Safety Services


Safety Alerts 2018

Safety Services issues a monthly news letter via e-mail to all Departmental Safety Officers (DSOs) and Deputies. The news letter  includes safety alerts which relate to incidents at UCL or beyond which may require Departments to take action. If you're not a DSO or Deputy and would like to be included on the mailing list please e-mail: safety@ucl.ac.uk

The following is a summary of safety alerts issued in 2018. If you require further information e-mail: safety@ucl.ac.uk

JanuaryNo alertN/AN/A
FebruaryNo alertN/AN/A
MarchExplosion involving liquid nitrogenLiquid nitrogenRisk assessments for work involving storage of material in liquid nitrogen must be reviewed to: consider the risk of vials exploding; identify control measures (precautions) to reduce the risk of injury should the vial explode; communicate the control measures (precautions) to everyone involved in the work
MarchFire in domestic applianceFireA small fire occurred in a tumble dryer at a student residence earlier this month, caused by a build-up of fluff in the filter.  Simple, quick cleaning and maintenance could have prevented this fire, which if it had spread could have been a lot worse.
AprilWater SystemsLegionellaDepartments who operate any water systems not managed by UCL Estates must appoint an 'Appointed Person (Legionella); maintain a list of water systems, specific items of equipment or types of equipment that could present a risk of exposure to legionella bacteria; assess and control the risk of exposure
MayEbola VirusEbola VirusThere is an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. If you are travelling to this region your risk assessment will need to be reviewed. You should always refer to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for advice before travelling abroad.
JuneReporting AccidentsRIDDOR ComplianceRIDDOR requires UCL to report all serious workplace incidents and accidents to the HSE within 10 days of the incident occurring. If your department relies on specific persons to report accidents on riskNET then by 31 July 2018 you must ensure that you have arrangements in place to cover for planned and unplanned absence of these staff.
JulyFreezer FireFireIf you have a Liebherr -20°C freezer model GG5210 that is two years old or more your department should carry out an inspection of the freezer.
AugustLithium batteriesFire

Once a lithium ion battery catches fire, it can be very difficult to extinguish, with the fire sometimes lasting for weeks! If you are using or storing lithium ion batteries you should:

  • Inform Safety Services, to discuss provision of specialist fire extinguishers and training of staff in their use.
  • Carry out a risk assessment of the handling and storage of the batteries.
  • Store at correct temperature. Prolonged storage at -20°C to 25°C is recommended and -15°C is ideal.
  • Do not overcharge - refer to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Provide separation between batteries in storage and during transport
 SeptemberBunsen Burner Wire GauzesAsbestosTwo suppliers of scientific equipment have supplied mesh gauzes with asbestos-containing centres. If you are unsure about gauze coatings assume that it contains asbestos.
You should not handle, use or move wire/mesh gauzes until you have checked with the supplier to find out whether they are likely to contain asbestos.  If asbestos content is confirmed or cannot be ruled out, the gauzes must be taken out of use and disposed of in accordance with relevant published guidance. 
OctoberFire in a dust extraction unitDust

Earlier this year a fire broke out in a workshop dust extraction unit. A spark ignited dust and debris which had been allowed to build up for some time. To prevent fires and ensure effective operation of dust extraction units Departments must:

Ensure the risk assessment for dust extraction units states the frequency of:

  • cleaning to include the removal of dust and debris from surfaces and emptying of dust receptacles
  • inspections (using external specialists, where necessary) to include, but may not be limited to, hoods, ducts and the dust collection unit
  • maintenance (specified by the manufacturer)

Keep written records of all dust extraction unit checks and maintenance to show that it has been done and who was responsible for doing it.

NovemberWaste Explosion Chemical

What happened?

An acid waste container exploded inside a fume cupboard, shortly after being placed inside. A member of staff was splashed around their stomach area, causing minor chemical burns. The laboratory was found to have no spill kit, eye wash station or emergency procedures.

What was the cause?

Incompatible waste was mixed together in the container. Up to 20 litres of waste had accumulated in the laboratory, although on average less than 1 litre is produced per month.

What lessons can be learned?

  • Ensure incompatible waste types are separated - check safety data sheets for incompatibilities
  • Ensure waste containers are clearly labelled
  • Minimise the volume of waste you store and ensure frequent collections
  • Ensure you have the right emergency equipment and plans in place
 DecemberPicric Acid DangerExplosion

Picric acid (2,4,6-trinitrophenol) can be highly explosive if not stored properly - crystals can form on the cap and bottle which make the chemical hazardous. If crystals have formed you must secure the store to prevent access.

To ensure safe storage you must:

  • Store the acid with at least 10% moisture - this should be checked at least once a month
  • Correctly label it and store it in accordance with chemical reactivity
  • Record usage of the acid and whenever water is added
  • Record the date purchased/date opened

Approval for usage
If picric acid has to be used, the preferred form is a 1% solution rather than a wetted solid. If a wetted solid is necessary, principal investigators must get approval from the Head of Department
When wetted, picric acid should be kept in a manner to prevent it from drying out. Any wetted Picric Acid older than 2 years must be disposed through the regular chemical disposal process.