Health & Safety for N5 Laboratory Science

The Law

Health and Safety is governed by various pieces of legislation at different levels:

Primary Legislation – Acts of Parliament – eg the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. There are not many of these as they have to be debated and approved by Parliament – a long and complex process.

Secondary Legislation – Regulations – eg COSHH – These are technically called ‘Statutory Instruments’ and are passed through Parliament ‘on the nod’ unless any MPs formally object. The HASWS allows the Secretary of State to pass these laws.

Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPS) and Guidance – nearly all of the relevant regulations have an ACOP. Both of these offer guidance about how for fulfil your legal duties as set out in Regulations. They are not the only way, and you are entitled to use other methods.

However, an ACOP has special status. If you are not following the advice of an ACOP, it is up to you to prove that your method is at least as good, preferably better than that in the ACOP. If you cannot, you are in breach of the regulations.

Standards – British Standards are at least supposed to be are voluntary and not regulatory. They set out, usually in great detail, best practice. If you meet British Standards, you will be complying with the Law.

There are many pieces of legislation that affect health and safety as it applies in the laboratory. Some of the more important ones are:

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 – (HASWA) this is the ‘granddaddy’ of them all in a way and probably the most important in that it is an ‘enabling’ act that has allowed the relatively easy implementation of a whole load of other health and safety regulations.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) (COSHH – This covers all usage in the workplace of chemicals that can harm people’s health. It also covers biological agents.

The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (as amended) (DSEAR) – DSEAR works in a very similar way to COSHH but it deals with flammable and explosive chemicals which are not covered by COSHH

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – Another general set of regulations, supporting the HSWA. Importantly, MHSWR imposes a requirement for Risk Assessment for all activities, Something not in HASWA.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EAWR) – Regulations governing electrical safety in the workplace. It sets out various requirements, including that for maintenance and testing – which has led on to regimes of PAT testing as set out in various British Standards.

There are many others: Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005), Ionising Radiation Regulations (1999), Safety Signs and Signals Regulations (1996), Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and many, many more

* Specifically mentioned for this course

Below are links to brief guides on the three pieces of legislation mentioned in the course

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations  (COSHH)

The Electricity at Work Regulations (EaWR)

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA)

If you want to download the full documents, you can do so from the links below (they will open in new tabs):




Hazard & Risk Assessment

In this course, the students have to:

Candidates will be provided with a case study specifying a procedure in a given area of a scientific laboratory for which the risk assessment will be carried out. Candidates are required to:

identify the main hazards present in the specified procedure. The main hazards must include:

  • use of electrical equipment
  • use of flammable materials
  • use of chemicals

identify one significant risk associated with each identified hazard.

identify one way to minimise each identified risk.

Identifying Hazards

We have a couple of activities that might make this a little easier:

Hazard Sign card activity – Here you can print off cards of various hazard symbols and their definitions for students to use.

Chemical Hazard grouping – Here you can download another batch of cards which students group into sets of hazard, symbol, definition and example(s). There is also a table summarising some chemicals and their hazards which can be downloaded separately here.

Hazard Spotting – There is an image of a laboratory with a variety of dangerous activities taking place that the students can try to find – the word document also contains the answers. (The image is one I acquired years ago and I forget where from. I have failed to find a source for it to acknowledge, or to check whether it is in fact copyrighted)

Chemical Hazard Student Sheets – We are aware that our Hazardous Chemicals pages are not the friendliest for pupils to use so I have prepared a series of more straightforward sheets that might be of more use to students. You can download a word document with all of them in one by clicking on the heading.

Risk Assessment

There is an exemplar risk assessment form in the support material. If you would rather use a version of the SSERC one (Based on the HSE’s model), you can download a copy here.

The best way to do this would probably be to set up some apparatus in a part of the lab and get the students to investigate. We have prepared a paper version of the activity that you are free to use or adapt/customise as you see fit. You can download it from here: Risk Assessment Activity

Storage Spillage & Disposal

Storing Chemicals

identify five categories of chemicals from their hazard symbols.

state where and how a chemical from each identified category should be stored. This must include the appropriate location, type of container/label/position.

For the hazard symbols, see the Risk Assessment tab.

Here is a short document summarising the storage requirements for each hazard category. Storing Chemicals summary

And here is a diagram (as a powerpoint) giving one possible layout arrangement in a chemical store. Chemical Store Plan

And here is another powerpoint (that I use on the courses) giving more information about chemical storage (most information is in the notes below the pages). Storing Chemicals

In the support notes, there is a table giving examples of some substances that might be stored and how this should be done. I have added a column with some comments on these and the document can be found here. Storage examples

Disposal and Spillage

This document contains a summary of information about Disposal and Spillage as well as chemical storage. Chemical storage, spillage & disposal

A powerpoint about disposal of chemicals can be found here (as before, there is information in the notes) Disposal

Likewise, here is a powerpoint about chemical spillage. Spillage. And here is a summary of our advice in a word document Chemical Spillage-notes

As for storage, in the support notes, there is a table giving examples of some substances that might be spilled and how to deal with them. I have added a column with some comments on these and the document can be found here. Spillage examples

The suggestion is that a spillage scenario is set of for the students to deal with. In the support notes, there are suggestions for substitute chemicals that can be used to make the activity safer. I am not convinced these are suitable: they are safe but I just don’t think they are very good. Here is a document with some suggestions I think are more suitable. Chemical spill activity