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General workshop safety

Workshops are non-laboratory situations where machinery and/or tools are used, in an indoor or outdoor situation. This advice also applies to fabrication, maintenance or other workshop-type activities not in the boundaries of a defined workshop area.

This information is not intended to replace risk/hazard identification. There must be a hazard register for each workshop identifying the specific machines and hazards for that area.

Safety in a workshop

All workshops and stores must be under the direct control of a supervisor, who is responsible for ensuring they are maintained and used in a safe and healthy manner. Only those authorised to do so may enter or work in workshops or stores, and must comply with the requirements of the supervisor whilst in that area.

All persons using workshops and stores should apply good housekeeping practices, wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and use the workshop or store only for its intended purpose.

A tidy workplace makes it easier to spot and avoid hazards, and does not interfere with normal work operations. Good housekeeping is fundamental to workshop safety management, and the time allocated to a job must include cleaning up afterwards. This applies to both individual and shared areas.

Personal items, food, drink or cigarettes are not to be taken into workshops and stores, unless a clean work-free area has been set aside for this purpose. Where necessary, lockers should be provided and used.

The store or workshop must be suited to the proposed task. The supervisor shall make the decision as to what tasks are appropriate for each situation.

Safe storage

Liquid, solid or gaseous substances, equipment and fittings may all be stored. Corrosion or damage of containers may cause product leakage, which contaminates surfaces below, creates slip hazards and may react to form a fire or fume hazard. Other items may have a limited shelf life, and become more hazardous as they age.

The physical process of storage also has hazards via manual handling, slips, trips and falls from inappropriately stored items and objects falling from a height.

Managing hazards

  • Wherever practicable, a clean-bench policy should be adopted, with all items returned to their designated storage location on completion of a task. This requires suitable and sufficient shelves, cupboards, wall hangings and space to be available.
  • Materials used for workshop activities should be held at the work area in appropriate quantities. Bulk storage at the work area is generally unnecessary and contributes to congestion.
  • Segregation in storage must be practised for incompatible materials. Flammable substances in particular must be held within a flammable store, which is suitably constructed, marked and located.
  • Heavy large or awkward items should be stored so as to avoid bending or excessive reaching when moving them. They should not be stored above shoulder height or below knee height.
  • All substances must be clearly labelled to avoid confusion or inadvertent contact with incompatible substances. When re-using containers, remove or obscure the old label after cleaning the container and relabel. In particular, food containers must not be used for the storage of solvents or chemicals.
  • Materials should be stored in appropriate containers. Broken glass and sharps must be held in a labelled steel or heavy plastic bin (never cardboard). Rigid containers must be used in preference to flimsy cardboard boxes or cartons.
  • Shelving must be secure and never overloaded. Ensure that freestanding shelves and cupboards are secured to walls.
  • Materials must be stored in such a manner to avoid spillage, leakage, breakage or falls.
  • Stored items should be periodically reviewed to rationalise their storage and dispose of obsolete items. Effective stock rotation should identify items that are deteriorating, or of no use, or not required.

Emergency procedures

In the case of a:Procedure
Hazardous substance spillage, leakage, escape or exposureFollow the guidance on the Material Safety Data Sheets.
Major liquid escapeContain and avoid entry into drains where possible and safe to do so. If hazardous substances are released follow departmental evacuation drill and notify the local council if substance enters the drains.
Major gas escapeFollow departmental evacuation drill, and warn those adjacent and downwind.
FireFollow departmental evacuation drill.