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Department of Engineering Health & Safety


Risk assessment

It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator or Supervisor to identify hazards within the workplace and to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to health associated with working with these hazards.  Use the Departmental COSHH form and guidance to comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended).

It is recommended that Supervisors hold an inventory of chemicals held and used by their group and that it is updated regularly.

Chemical Safety Training

Anyone handling hazardous chemicals within the Department must attend the University Chemical Safety Course or have documented prior experience/training.  Graduate students can attend the course as an option during their induction week.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

It is the responsibility of the Supervisor to ensure that Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for all chemicals classified as carcinogen/possible carcinogen, mutagen/possible mutagen, toxic, very toxic, toxic to reproduction and sensitiser, held and used by their group are available in the relevant laboratory areas.  These sheets will give essential information about the nature of the hazard, protective measures, spillage control and first aid.

Procurement of chemicals

Persons ordering chemicals must be aware of the potential hazards of the substances being ordered, know whether or not adequate facilities and trained personnel are available to handle such substances, and should ensure that a safe disposal route exists.

The Safety Office must be informed before ordering chemicals of the following hazard classifications:

  • Very Toxic
  • Toxic (if100g/100ml or more)
  • Explosive
  • Highly Flammable (if100ml or more)
  • Carcinogen/Possible Carcinogen
  • Mutagen/Possible Mutagen
  • Toxic to Reproduction

Before a new substance falling into the above categories is received, information concerning its proper handling methods, including proper disposal procedures, should be given to all those who will be working with it.

It is the responsibility of the Supervisor to ensure that the facilities are adequate and that those who will handle any material have received training and information to do so safely. The Safety Data Sheets supplied by the vendor should give sufficient information.

No container or cylinder should be accepted that does not have an identifying label and hazard information.  Every effort should be made to ensure that this label remains on the container and is legible.

Handling and transportation of chemicals

Large bottles of acids, solvents, or other liquids should be carried in an appropriate carrier.

Bottles should be carried one at a time with both hands, one on the neck of the bottle and the other underneath.

Incompatible chemicals should not be transported in the same carrier.

Chemicals to be moved between sites should be in original outer packages or protected from breakage or damage in a secondary container with sufficient absorbent material to contain a spill and secured within the vehicle.  Vehicles carrying certain chemicals will be required to display the appropriate warning signage (contact Safety Office for details).

Chemical storage

Large quantities of concentrated mineral acids, e.g. sulphuric, nitric and hydrochloric acids, must be kept in designated cabinets for corrosive substances.

Organic solvents and other flammable substances will be stored in designated flammable storage cabinets.

Incompatible chemicals must not be stored together (see examples, or relevant Safety Data Sheet).

Adequate containment for spills and accidental releases shall be provided.  Containers of toxic liquids (e.g. phenol) and any carcinogens/mutagens must be within secondary containment.

Hazardous chemicals should never be stored on the floor or on high shelves. Containers should be kept on low shelves or in cabinets.  Shelving units should be securely fastened to the wall or floors.  Shelves should not be overloaded.

Containers should be inspected regularly for any sign of chemical leakage.  Containers of all types should be free of rust and deformation.  Caps and covers for containers shall be securely in place whenever the container is not in immediate use.  All storage cabinets and rooms must be labelled with the appropriate hazard symbol.

All containers used for storage (even short term) must be labelled with appropriate hazard information.

Mark date on chemical containers upon receipt.  Out-of-date and unwanted chemicals should be disposed of regularly.

Chemical spills

All chemical spills should be reported to your Supervisor, Chief Technician, Local Safety Coordinator or Laboratory Manager, whatever the size of the spill.

If the spill presents an immediate danger, leave the spill site and warn others, evacuate all non-essential personnel and control entry to the spill site.

Where applicable, remove contaminated clothing and flush skin/eyes with water at least 15 minutes.

Spilled liquids

Where the spill does not present immediate personal danger, inform your supervisor, local technician, Local Safety Coordinator or Laboratory Manager, don appropriate personnel protective equipment and try to control the spread or volume of the spill e.g. by shutting a door, moving nearby equipment to prevent further contamination, repositioning an over­turned container, by putting an absorbent on and around the spill.

If the spilled material is flammable, turn off ignition and heat sources.

Increase ventilation by opening closed fume hood sashes to the full open position.  Exterior doors or windows may be opened to ventilate non-toxic vapours.

Use absorbents to collect and contain substances.  Reduce vapour concentrations by covering the surface of a liquid spill with absorbent.

