The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) require employers to prevent, limit and control the harmful effects of fires, explosions, corrosion of metals and similar energy-releasing events. Dangerous substances can be found in nearly all workplaces – including the rail sector – and include solvents, paints, varnishes, flammable gases such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG), dusts from machining and shot blasting operations, pressurised gases and corrosive substances.
What are the requirements for DSEAR?
As part of the DSEAR 2002 regulations, employers must adhere to the following measures in order to comply:
- Find out what dangerous substances are in their workplace and what the risks are
- Put control measures in place to either remove those risks or, where this is not possible, control them
- Put controls in place to reduce the effects of any incidents involving dangerous substances
- Prepare plans, equipment and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving dangerous substances
- Ensure that employees are properly informed about and trained to control and deal with the risks from dangerous substances
- Identify and classify areas of the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur and avoid ignition sources (e.g from unprotected equipment) in those areas.
Are risk assessments a mandatory requirement under DSEAR?
Within the responsibilities set out by DSEAR, an employer must undertake a risk assessment to classify the hazardous area with respect to dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres, while also determining ignition sources and personnel exposure to protect employees, visitors and the general public. It is recommended that a DSEAR risk assessment of any work activity involving dangerous substances is carried out every three to five years depending on the risk levels of the operation.
Once the risk assessment has been developed, employers must set out how they will eliminate or reduce the risk to safety from the presence of dangerous substances. This can be achieved by removing or controlling risks and by providing measures to limit or mitigate the consequences for people should an incident occur.
How do I reduce/eliminate the risks caused by dangerous substances within my rail organisation?
A range of control measures can be implemented to reduce and eliminate the risks associated with dangerous and explosive substances in your rail organisation. Such risks must be eliminated or minimised as far as is reasonably practicable when there is work being carried out by an employer, when a dangerous substance is present/liable to be present and when a dangerous substance could pose a risk by causing a fire or explosion. This can include changes to:
- Workplace design
- Specific measures for processes which involve deliberate combustion
- Control of cleaning operations involving dangerous substances
- Control of hot work
- High risk activities (permits to work).
Once the DSEAR risks associated with an employer’s workplace and activities have been successfully identified and the corresponding control measures have been developed, they must protect the safety of their employees as far as is reasonably practicable by forward emergency planning. This requires them to have arrangements in place to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies, including the evacuation, escape or rescue of people. Such arrangements include first aid, safety drills and testing, information on hazards, warning and response systems and means of escape.
Are there specific examples of fire risks on the railway where DSEAR may apply?
DSEAR defines hazardous areas at risk of fire and/or explosion as ‘any place in which an explosive atmosphere may occur in quantities such as to require special precautions to protect the safety of workers’. There are a number of relative examples where fire and explosions may occur on the railway, including:
- Battery charging rooms on depots
- Storage of flammable liquids in depots and maintenance sheds
- Dry ice blasting – for removal of dirt off train bogies
- Shot blasting
- Fuel storage and dispensing systems
- CET extraction and storage systems
- MHE charging areas
- Chemical and paint stores including those used for waste
- Spray painting enclosures.
Does DSEAR impact on any other legislation within the rail sector?
Under Regulation 3 of DSEAR, preventing, limiting and controlling the risks from dangerous substances or explosive atmospheres may also be subject to legislation under the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2007. The purpose of the regulations is to protect everyone either directly involved – such as consignors or carriers – or those who may become involved in an emergency, such as members of the public. Reference to this legislation has yet to be reflected formally in DSEAR, but section 17(2)(a) of the Interpretation Act 1978 means that reference to the earlier regulations also includes the later regulations.
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