Welcome to the NCEC Newsletter and thank you for reading

This edition of the newsletter is essential reading for regulatory compliance professionals and the emergency services alike.

We provide feedback from our discussions at the EU Poison Centre harmonisation seminar we facilitated. Building on the success of this series of regulatory events we will, by popular request, be presenting a further webinar on poison centres in the coming months.

In addition, we report back from our attendance at Operation Rosedale  – a major incident exercise, look forward to next month’s annual Hazmat event  and provide the latest information on developments with our popular Chemdata®  chemical hazard software.

I hope you enjoy reading our newsletter and if there is anything you would like us to feature in the coming months, then feel free to contact me.

Dan Haggarty Director of Chemical Risk Management at NCEC

Dan Haggarty
Director: Chemical Risk Management (NCEC)

T: +44 (0) 1235 753654


 Poison centres

Poison Centres

Dan Haggarty and Jon Gibbard recently co-presented a seminar at the Chemical Watch Global Supply Chain Workshop in Brussels. They were joined by Maristella Rubbiani from the Italian Poison Centre ISS Roma.

Under Article 45 of the EU Regulation on the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (CLP Regulation), each EU Member State is required to appoint an official advisory body (known as a poison centre). The telephone number for the poison centre should be displayed on the safety data sheets (SDS) of products placed on the market in that Member State (according to the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation Annex II sub-section 1.4). Typically, manufacturers have to register their products with the relevant poison centre(s) so that callers can obtain advice.

Under CLP Article 45(4), the European Commission (EC) is required to assess the possibility of harmonising the activities of poison centres. This is important because, due to the diversity and opacity of poison centre requirements for product registration, manufacturers are faced with an uphill task in trying to register their products with all the relevant poison centres.

Despite the requirement for the EC to consider harmonisation, and despite some progress in this area, poison centres are still largely independent of one another. Collaboration between poison centres is not comprehensive and differences of opinion still exist about the mechanism by which they should be funded and the format in which data are required.

Nevertheless, the EC intends to consult with industry over the best way forward. Some progress has been made regarding the proposal of a unique formulation identifier (UFI). This will be based on a company’s VAT number and a numerical code (printed on the label or packaging). By uniquely identifying products in this way, responders may unambiguously locate product information from which to give advice.

NCEC’s recent industry and poison centre survey, carried out in collaboration with Chemical Watch, provided valuable insight into some of the challenges being faced by industry and some of the concerns about the future direction of the discussion. In addition, the recent seminar provided a forum for additional participants to raise their views and issues.

The survey and seminar highlighted issues, such as:

  • Administration. The existing process for registration is complex. Even if harmonisation were to take place, the UFI may increase costs for manufacturers with frequently changing formulations.
  • Expertise. Poison centre willingness to provide non-exposure advice is a concern as other, more competant bodies exist to do this.
  • Availability. Not all poison centres operate 24/7, so there is a concern that advice may not be available during an incident involving human health. In addition, not all poison centres are available to the public, despite the fact anyone can be exposed to chemicals.
  • Communication. Lack of engagement between poison centres and industry has raised quality concerns.
  • Funding. Many participants did not wish for legislation to force them to pay for the services of poison centres, especially where alternatives exist. On the other hand, it is unclear how else poison centres may be funded if European governments are not keen to contribute.
  • Impact on small businesses. With the further demands on REACH scheduled in the coming years, it was feared that the introduction of new requirements could result in a further disproportionate impact on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

Overall, there was a high level of dissatisfaction and a significant concern over likely developments in the future. It was viewed as essential that the EC listened to the concerns of industry and made allowances for a common-sense approach towards emergency response.

We recommend the new LinkedIn® group on poison centres as an ideal mechanism for peer dialogue about poison centre legislation and keeping up to date with the latest news.

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Hazmat 2014

Deadline for registration is fast approaching

30 April - 1 May 2014, Eastwood Hall, Nottingham

Hazmat has been specifically developed for emergency response professionals. It provides information on best practice when managing incidents involving hazardous materials, chemical exposure/monitoring, emergency planning, changes in legislation and future technology development. The event continues to grow and we have already exceeded the number of delegates we had for 2013.

