Schools, colleges, and universities all use chemicals daily both for education and for vital processes, like facilities management. While all educational facilities in the UK must comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), the education sector has a unique duty because safe chemical management protects students from harm.
Whether you are the facilities manager at a primary school or run a research laboratory at a university, you will find the key principles of COSHH are the same.
1. COSHH Risk Assessment
You can’t control what you don’t understand. In chemical management, not knowing the risks posed by the chemicals in your school can lead to COSHH violations and dangerous accidents.
A COSHH risk assessment should be undertaken on an annual basis or whenever changes are made to the chemical types in the building.
Your risk assessment asks you four questions:
- What are the chemical hazards present in your facility?
- What harm can each individual chemical hazard cause? Who might it harm?
- How are you mitigating the potential harm of each chemical hazard?
- Do you need improvements to your system to further prevent injuries, illness, or damage to property? How soon do you need to make those changes?
If you’re looking for more guidance, HSE have example COSHH risk assessments available on hse.gov.uk.
2. Teach Students & Staff to Recognise COSHH Symbols
A risk assessment provides the foundation for a safe and compliant chemical management program. However, it is equally important that the knowledge gained by administrative teams gets passed on to anyone who might encounter chemicals, including students and teachers.
While your duty as an employer is to train teachers and other staff, everyone should be able to recognise the COSHH symbols associated with the chemical types housed in your education facility. This is incredibly important because while any hazardous substance must be locked in a separate room outside the classroom, students and teachers may access hazardous substances in the form of cleaning supplies or in laboratories or classrooms.
Providing them with COSHH symbol training helps them correctly control or use the hazardous chemicals they encounter and prepares them for an emergency in case human error leads to an unplanned exposure.
3. Store and Dispense Chemicals Safely and Securely
Education facilities must ensure any chemicals covered by COSHH are stored outside the classroom and outside the control of students. Even when students use chemicals in a laboratory setting, staff must never leave students unattended with chemicals and must always have the correct PPE.
Storing chemicals safely requires more than a locked closet, even in rural primary school settings. When you’re dealing with flammable chemicals, corrosive chemicals, and toxic chemicals, you must store them in flammable cabinets or bunded cabinets.
If there is no room inside the building, external flammable storage units provide a storage solution outside the building that provide fire protection and security for your chemicals.
Does your education facility need additional help with Gas Cylinder Storage? Contact the UK’s chemical storage specialists today to learn more about the options available to your school, college, or university.