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Explain safe practices for: storing hazardous substances, using hazardous substances, disposing of hazardous substances and materials

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

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Because hazardous substances can cause harm to yourself and others, it is important that you are able to explain and demonstrate safe practices when storing, using and disposing of them.

This is governed by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) and your employer should have policies and procedures in place for their safe storage, use and disposal. These documents will include information such as a list of hazardous substances in the work setting, their safe storage and use, how they should be labelled, their effects, emergency procedures to follow upon exposure and how they should be disposed of.

Hazardous substances can include cleaning materials (e.g. bleach, detergents etc.), medication, soiled linen and bodily fluids (e.g. saliva, urine etc.) as well as dust (e.g. from building work) and fumes (e.g. from vehicles).

Storing hazardous substances

Hazardous substances must be stored securely and in a specified area in accordance with the instructions on the label and your employer’s agreed ways of working. This could mean ensuring they are stored at room temperature or in a well-ventilated area. Some medications need to be kept chilled and so must be stored in a refrigeration unit. Some substances may also need to be stored in a secure environment, such as in a locked room that only authorised individuals have access to using a key or a code.

They should also be kept in their original containers to avoid misunderstandings about what the substance is.

Some substances may be dangerous if combined with other substances and so procedures must ensure that they are stored separately.

You should ensure that you do not stockpile hazardous substances and keep only enough for your requirements. Regular stock checks should be performed and when new stock is delivered, it should be checked and put away immediately.

The risk of hazardous substances leaking or spilling should be assessed and safeguards put in place to prevent this from happening. Spills and leakages should be cleaned up immediately and there should be a procedure in place for performing this task.

It is also best practice to store liquids above ground level to avoid damage being caused by foot traffic (e.g. people accidentally kicking them as they walk past).

Sharps bins should be used to store waste that could pierce the skin, such as needles.

When working in an individual’s home, there may not be any storage protocols so you should return hazardous substances to the location where you found them. If you have concerns about the storage of hazardous substances, you should raise them with the individual and your manager.

Using hazardous substances

Hazardous substances should always be used in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions and your employer’s agreed ways of working.

Some substances may only be handled by people who have had sufficient training.

If required, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves should be used.

Before use, labels should be checked and you should take precautions to ensure that you will not be disturbed whilst using the hazardous substance or have to leave it unattended.

Any spillages should be cleaned up immediately in line with your employer’s policies and procedures.

Immediately after use, hazardous substances should be returned to their correct storage area.

Any issues or concerns should be reported to your manager immediately.

Disposing of hazardous substances

Hazardous materials should be disposed of in the correct manner as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions and your employer’s agreed ways of working.

Different types of waste should be separated and disposed of separately (e.g. clinical waste should be kept apart from general waste). PPE may be required when disposing of hazardous waste to reduce the likelihood of contact or infection.

Clinical waste such as used dressings or used gloves should be sealed in identifiable bags that are usually yellow or orange, labelled and stored securely until they can be disposed of correctly. You can usually arrange for the local authority to pick up clinical waste after a referral from a healthcare professional.

Identifiable biological waste must be incinerated.

Sharps boxes should be returned to the supplier when full.

Unused medication should be returned to the pharmacy from which they were collected.

Contaminated linen such as clothing, bedding and towels must be washed immediately ideally on a hot wash.

Example question and answer

You have been asked to prepare three handouts for new staff attending an induction. The handouts are to provide information on the following topics.

This handout must include:

Cvi A description of:
a) The types of hazardous substances that may be found in social care settings.
b) The main points of the procedures for handling medication.

Cvii An explanation of:
 a) Safe practices for storing, using and disposing of hazardous substances, including medication, safely.
b) The dangers associated with not following safe practices.


This handout provides information to new staff about the importance of controlling hazardous substances.

Types of Hazardous Substances

There are several types of hazardous substances that may be found in a social care setting.

Medication may be beneficial to an individual but can be harmful if taken by others that have not been prescribed it, so it must be controlled.

Bodily fluids (urine, semen etc.) can be harmful to others, especially if it is from somebody with an illness or infection.

Some substances, such as bleach or paint, are toxic which means they are poisonous to humans. Other substances, such as detergent, can be an irritant which means they can cause itching soreness and discomfort.

Handling Medication

Medication should be handled in line with legislation and company policies and procedures.

Support staff should ensure that medication is ordered ahead of time and when received the name, dosage and amount should be recorded along with whom the medication is for. It should then be stored in a locked drawer or according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Weekly drug stock checks should be performed.

When administering medication, it should be recorded on a MAR sheet. Hands should be washed thoroughly before administering medication and if direct contact is needed then gloves should be worn. The individual, medication, dosage, time and any special instructions should be checked before administration.

If medication is no longer required, it should be returned to the pharmacy and an inventory of what has been returned should be signed by the pharmacist.

Safe Practices

Hazardous substances should be stored, used and disposed of according to the manufacturer’s instructions, which can be found on the packaging.

They should only be stored in their correct and labelled containers, and ideally in a secure area.

You should always read the label before using a hazardous substance and some substances may only be used by someone with relevant training. Personal Protective Equipment should be used where necessary and substances should not be mixed.

Any problems should be reported immediately.


If safe practices are not followed correctly, it can result in serious harm, illness or death to yourself or others.

In addition, it would contravene legislation and company policies and procedures, which could lead to disciplinary action, dismissal and potential legal action against you.

It may also result in others using hazardous substances incorrectly.

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