The deadline for delegate registration is 17 April 2014, so you only have a few weeks left to secure your place. To register for Hazmat 2014, please visit the Hazmat event page and download, complete and return the delegate registration form.

Follow us on Twitter @ncec_uk to receive updates on speaker and topic information, and reminders about registration deadlines. #Hazmat2014 is the official tag for the event.

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Pocket Chemdata®

Coming soon to iOS® devices

Following on from the successful release of our Pocket Chemdata for Android® devices, we have been developing an iOS version for use with iPhones and iPads. The app is now in the final stages of testing and approval with Apple, and we expect to be able to release it on the App Store very soon – watch our website and Twitter feed for updates.

The new app enables Pocket Chemdata licence holders to access the full Chemdata database and includes English, Dutch, French, German and Spanish translations.

Functionality includes the ability to add your own notes to documents, share those notes with other Chemdata users in your organisation and to export a history of your actions that can be used as an audit trail if required. Users who don’t hold a current Pocket Chemdata licence will still be able to search the full Chemdata database, but they will only be able to access very limited data such as UN number, Emergency Action Code (EAC), physical form information, synonyms and road transport classification.

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NCEC in action

Operation Rosedale

Two of NCEC’s Emergency Responders, John Wilkinson and Tom Baker, recently attended Operation Rosedale. This was a major, multi-agency exercise simulating the derailment of a passenger rail carriage and a dangerous goods train carrying molten phenol. Organised by Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, the exercise also involved the participation of NCEC, Network Rail, British Transport Police, Nottinghamshire Police, East Midlands Ambulance Service, Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Environment Agency, and the DB Schenker Rail UK Breakdown and Recovery teams.

The exercise was a simulation involving a derailed tanker containing molten phenol that had been breached and its contents had spilt next to the tracks. This resulted in a complex emergency scenario involving a number of nearby rail workers who had been affected by the fumes and passengers on the derailed carriage being trapped inside.

NCEC’s on-duty Emergency Responder, Simon Jones, received notification of the exercise incident and informed the on-scene hazardous material and environmental protection officers (HMEPO) of the properties of the spilled chemical. Simon recommended a suitable level of personal protective equipment to enable the fire and rescue service to conduct a snatch rescue and retrieve the affected rail workers. He also explained that the phenol would rapidly solidify after being released from the heated tanker and this would minimise any harmful fumes. This specialist information allowed the emergency services in attendance to cordon off the chemical spillage and focus on the more urgent task of freeing the injured passengers from the derailed carriage.

As part of its national role endorsed by governments and industry, NCEC handles hundreds of calls each year from the UK emergency services and public agencies. While real major incidents are rare, they can be costly. NCEC’s interventions have been shown to save money and prevent harm to people, property and the environment, and are warmly appreciated by users of the service.

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Interesting calls

Agricultural fire

NCEC support emergency fire response

NCEC’s emergency response team recently received a call from a fire officer who was dealing with an agricultural fire. A large barn containing straw bales had caught fire, but it was also being used to store approximately six tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertiliser. The caller was concerned that the fertiliser could explode and was seeking specialist advice.

NCEC provides emergency response services to a number of fertiliser manufacturers and our Emergency Responder was able to draw on this expertise to provide the caller with detailed advice. The Emergency Responder explained that the risk of explosion was low, but would increase as the product became molten. In addition, the Emergency Responder warned that if any debris from the structure of the barn fell on the heated fertiliser or if molten fertiliser mixed with combustible material, then this would be of high concern due to the risk of explosion. The Emergency Responder recommended that an 800-metre cordon should be established and explained that the explosion risk could be reduced if the fertiliser was kept doused with water.

The fire service was later informed that two tonnes of urea fertiliser were stored in the burning barn. This new information was fed back to our Emergency Responder who then assessed the reactivity of the potential fertiliser mixture and concluded that it did not present any greater explosive risk than had already been advised. As the incident progressed, the fire brigade was able to identify the manufacturer of the fertiliser. The Emergency Responder liaised with the manufacturer to obtain further information and exchanged contact details of all parties to facilitate effective management of the incident.

