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    DSEAR Risk Assessment

    DANGEROUS SUBSTANCES EXPLOSIVE ATMOSPHERES  (DSEAR) – The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) require employers to control the risks to safety from fire,  explosions and substances corrosive to metals.

    Dangerous substances can put peoples’ safety at risk from fire, explosion and corrosion of metal. DSEAR puts duties on employers and the self-employed to protect people from these risks to their safety in the workplace, and to members of the public who may be put at risk by work activity.

    Dangerous substances are any substances present at work that could if not adequately controlled, cause harm to people. This may be as result of a fire, explosion or corrosion of metal.  These substances can be found in nearly all workplaces and include things such as solvents, paints, varnishes, pressurised gases and flammable gases – such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG).  Dusts of any kind from sanding, milling or foodstuff that when spread in air to form a cloud which could explode.

    A barrel with the word toxic written on it

    Many of these substances can also create health risks, for example, they may be toxic or an irritant. These kinds of risks are covered under separate health law such as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). It is important to consider both safety and health issues when looking at risks from substances in the workplace.

    What is a DSEAR risk assessment

    DSEAR places duties on employers (and the self-employed, who are considered employers for the purposes of the Regulations) to assess and eliminate or reduce risks from dangerous substances. The HSE requires that to comply with DSEAR Employers must:

    • 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 and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving dangerous substances
    • make sure employees are properly informed about and trained to control or deal with the risks from the dangerous substances
    • identify and classify areas of the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur and avoid ignition sources (from unprotected equipment, for example) in those areas.

    When does DSEAR Apply:

    Apart from certain activities involving ships, DSEAR applies whenever:

    • there is work being carried out by an employer (or self employed person)
    • a dangerous substance is present (or is liable to be present) at the workplace
    • the dangerous substance could be a risk to the safety of people as a result of fires, explosions or similar energetic events or through corrosion to metal

    Fires and explosions create harmful physical effects – thermal radiation, overpressure effects and oxygen depletion. These effects can also be caused by other energetic events such as runaway exothermic reactions involving chemicals or decomposition of unstable substances such as peroxides. These events are also covered by DSEAR.  Gases under pressure can also cause explosions creating harmful effects. Substances that are corrosive to metal may cause damage to metal/metal containing structures which  could result in reduced structural integrity.

    The following examples illustrate the type of activities covered by DSEAR:

    • storage of petrol as a fuel for cars, boats or horticultural machinery
    • use of flammable gases, such as acetylene, for welding
    • handling and storage of waste dusts in a range of manufacturing industries
    • handling and storage of flammable wastes such as fuel oils
    • welding or other ‘hot work’ on tanks and drums that have contained flammable material
    • work that could release naturally occurring flammable substances such as methane in coalmines or at landfill sites
    • use of flammable solvents in laboratories
    • storage and display of flammable goods, such as paints, in shops
    • filling, storing and handling aerosols with flammable propellants such as LPG
    • transporting flammable substances in containers around a workplace
    • deliveries from road tankers, such as petrol and bulk powders
    • chemical manufacturing, processing and warehousing
    • the petrochemical industry, both onshore and offshore
    • handling, storage and use of gases under pressure
    • handling, storage and use of substances corrosive to metal.

    Where does DSEAR Apply

    DSEAR applies to workplaces where dangerous substances are present, used, or produced in quantities.  Your organization may be required to have a DSE Risk Assessment carried out if there is a potential for dangerous substances, or processes to cause an explosive atmosphere.

    Workplaces are any premises or parts of premises used for work. This includes places such as industrial and commercial premises, land-based and offshore installations, mines and quarries, construction sites, vehicles and vessels, etc. Places such as the common parts of shared buildings, private roads and paths on industrial estates and road works on public roads are also premises – as are houses and other domestic premises, if people are at work there.

    Some requirements of DSEAR which deal specifically with explosive atmospheres, do not apply to industries such as offshore oil and gas production.

    I have a Fire Risk Assessment, is that the same as a DSEAR Assessment?

    Both the Fire Risk assessments and DSEAR risk assessments will highlight the risk of a fire or an explosion.  Should you require a DSEAR assessment It is likely that your fire risk assessment will identify that requirement. A DSEAR assessment will in further detail assess the the risks of fires and explosions caused by dangerous substances stored in the workplace. These are two separate documents and both should be carried out by a competent person with the relevant training, knowledge and expertise.

    Contact Agility R&C

    Agility Risk & Compliance Ltd provide tailored solutions to mitigate risk and improve compliance in Health and Safety, HR, Training, and Occupational Health.

    If you have an enquiry please call us on 01527 571611 or email us on

    Existing clients call our 24-hour service and you will be directed to your expert consultant.

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