Managing hazardous substances

Types of hazardous substances in business


While many kinds of work involve hazardous substances, some types of business are more likely to pose a risk than others - for example:

  • construction and building trades produce dust and fumes, and use hazardous materials and chemicals
  • manufacturing businesses are likely to carry out work that involves hazardous substances or produces hazardous waste
  • cleaning businesses often use products which are harmful if they are allowed to enter the environment
  • medical and care businesses can produce large quantities of clinical waste
  • car body shops use paints and adhesives, and need to dispose of hazardous waste such as batteries and oil-contaminated materials
  • surface-engineering operations may create dust problems, while many processes use hazardous substances
  • delivery and transport businesses may produce dust, fumes and carbon-dioxide emissions, as well as any hazardous substances they are carrying
  • agricultural businesses use fertilisers and pest control products, and there may be the risk of disease, including those that pass from animals to humans, such as bird flu

While some businesses, such as retail and hospitality, are relatively low risk, you should check your business processes thoroughly. Even office-based businesses may be able to reduce the use of or risks posed by hazardous substances, for example from cleaning products and electrical equipment.

The legislation that applies will vary depending on the type and quantity of hazardous substances you use - see how to comply with hazardous substances legislation.

Types of hazardous substances in your business

Common hazardous substances used in or produced by business can include:

  • chemicals
  • oil and fuels
  • batteries
  • adhesives
  • paints
  • cleaning agents
  • pest control products
  • electrical equipment with hazardous or radioactive components
  • biological agents, such as bacteria and other micro-organisms
  • waste
  • by-products from using energy, such as gas or fumes from soldering, hot oil or metal-plating

You should remember that most substances could cause significant harm to water in the environment - such as ponds and rivers - if their concentration is high enough. There are also some substances that pose no risk to human health, such as milk and other foodstuffs, which can cause significant damage to the environment.