In addition to their chemical qualifications, NCEC’s Emergency Responders receive specialist training from their clients, to enable them to provide detailed advice for products with complex properties.

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   Hazardous substances at industrial unit fire

NCEC respond to industrial firewidth=

NCEC’s emergency response team was contacted by a fire officer attending a large fire at an industrial unit. There were 15 appliances at the scene and the crews faced a complex problem. The fire was well established and the building contained a challenging mixture of chemical hazards. These included acetylene cylinders, the company’s stock of refrigeration and heat exchange products (filled with refrigerant chemicals), asbestos and silica containing toxic metal salts. One acetylene cylinder had already exploded and another had not been located within the building.

Our Emergency Responder identified the constituent chemicals of the refrigerant gases and informed the caller of the hazards. The Emergency Responder explained the combustion products that the compounds could give off and recommended that people in residential areas exposed to the smoke plume remain inside, with their doors and windows closed.

The Emergency Responder explained the decontamination procedure for fire equipment that had been exposed to asbestos fibres – stressing the importance of performing the decontamination while still wearing breathing apparatus.

The metal salts presented a different challenge. While being toxic, they are also classified as hazardous to the environment. As the location and number of drains on the site was unknown, the Emergency Responder recommended that the local water company should be contacted.

NCEC’s wide customer base means its Emergency Responders have extremely diverse incident-management experience and are able to draw on this to provide practical advice in complex hazmat scenarios.

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 Teenager affected by homemade chemical experiment

Poison Centres

A teenage boy was burnt when the chemicals he was heating on a hob ignited. The teenager claimed he had been trying to make a smoke bomb by mixing chemicals together. A fire officer attending the scene contacted NCEC to find out if this was a plausible way of making a smoke bomb.

Our Emergency Responder explained the behaviour of fuel and oxidiser mixtures, and how they can spontaneously ignite. It was explained that the mixture could be used to manufacture explosives, but was also a reasonable way of making a smoke bomb. The Emergency Responder provided the fire and rescue service with examples of recipes for smoke bombs that matched the chemicals described.

NCEC’s Emergency Responders frequently encounter chemicals being used for illicit purposes and, as a result of their extensive experience and in-depth knowledge, can provide specialist advice even in unusual circumstances!

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COSHH Assessment - Thursday 10 April 2014

The COSHH Assessment course, presented by Ricardo-AEA’s COSHH Competent Assessor, will provide the necessary knowledge to complete this task effectively. The course includes an overview of the regulations, identifying hazards, SDS interpretation, the effects of chemicals and the assessment process. Delegates are encouraged to bring their own assessments or details of workplace activities for discussion at the end of the day to help them consider the hazards, risks and likely exposures involved.

Cost: £310 + VAT

Chemical Hazard Awareness - Thursday 24 April

Chemical Hazard Awareness gives you the vital knowledge to make better risk assessments of the work you do and enables you to make the right choices about safe handling procedures, select the correct protective equipment, and make an effective and safe response to a spillage.

Cost: £310 + VAT

Hazmat 1st Response - Wednesday 14 May

Designed to support anyone providing information about, or attending, chemical incidents, the Hazmat 1st reponse cource addresses the need to make a rapid, relevant and reliable response to requests for chemical information from the emergency services.

Cost: £310 + VAT

To book a place or for more information, please contact us on +44 (0) 01235 753248 and/or email ncec@ricardo-aea.com.

Bespoke training

We also offer bespoke training courses that can be delivered on your premises. This means we can tailor the content to relate directly to your organisation and ensure to deliver a cost effective course that meets your specific needs.

To discuss your training needs, or for more information, please contact us or call us on +44 (0) 01235 753248

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iOS is a mobile operating system developed and distributed by Apple Inc. Android is a mobile operating system developed and distributed by Google inc.

In this issue

Click to view

Poison centres
Regulations and survey results

Hazmat 2014

Pocket Chemdata®
New announcement

NCEC in action
Operation Rosedale

Interesting calls

Agricultural fire

Hazardous industrial substance

Homemade chemical experiment