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Chemical hazards

Hazard Knowledge

The term 'chemical hazard' refers to liquids, gases or solids that can harm people, other living organisms, property or the environment.

Certain chemicals pose various health hazards when they are inhaled, come into contact with the skin or eyes, or are ingested. Examples include:

  • Gases
  • Dusts
  • Fumes
  • Vapours
  • Liquids
  • Toxic substances
  • Corrosive substances
  • Asphyxiates
  • Solvents
  • Smoke
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Radioactive substances
  • Asbestos
  • Silica

Fire and rescue service personnel attend a wide variety of incident types and may be called on to deal with chemical spillages or releases. Fire and rescue operations may produce chemical hazards, such as fire water run-off. In some cases, the incident attended will manufacture chemical hazards such as smoke or carbon monoxide.

There are vast numbers and diverse types and volumes of potential chemical hazards that could pose a threat to firefighters. Chemical hazards could also be revealed, encountered or used in storage, manufacturing processes, disposal or waste processes and are therefore likely to be present at most operational incidents.

Exposure to a chemical may affect the health of individuals or of the wider population and can in extreme cases lead to fatalities. The effects may be immediate or delayed. Incident commanders and firefighters must evaluate and assess the hazards.

When approaching an incident with casualties and there is no known reason for their incapacity, incident commanders should use the Step 1-2-3 model.

See DCLG/CFRA- Hazardous materials: operational guidance for the fire and rescue services

See National Operational Guidance: Hazardous materials

See National Operational Guidance: Environmental protection