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The Importance of Understanding the DSEAR Regulations


What is DSEAR?

DSEAR, the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) 2002 primary role is to set out minimum requirements in the workplace for the protection of workers from explosion and fire risks relating to dangerous substances and atmospheres. They are applicable to those workplaces that use, store or produce substances deemed as highly hazardous.

The DSEAR Regulations are long and complex, but at the heart of the regulations are simple requirements:

The failure of employers to conform with these Regulations can lead to work-related injuries or even death, which can lead to costly fines.

Why is DSEAR so important?

Some industries, such as coal mining, have a higher risk of explosions or fires starting, which can result in workers being injured or killed. Fires or explosions can be caused by natural gasses, coal dust and methane gas igniting, making mining a potentially very dangerous workplace.

Industries such as coal mining, have a higher risk of explosions or fires starting

Mines are not the only hazardous working environment, where explosions can occur. Because of scientific developments of substances, many other potentially explosive materials exist in some industries such as ethanol vapours, and gasses, for example, hydrogen.

However, many more are everyday substances like glues and solvents, but also seemingly innocuous substances such as egg whites, powdered milk, flour and rice can cause explosions under certain conditions.

The DSEAR regulations require the elimination, or reduction of, risk of fire and explosion associated with work activities. This begins at the start of establishing a business in any premises when careful planning must be carried out by experts, to establish the correct equipment, provision of services, workflow and storage to enable the production to proceed safely. This has applied to all workplaces since June 2015.

Under certain conditions powdered milk, flour and rice can cause explosions.

Employers Duties

DSEAR requires employers to:

The starting point of this information-gathering exercise will be the DSEAR risk assessment, carried out by a team, consultant or individuals with knowledge and experience.

DSEAR risk assessment is the starting point

The DSEAR Risk Assessment

As with other risk assessments, it will follow five-steps as recommended by the Health and Safety Executive, which are:

As stated, the main risk where explosive atmospheres are present is the explosive atmosphere igniting and causing an explosion. Dealing with this threat is therefore mainly linked with minimising the risk of fire; or if a fire should break out reducing its intensity and preventing it spreading.

Dealing with the threat of a fire

What is ATEX?

Equipment for potentially explosive atmospheres (ATEX) is an EU directive that covers equipment and systems intended for use in explosive environments, and which defines essential health and safety requirements and conformance to risk assessment procedures. DSEAR (2002) was introduced as the UK's version of the EU ATEX directive.

What are the DSEAR zones?

DSEAR zones (also known as area classification) is a method of identifying, analysing and classifying environments where explosive atmospheres could build up and become a source of ignition.

For example, after controls have been put in place, and the area is still deemed to be hazardous, then the area will be given a ZONE number, which are:

Where explosive atmospheres may be present and cannot be prevented, warning signs must be displayed to alert workers. For example, this may be:

Although complex, the requirements of this regulation require:

Education and training play a critical part in this. Workers should know and understand the risks posed by explosive atmospheres and always follow the regulations and guidelines placed in the workplace.

Workers should know and understand the risks

If this includes a warning or alarm system, always act on it and:

Further Resources

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