For small quantities of inorganic acids or bases, use a neutralising agent or an absorbent mixture (e.g. soda ash or diatomaceous earth).

For small quantities of other materials, absorb the spill with a non-reactive material (such as vermiculite, clay, dry sand, or towels).

For larger amounts of inorganic acids and bases, flush with large amounts of water (providing the water will not cause additional damage).  Flooding is not recommended in storerooms where splashing may cause additional hazards or in areas where water-reactive chemicals may be present.

Mop up the spill, wringing out the mop in a sink or appropriate container.

Carefully pick up and clean any cartons or bottles that have been splashed or immersed.

Clean around and under equipment where necessary.

If the spilled material is extremely volatile, let it evaporate and be exhausted by the laboratory hood (where available).

Spilled solids

Sweep spilled solids of low toxicity into a dust pan and place them into a container suitable for that chemical.  Additional precautions such as the use of a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter may be necessary when cleaning up spills of more highly toxic solids.

Dispose of residues according to safe disposal procedures.  Contaminated personal protective equipment, brooms, dust-pans, and other items may require special disposal procedures.

Use of fume cupboards and hoods

All work that involves chemicals which are toxic, odoriferous, volatile or harmful by inhalation shall be conducted within a fume cupboard or hood.

Fume hoods must be used with the sash lowered to protect against splashing or explosion.

Ensure the fan is on and air-flow is sufficient before work commences.

Be aware that cross drafts can be caused by open doors and windows, air conditioning and/or heating vents, or personnel movement.  Laboratory activity in the hood area should be minimised while the hood is in use.

When not in use, the sash of the hood should be kept closed.  While performing work in the hood, the sliding sash should be kept at the height designated to provide the minimum face velocity required.

Work should be performed as deeply within the fume hood as possible.   Equipment, reagents, and glassware should be placed as far back in the hood as is practical without blocking the rear baffle.  Solid objects placed at the face of the hood will cause turbulence in the air flow.

Only items necessary to perform the present experiment should be in the hood.

The fume hood is not a storage cabinet.

Do not use infectious material in a chemical fume hood.

Radioactive materials may not be used in the hoods without prior approval of the Radiation Safety Officer.

An emergency plan should be prepared in the event of ventilation failure or other unexpected occurrence such as fire or explosion in the hood.

The fume hood must be serviced and tested annually.  Inform the local technician immediately if the equipment is faulty or out of test interval.

Chemical waste

From 1 August 2023, Tradebe will be responsible for the collection of:

  • hazardous chemical waste (taking over from Biffa)
  • hazardous WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) i.e. fridges, freezers, batteries and fluorescent light tubes


  • Collect substances in original or other suitable primary container.
  • Label containers properly to indicate their contents and associated hazards.
  • Store containers properly until they are ready for disposal.

When accumulation exceeds the available storage limits within the laboratory area, inform the local technician who will arrange appropriate disposal.

Containers must be in good condition.  If leaking or damaged, either repackage or inform the Laboratory Manager to determine the proper packaging for disposal.  High hazard chemical waste should be double contained.

Containers must be equipped with a properly fitting cap or other closure means.

Do not dispose of empty containers in the general waste unless all chemical residues have been removed by appropriate rinsing (x3).  If in doubt, inform the Laboratory Manager.

Storage of waste chemicals

The key for the Trumpington Street Site Waste Chemical Cupboard is held by the Safety Office (INO-18).  Local arrangements will be in place for other sites, check with your Lab Manager or Chief Technician for details.

Please note that how collections are booked will change. They will no longer be accepted via email to the University Safety Office which was the previous chemical waste email address.

If you need to arrange a collection from Tradebe, please refer to this guidance document. You will need to fill-out a pre-acceptance form and email the completed form to and cc . Once your order has been processed, Tradebe will email you to arrange a time and date for collection.

Who to contact if you have a query

  • Procurement Services for questions about the contract
  • Tradebe for day-to-day queries about the service
  • Chemical Safety team for technical questions or safety concerns about the disposal of hazardous chemical waste or hazardous WEEE

PPE (eg.gloves, eye protection) should be worn as appropriate to the chemical and their containment, as identified in the risk assessment.

If the storage area is full or in an unsafe condition inform the CUED Safety Office.

Safety Office Contact Details



Inglis Building

Trumpington Street

Cambridge CB2 1PZ


Gary Steele

Department Safety Officer (DSO)

Departmental Fire Safety Manager (DFSM)

Tel: 01223 (3)32740


Steve Wickens

Department Safety Coordinator

Tel: 01223 (7)61455