Biosafety Unit

Latest news

Latest news from the Health and Safety Department

Please note that the latest news section has been migrated to a new format (WordPress blog). You can access it by clicking on the link below


Reusable tight fitting face mask and powered hood training courses now live in LEARN - August 2019

Two new courses have been made live on LEARN – one on how to look after your reusable tight fitting facemask and the other on using a powered hood. Both courses can be found by logging into LEARN and choosing ‘self-enrol’ in the top right hand corner, then by clicking 'Self Enrol Health & Safety Courses' in the Course Catalogue section on that page (top right hand of the page once loaded). They are also highlighted in various pages on the Health and Safety website, including those mentioned below and on the RPE webpage.

These courses are recommended for all staff and students who are required to wear respiratory protection during their working day as training is a requirement to ensure that the user is aware of how to use their mask/powered hood and look after it properly.

During facefit testing, the user is given hands on training in this but the tight fitting mask course would be a good refresher at least once a year.

For powered hood users, a hands on session is still recommended (can usually be booked with the supplier of the hoods) but the powered hood online course could be used in the short term before a hands on course is arranged or, again, as an annual fresher, this course includes two videos by 3M on how to use the Versaflo and Jupiter.

Occupational Hygiene Unit

Change in masks supplied after facefit testing - July 2019

The Occupational Hygiene Unit has  been offering facefit testing at Edinburgh BioQuarter, Western General Hospital and Easter Bush campuses in the last year or so. As part of this, we have not been supplying masks or filters after testing as we couldn’t transport all of those masks (3 different styles with 8 different sizes for half masks, 2 styles and 4 sizes for full face masks). To aid staff in purchasing masks, we have put together a mask and filter purchasing guidance sheet, which is handed out to each person after the test. However, staff coming to Charles Stewart House have still been supplied with a mask and filters following a successful facefit test.

This has led to some confusion by staff over whether or not they should be getting mask and filters. Due to space constrains within Charles Stewart House, this confusion and the fact that it is very easy and quick to order masks through SciQuest, we have made the decision to stop supplying masks after a face fit test once we run out of our current stock. We will hand the purchasing guide to each staff member and it is also available online at or direct at  

Staff should check with their local lab manager or School Safety Adviser/Manager on the specific local procedure for ordering a mask and filters.

Occupational Hygiene Unit

COSHH Health Passport System final roll out - April 2019

Health and Safety and the BVS Departments are very pleased to jointly announce the introduction of the new University CoSHH Health Record Passport System (CHPS). This new system will assist departments in complying with CoSHH Regulations and it also serves to facilitate access to BVS Units for staff and students across the University.

For more information please see the letter sent to staff and students who may be exposed to laboratory animal allergens, COSHH Health Passport System final roll out - April 2019

Occupational Hygiene Unit

Consultation on revision of Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) for a range of carcinogens

The HSE has recently launched a consultation on revision of Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) for a range of carcinogens, with a transitional date of 20th January 2020. The full consultation can be found at and comments can be submitted on that page.

Occupational Hygiene Unit

Warning regarding needlesticks and hazardous chemicals

This tweet shows how dangerous some chemicals can be when injected into the skin. This researcher apparently had a simple needlestick involving the injecting of 1-2 drops of dichloromethane (DCM) which resulted in surgery, skin grafts and 3 months recovery. According to the surgeon, the necrosis of the skin was due to the harsh solvent.

Please share this as you see fit as a reminder to take care when using syringes.

Please be aware, there are some graphic images in the tweet -

Occupational Hygiene Unit


Welding – change in enforcement expectations for all steel welding fume

The HSE have recently released an update on mild steel welding fume as the International Agency for Research on Cancer have found that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans. The Workplace Health Expert Committee has endorsed the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen. The HSE have announced that they have strengthened the enforcement expectations for all steel welding fumes, not just limited to mild steel. Further details at

Actions required locally:

Risk assessments:

In the first instance, all tasks involving steel welding must be reviewed with risk assessments updated as required. The risk assessment must take into consideration the controls measures, such as LEV/RPE and if health surveillance is required, based on residual risk and other factors such as frequency of possible exposure.

LEV and RPE:

Indoor welding must have suitable LEV in place. If this is not possible, or does not give adequate protection, then suitable RPE must be provided. All operatives undertaking outdoor welding must be provided with suitable RPE. All RPE which is required for protection must be facefit tested, see for how to arrange a test, with for guidance on RPE.

If there is a continued concern regarding exposure, then please contact the Occupational Hygiene Unit who can assist with organising measurements of welding fume,

Health surveillance:

Health surveillance should be considered for those at risk of frequent or continuous occupational exposure to metal fume, taking into account the exposure control measures in place. Vaccination may reduce the risk of invasive pneumococcal disease but should not replace the need for measures to prevent or reduce exposure. If your risk assessment deems that health surveillance is required, please email with the names and staff numbers of those requiring health surveillance.

