Welcome to the NCEC Newsletter and thank you for reading

In this issue, we announce details of our 2016 customer survey; review the European Commission’s draft amendments to the European Regulation on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (CLP); report on an NCEC webinar that was held to help understand the impact of the draft amendments on complying with poison centre requirements; give details of our Crisis Leadership Workshop being held in April; evaluate the importance of proportionate advice in responding to a chemical incident; analyse a recent HSE investigation into a transport incident; provide information regarding a public consultation on the regulatory fitness of chemicals legislation; give access to our recent webinar concerning the potential cost of a chemical incident; and provide details of our 2016 Hazmat event.

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

Daniel Haggarty of the National Chemical Emergency Centre

  Dan Haggarty
  Head of Emergency Response
  National Chemical Emergency Centre 

    E: ncec@ricardo.com
    T: +44 (0) 1235 753654



Interesting calls  


Mistaken identity




NCEC was recently contacted by a fire and rescue service crew member who was attending a fire at the site of a manufacturing company. Several drums of chemicals were adjacent to the fire and were giving off smoke. Unfortunately, the crew had been provided with a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) by the site operator, which identified the chemical in the drums as a non-flammable solid. This was at odds with the UN number on the drum, which identified the chemical as a highly flammable liquid. In addition to this, there was some confusion as to the name of the manufacturer of the chemical.

The NCEC 24/7 emergency responder immediately recognised there were inconsistencies with the information that the site operator had supplied to the fire and rescue service, and that it was unlikely the product identified on the SDS would be a liquid. NCEC’s emergency responder was able to establish the product manufacturer’s name and made contact with the company. The responder discovered that the flammable liquid in the drum was, in fact, used in the manufacture of the non-flammable solid described on the SDS. It turned out that the chemical manufacturer’s name given by site operator to the fire and rescue service was that of a company sharing facilities with the manufacturing company, but was not responsible for the chemicals involved in the incident.

Sometimes, the information about a chemical incident supplied to NCEC’s emergency responders may not be entirely accurate. This means they have to be ever vigilant and effective at using the resources available to them to establish the correct information. This enables NCEC to provide the best possible advice to help bring such incidents to a satisfactory conclusion.




emergency response


 A deadly mix


During this incident, the police had made a forced entry to a property and found a number of suspicious devices and drums of chemicals. A fire and rescue service crew member at the scene contacted NCEC to find out what would happen if the chemicals were mixed.

NCEC’s emergency responder explained that if the chemicals mixed then there would be what one source described as a ‘violent eruption’ from the chemicals boiling as they reacted. However, the emergency responder emphasised that the chemicals would be safe as long as their containers remained intact, so preventing the chemicals from mixing. The crew member explained there was a concern that there might be explosives in the property and, if the worst happened, the drums could be ruptured, allowing the chemicals to mix resulting in a secondary violent chemical reaction. NCEC’s emergency responder recommended that the fire and rescue service should remove the drums as soon as the area had been declared safe and to keep the chemicals separate to prevent any possible reaction.

NCEC’s emergency responders are frequently confronted with dangerous scenarios. By drawing on their extensive chemical expertise and comprehensive NCEC training they can assist the emergency services in understanding the potential consequences of severe incidents.


emergency response


 Submerged chemicals




NCEC received a number of emergency calls related to the widespread flooding at the end of 2015, particularly in relation to water reactive compounds.

At one incident, steel intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) containing sodium hydrosulphite were submerged in flood water. The valves on the IBCs were not designed to be immersed in water for such prolonged periods and eventually failed. This resulted in 12 tonnes of the product decomposing violently, which produced toxic hydrogen sulphide and sulphur dioxide, and igniting. The fire and rescue service had doused the containers for two days to extinguish the fire and prevent it from reigniting. However, toxic gas was still being released and product had started to leak from the steel IBCs.

NCEC was contacted for advice about whether a plan to move the containers and empty them above a quenching pool would be a safe course of action. Our emergency responder advised against this as there were several risks associated with moving the containers – primarily, the increased risk of reignition, a damaging environmental release and the risk to personnel at the scene.

Having access to immediate, expert chemical advice is paramount in preventing the re-escalation of an emergency situation. With the number and frequency of extreme weather events on the increase, it pays to be prepared for the unexpected.





Fighting chemical fire

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Customer survey  


We are committed to enhancing and developing our services and solutions for our customers and the chemicals industry as a whole. As part of that commitment, we regularly ask our customers to provide feedback on how we are performing and areas they would like to see us develop.

If you are an NCEC customer and complete the survey, you will be entered into a prize draw and have a chance to win a 16GB Apple® iPad mini™ loaded with the Chemdata® app and will also be eligible to attend an open training course.

To enter please choose from either the public sector survey or private sector survey.





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Review: EU Commission's draft amendments to CLP   


On Thursday 11 February 2016, the European Commission published its first draft amendments to the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures (CLP) regulations for public consultation.

The chemical industry has eagerly anticipated the Commission’s comments on CLP, with particular attention focussing on the possible changes to article 45 and the impact this will have on poison centre compliance for businesses handling hazardous goods in Europe. Formal ratification of the amendment is not expected until late 2016; however the draft text offers crucial insight into the Commission’s intentions and priorities for the future.

In this article, Larissa Silver and Jonathan Lang from the National Chemical Emergency Centre (NCEC), review the key changes in the amendment and explains the steps businesses may have to take to stay compliant and secure business continuity across Europe.

Read the full article on our blog





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Webinar: 'European Poison Centres Update' 





To aid of the understanding of the draft amendments, NCEC held a webinar during which our regulatory experts evaluated the possible changes and also illustrated the differences in poison centre information submission across a variety of EU Member States, helping organisations to have clear insight into how the regulations impact them.

