Storage of Hazardous Substances

Much has already been said in these pages regarding Fire Risk Assessments but the legal requirements for Risk Assessments in your place of work doesn’t stop there.


The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002, also requires you to ensure chemicals and dangerous substances stored, used or sold from the workplace are stored and handled in a way that minimise the attendant risk to employees and visitors of exposure to these substances. You must also ensure that you also minimize the risk of environmental damage through leaks and spills.

DSEAR (Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002) is a further set of regulations concerned specifically with protection against risks from fire, explosion and similar events arising from dangerous substances used or present in the workplace.

Risk assessment

As with Fire Risk Assessments the COSHH and DSEAR risk assessment require employers (and the self employed) to conduct a detailed examination of the work place and working practices to identify any dangerous substances present or liable to be present in the workplace; the work activities involving them and an assessment of any risks (like sources of ignition) that may cause a fire, explosion and similar events that have potential to harm employees and the public.

Conducting a Risk Assessment requires a combination of knowledge of the substances used in the workplace, the hazards they pose and a fairly common sense approach to what constitutes a risk. It is then a case of implementing precautions that minimise this risk. Some typical examples are given below.

Store hazardous chemicals in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions in an appropriate container or cabinet clearly marked with a Hazard warning label. A range of cabinets designed to meet COSHH and DSEAR regulations are available.

Store the minimum quantity of hazardous substances necessary.

Look at the manufacturer’s safety data sheet and store incompatible substances separately.

Keep a spill kit close to storage areas to contain and clean up and leaks or spills that occur. Most approved flammable liquid and COSHH storage cabinets have inbuilt spillage sumps.

Issue staff with appropriate protective clothing (PPE) and ensure adequate ventilation when handling substances.

Make sure that any employees that handle dangerous substances are aware of what to do in the event of a spill or fire.

A risk assessment is required regardless of the quantity of dangerous substance present, and as like the Regulatory reform (fire safety) Order legislation, if you have 5 or more employees you must keep a physical record of the assessment and actions taken.

Finally if your business has oil storage containers, the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001 or the Water Environment (Oil Storage) (Scotland) Regulations 2006 may apply.
The oil storage regulations apply if you store oil above ground in containers with a capacity of more than 200 litres. The regulations define Oil to include petrol, heating oil, vegetable and plant oil, and heavy oils such as bitumen and solvents.
You are not affected by the regulations if:

  • Your store a maximum capacity of 200 litres and/or it is located in a building or underground (as in a garage)
  • Your business is used for refining or distributing oil
  • You operate a farm or wholly agricultural business
  • You store waste oil