Training – the first line of defence

Training – the first line of defence
22 February 2019

Hope is not a strategy
But our chemical incident management training courses are...

In the world of chemical incident management, the saying ‘prepare for the worst and hope for the best’ is particularly relevant. Ensuring that emergency response teams are properly trained and exercised will reduce the impact of incidents when they occur.

For 45 years, the National Chemical Emergency Centre (NCEC) has been providing emergency response support to incidents involving hazardous chemicals. This has enabled us to develop a unique insight into our callers and the nature of incidents that occur. As a result, we have developed several specialist services including:

  • Expert telephone emergency response, and chemical safety advice and support.
  • Training – spill response, chemical hazard awareness, response to incidents involving chemical exposures and other modules tailored to individual organisations.
  • Chemdata® – a multilingual database with over 61,000 substances and 176,000 different chemical names, used by many fire and rescue services around the world.
  • Consultancy – Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation; poison centres; dangerous goods safety advisers (DGSA); and safety data sheet (SDS) authoring.
  • Chemedox – the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) authoring software.

All our services provide organisations with the information they need – but do your staff have the right training to use that information?

All responders (e.g. the emergency services) train and exercise for the moment the worst happens. Following exercises and real incidents, they assess what went right and what can be improved, so that they are better prepared for next time. Through their work dealing with chemical incidents, NCEC’s emergency responders, who are all trained chemists, are constantly learning new ways in which hazardous materials have been used and the problems that are encountered. During our specialist training courses, they can share this knowledge with participants.

All our courses are based on extensive chemical knowledge, enabling us to provide ‘best-in-class’ training on the actual hazards and how to minimise any exposures. This means any incident is dealt with effectively and efficiently. After our training, participants will have the information and procedures they require to help them deal with spills and exposures.

In all our courses, we request feedback from attendees so we continually improve our offering. This ensures the course content meets our clients’ needs.

Spill response

Spills are going to happen. Fortunately, most are easy to deal with. However, what do you do if there is a spill of a corrosive material or a reaction starts to occur that was not anticipated? Often, companies call in specialist contractors or the emergency services, but that can take time and is not cost-efficient. Our spill response course trains your staff to be able to differentiate between something that can be dealt with in-house and an incident where outside support is truly needed.

All our trainers have been NCEC emergency responders. This gives them direct experience of providing advice on the hazards of products, best practice in dealing with spills and expertise in communicating information effectively. We provide practical experience during the course so that participants become familiar with the equipment they may need to use. Courses are concluded with a quiz to make sure the learning has been fully understood.

Responders dealing with a chemical spill can be faced with a multitude of chemicals all of which have the potential to react, or cause injury or, in the worst case, death. The objective of our spill response course is to help your staff stay safe by equipping them with guidelines and procedures to follow when dealing with a spill.

Chemical hazard awareness

Our primary focus during this course is to give your staff the knowledge to handle chemicals with confidence and respect. Many of the hazardous materials on the market are not understood by staff. This can result in minor injuries but, in the worst cases, serious long-term health effects have been caused. Several companies have been investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) resulting in improvement notices or even fines. Our trainers provide the knowledge needed by all members of your staff, helping them to remain safe at all times.

In one case, it was found that field engineers were asked to mix chemicals on site. They had not been provided with appropriate training, so they did not understand the correct handling procedures for the chemicals. This led to many of them receiving chemical burns. The company was said to have inadequate controls in place and was heavily fined.

Our one-day course would have highlighted the correct personal protective equipment to use, hazards of the chemicals and the correct transport of the chemicals to the workplace. We also cover chemicals that are not considered to be hazardous but may carry a risk in certain situations. For instance, flour can form an explosive atmosphere in specific concentrations of air, but you will find it in almost every kitchen.

Response to incidents involving chemical exposures (RICE)

Most first aid courses give you the fundamentals to protect life and mention chemicals only in regard to ingestion or burns. During our course, we explain how to react to incidents involving corrosives and irritants, and help you to understand their effects. Hazardous materials have different properties that a first aider will need to be familiar with and know how to deal with them. We provide the information and resources first aiders need so they can avoid secondary exposures or causing further harm to the individual exposed.

In one case, a cleaner was found unconscious after mixing two cleaning chemicals. It was discovered that staff had not been trained sufficiently to know that chlorine could be produced from these chemicals. The company was substantially fined. However, if the staff had been adequately trained, the incident could have been avoided.

Through our expert knowledge, built up over many years, we provide training in all aspects of hazardous materials. Our diverse customer base, from agrochemicals to heavy industry, enables us to continually add to our knowledge about materials and their hazards. We have been involved at the forefront of Responsible Care® and support our clients in being prepared for when that emergency call comes.

We strive to make courses inclusive for all attendees and we have found this to be a major success factor. We have found attendees enjoy anecdotes from the trainers’ experience and taking part in practical activities and hence, included them in our training now. Our expert trainers have dealt with challenges during their NCEC careers that many people hope never to face. This gives them the perfect background to support the learning and development of your staff. If you encounter hazardous materials in any form at work, then we can provide the training you need.

Many of our clients who have benefitted from our training have requested further courses. Therefore, you can be assured that our experts can provide the training to meet your requirements.

Contact us now to discuss your training requirements. Choose us, choose safety!

Previous testimonials


Excellent communicator, extremely informative.


I learnt a lot on the course and it will go towards future skills
and knowledge in the workplace.

The course went over and above needs of lab staff and

additional info with regards expiry dates and chemicals was

very helpful.


Covered a lot of aspects on the use and handling of
– how it can be dangerous in various ways and
various differences between potential dangers.