The Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) provides practical advice on how to comply with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR). These regulations are used to reduce risk or eliminate risk of fire and explosion in businesses that manufacture, store, process or use dangerous substances. There have been some recent changes to the ACOP to make things simpler and restructured to help the reader. The regulations themselves have been unchanged; however, it’s been reproduced to provide more practical up to date guidance.
DSEAR places responsibilities on employers to protect their employees from fire and explosions in the workplace. Risks can come from dangerous substances used in the workplace and/or explosive atmospheres. As well as assessing the risks under DSEAR, assessment would include the regulations under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Assessing the risks include identifying possible sources of ignition. This will be where dangerous substances are used or where a dangerous substance or potentially explosive atmosphere may be formed during work processes. For each dangerous substance, the manufacturer’s guidance should include safe methods for its storage, use and handling. The workers at risk from explosive hazards should be identified. This includes members of the public that may be put at risk due to the work being carried out. Precautions should be taken against the risks posed. This may include substituting a non-threatening substance for the dangerous one and/or changing the work processes. This is called ‘Substitution’ in the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations. An example here could be replacing a low flash point liquid with one of a higher flash point. Where substitution processes are not practical, tight control measures should be in place. There would need to be control and mitigating measures in place to prevent a fire or explosion. One should keep a record of the risk assessment and this information should be used when training and information is given to employees. However, if changes are implemented in the workplace and ways of working changed, the risk assessment would need to be updated to accommodate this. Non routine maintenance and update work should also be part of the risk assessment control measures as these may pose a hazard.
Control measures should include non necessary use of dangerous substances, avoidance of ignition sources, safe storage of any released dangerous substances, the prevention of the formation of an explosive atmosphere and the non-mixing of incompatible substances. Only equipment that meets the requirements of the Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 1996 should be used. People who check and verify the equipment should be competent to do so. Warning signs should be placed in hazardous areas and staff should use appropriate personal protective equipment. In case of an incident there should be safety drills, emergency evacuation plans and first aid equipment at hand. The emergency services should be notified of this in case they need to change their plans in the event of an incident.