We also looked at the challenges industry faces when attempting to comply with local regulations for submission and how the EU is trying to address these problems.

Read more


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Event: Crisis leadership workshop 


Effective crisis leadership is essential in enabling your company to efficiently respond to a crisis and can directly help to reduce the long term impact it can have on your organisation.

If you’re unsure of whether you or your organisation is prepared for dealing with such an incident, be that chemical or any other, our crisis leadership workshop is a must-attend event.


Taking place on 19 April, the workshop will provide delegates with invaluable insight into:

  • Crisis notification, escalation and worst case scenario assessment in order to help you respond to and manage an incident efficiently regardless of its scale
  • Information management and decision making to make sure you have access to the appropriate resources when the worst happens
  • Stakeholder mapping and crisis communications in order to establish and enable an effective and timely response

The pre-conference workshop will be delivered by NCEC's David Key, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service's Iain Housman and BP Plc’s Nick West. A full agenda of the workshop can be viewed here. 

The cost of attendance is £200+VAT. This includes:

  • Access to and networking opportunities with leading experts in the crisis management field with collectively over 40 years' experience in crisis management
  • Practical insight into effective crisis leadership with the aim of streamlining your or your organisation's crisis management capability
  • Lunch, refreshments and bed & breakfast accommodation at the prestigious Beaumont Estate for 19 April

To register for the workshop, please click here


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Event: Hazmat 2016  


Taking place 18 & 19 May in Stratford-upon-Avon, the event is the perfect opportunity to gain insight into:

  • Hazardous materials response & emergency planning
  • Chemical exposure and monitoring
  • Developments in legislation and future technology

We are pleased to announce the draft programme of the event and have hand-picked a number of high profile industry experts to deliver presentations and workshops across both days.

For more information about this event, please click here



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The value of proportionate advice 


With the chemical industry expanding into new regions across the world, chemical supply chains are now wider than ever. When responding to chemical incidents, fire services must be prepared to encounter a growing number of potentially hazardous substances, each with their own bespoke handling procedures. However, while the chemical industry is growing many fire services are finding their budgets shrinking, requiring crews to reduce the time and cost of deployment for each incident.

In this article, Maria Stearn of the UK’s National Chemical Emergency Centre (NCEC) explores the importance of combining global chemical data with proportionate advice to help fire services deliver the quickest, safest and most efficient chemical incident response.

Read the full article on our blog



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Case study: Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution   


Last year a chemical supplier and a logistics company were both prosecuted following an HSE investigation into a transport incident involving a lorry carrying potassium hydroxide. Potassium hydroxide is corrosive, can cause chemical burns on contact with the skin and eyes, and is corrosive to metals.

A consignment of 170 plastic jerricans containing corrosive 45% potassium hydroxide had been placed onto pallets and loaded into a lorry. The HSE investigation found that the jerrican closures had not been sufficiently tightened, the jerricans had not been securely stacked onto the pallets, and the pallets had not been adequately restrained when loaded onto the vehicle. The investigation found that the jerricans had been loaded by an unsupervised contract employee who had only started in the job that week. He had not loaded dangerous goods before, and had not received training on how to do so.

Read the full article on our blog



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Webinar: 'The cost of the incident you avoid' 


Loss of life or serious injury. Damage to business property and the environment. Irreparable harm to commercial reputation. Managers know that the price of a chemical incident goes far beyond the immediate financial cost.

In a new webinar, “The cost of the incident you avoid”, NCEC explains how to calculate this cost and provides product managers with the tools they need to demonstrate the value of chemical safety to their companies.

Read more


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Consultation on the regulatory fitness of chemicals legislation (excluding REACH) 



NCEC is working with a number of partners, RPA, Milieu and Oekopol for the European Commission on the regulatory fitness of chemicals legislation (excluding REACH). A public consultation has been launched by the European Commission on the regulatory fitness of chemicals legislation (excluding REACH), as well as related aspects of legislation applied to downstream industries.

Contributions are sought from Member State public authorities responsible for implementing and enforcing the legislation covered by the fitness check, companies and industry associations in the chemicals and downstream industries, workers in these industries, trade unions, environmental and health NGOs, consumer associations, academia and research/educational institutes, as well as consumers and citizens. The consultation will be open until 27 May 2016. 

NCEC would really appreciate if you would take part in this consultation.

The consultation can be found here



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Questions about NCEC

Would you like more information about NCEC?

Email: ncec@ricardo-aea.com or Tel: +44 (0) 1235 753654

NCEC was recently contacted by Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, who were at the disused Dorchester Prison. A container of test tubes had been discovered by archaeologists during site excavation. These tubes were marked “Home Office” and with the names of a number of chemical weapons: Mustard Gas, B.B.C., D.M. and Lewisite. A bomb disposal team were en-route but the Fire Service wanted more advice.


NCEC’s responder explained that the mystery package was an Air Raid Precautions simulant kit from WWII, a surprisingly common find. These kits would have been issued to Air Raid Precautions (ARP) personnel or HM Forces to help them recognise and identify chemical warfare agents, should an attack occur. Some of these kits contain safe gases that simulate the appearance and odour of the chemical weapons, but others can contain the real thing. Our responder was able to discuss the individual hazards of each chemical with the FRS and explain that as long as the package and test tubes remained intact they would unlikely pose a risk to health.


The cause of chemical incidents can be either current or historical, but access to chemical knowledge from experienced NCEC responders can help make sense of many potentially dangerous situations, no matter how ancient.