under CoSHH is required where dusts, gases or vapours pose a significant hazard to health and safety.
This should detail:
- The nature of the hazardous substance.
- How it can affect the user.
- The control measures needed to be put in place to prevent harm.
The HSE’s publication, EH40, lists what substances are considered harmful and what if any the considered safe exposure level for an eight hour working day.
The HSE also have an online service which can be used to facilitate the production of CoSHH assessments, www.coshh-essentials.org.uk
One key document that all suppliers should make available is the safety data sheet (SDS). This will provide key information on the protection of employees and also in creating the CoSHH assessment.
Flammable gases and vapours are an obvious fire/explosion risk when mixed with air.
Less commonly understood is that when flammable substances are reduced to dusts they can burn much more readily. This is due to the increased surface area being in contact with the oxygen in the air.
If sufficient dust is dispersed into the air the mixture can be explosive, causing potential injury and structural damage if ignited.
The Dangerous Substances Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) requires employers:
- To assess the risk of fire and explosion where flammable dusts, gases or vapours may be present.
- To introduce measures to control the risks.
Additional controls may include:
- Ventilation and filtration system to remove the substance from the air.
- Zoning the workplace dependent on the degree of flammable risk.
- Use of intrinsically safe, flameproof and antistatic equipment to prevent ignition.
- Use of inert gas to remove air from hoppers and dust receivers.
- Good housekeeping practices to keep dusts to a minimum and prevent it being dispersed into the air e.g. suction cleaning rather than sweeping, air-lines not used to blow dust off surfaces.
- Processes designed to minimise dust formation.
- Buildings and plant designed to reduce the effects of fire/explosion.
- Procedures for use in the event of an emergency or unforeseen incident.
- Procedures for safe emergency shut-down in the event of safety features failure.
- Employees trained in safe working practices and emergency procedures.
- Flame resistant and anti-static clothing for employees.
The control of flammable and explosive dusts, gases and vapours is a specialised task. Only those who have been trained, deemed competent to understand the hazards and risks involved should be authorised to undertake the works.
The main requirements to consider when working with Flammable dusts, gases and vapours are:
- Risk assessment to be completed to identify suitable control measures.
- Suitable training to raise awareness of staff who may be affected by these flammable dusts, gases and vapours.
- Establishing an emergency procedure in the event of accidents and incidents with all staff trained on its execution.
- Providing a suitable working environment to control the potentially hazardous dusts, gases and vapours with a bespoke Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) system.
- Supplying appropriate personal protective equipment to staff who may be exposed.
Questions to Consider
- Can the product producing the flammable materials into the air be eliminated or replaced with a less hazardous or non-hazardous product?
- Can the number of personnel exposed to the hazardous materials be limited?
- Could the process be isolated from employees and others by containment or automation using robots?
- Can the quantity of the substance produced be reduced by changing the work practices?
- Is a Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) system required to remove the substance from the air?
- Is the LEV system fit for purpose?
- Has suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) been provided?
- Are good housekeeping practices carried out?
- Are procedures in place for an emergency evacuation and all suitably trained?
The above guidance provides an introduction on the main requirements needed to adequately manage this health and safety topic. If you require further guidance, risk assessments or template documentation on this subject please consult your relevant full guidance health and safety website (BIGGA, England Golf, Scottish Golf, Wales Golf). If you do not hold the log in details for this website, for your club, please speak to your golf club management team to identify who the account administrator is and request the details.