Occupational Hygiene Unit and Occupational Health Service

Legionella management

The University has published an updated Legionella Policy, which was drafted and reviewed by Estates Department and the Health and Safety Department and endorsed by the University Health and Safety Committee in May 2018,

A list of responsibilities, and guidance on how to comply with these, is available at

Please ensure that all pertinent staff are made aware of these requirements and systems put in place to comply. However, the School responsibilities have not changed since the previous version of the policy and if you have a system already in place which complied with the previous policy, then no changes in process are likely required, but it would still be advisable to review these to ensure they are still adequate.

Occupational Hygiene Unit

The end of RSA93 and the birth of EA(S)R 2018

On the 1st of September 2018, the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA93), which has been in place for 25 years, ceases to be in effect. The Radioactive Substances Exemption Order and the High Activity Sealed Sources Regulations will also be revoked. In its place will be the Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018 (EA(S)R 2018).

These regulations will provide a new framework for the authorisation of regulated environmental activities in Scotland. EA(S)R 2018 brings in a new four-tier graded system for radioactive substance use: (ordered as low risk to high risk) General Binding Rules, Notification, Registrations, Permits.

What does this mean for the University?

All of the University’s Certificates of Registration (for holding radioactive material) and Certificates of Authorisation (for accumulating and disposing of   radioactive waste) will be transferred over to radioactive permits under EA(S)R 2018. This transfer will be initiated by the SEPA and they aim to transfer over all authorisation holders to the new regime within a year. One major difference is that there will only be one permit issued for radioactive substance use (under EA(S)R) as opposed to two certificates under RSA93. The majority of radioactive material usage under the Exemption Order is captured by the General Binding Rules.

I’m a radioactive substance user/RPS, what do I need to do?

The University Radiation Protection Unit (RPU) is digesting the raft of new legislation. In practice, we believe users will see little change and can continue working as normal. If any change is required, this will be communicated to users through Radiation Protection Supervisors.

Radiation Protection Unit

HSE biological safety guidance update

HSE have recently issued some new guidance on biological safety.

1. This new guidance “HSE ACDP Management and operation of microbiological containment laboratories 2018” ( ) is replacing the following two documents:

HSE ACDP Biological agents: Managing the risks in laboratories and healthcare premises

HSE ACDP Management, design and operation of microbiological containment laboratories

2. This new guidance “HSE Managing infection risks when handling the deceased 2018” ( ) is replacing the following two documents:

HSE ACDP Safe working and prevention of infection in mortuary and post mortem room

HSE ACDP Controlling risks of infection at work from human remains

Biological Safety Unit

Mumps update

The mumps virus is circulating and affecting young adults in Edinburgh and the Lothians, predominantly in those aged 18 - 22 years.  Cases of mumps in our local community are monitored by the Health Protection Team NHS Lothian who provide the University with advice and support on potential public health issues.


Health and Safety Department

New or revised Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs)

EH40/2005, the list of legal Workplace Exposure Limits, has recently been updated with 31 new or revised WELs. A free copy can be downloaded from the HSE website at with pages 5, 6 and 7 listing the changes – the list is too extensive to add here but some highlights include a new WEL for acetic acid and sulphur dioxide and reduced exposure levels for Hydrogen cyanide (as cyanide).

Please ensure that this list is distributed to all staff who work with any of these substances and applicable risk assessments are reviewed.

Working with engineering controls, such as fume cupboards, usually ensures that no WELs are breached, but if you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the Occupational Hygiene Unit;

Occupational Hygiene Unit

Contact details

Occupational Hygiene Unit

School (Area) Safety Advisers training

School (Area) Safety Advisers are a vital component of the health and safety structure within the University. Face to face training sessions have always been available but we now also offer an online course on the LEARN platform which we recommend all School (Area) Safety Advisers complete.

This course covers the following information:

  • Health and safety law and University health and safety policy
  • University management structure and roles and responsibilities
  • Accident and incident reporting, training, and risk assessment
  • Accident and incident management - including how to report an accident etc., and how to use the AIR system to manage your accidents etc. and a template investigation form
  • Further useful documents
  • Further useful links

The link to the course can be found on the following pages of our website: and

Training and Audit Unit

General Data Protection Regulations May 2018

The Health and Safety Department have published a new web page detailing our various Privacy Notices, as required by the General Data Protection Regulations. This webpage will also be accessible from all of our subsites in the Contact Us section (top right of each website).

General Data Protection Regulations

Health and Safety Department

Update on COSHH Health Passport System

The IS project to design and build the system is now finished and the final code has been deployed to live.

As well as acting as the COSHH health record for staff who require one, the system will also act as entry control to all CBS managed animal facilities, to replace their current paper based system.

We are rolling the system out within the CBS animal facilities in the next few months and if any other non-CBS staff will be involved or affected, they will be contacted via their School Safety Adviser/Health and Safety Manager.

User guides and process flow charts have been published at - this page also describes the purpose of the system and details information that all Researchers need to be aware of prior to accessing it.

As is highlighted in the user guides, CBS may restrict access to their animal facilities if Researchers do not comply with the entry requirements. However, in the short term whilst we are embedding the system and processes, no access will be restricted to any staff or students who currently have access, although normal CBS disciplinary processes will remain in place and be followed as required.

Once the system is embeded within CBS, we will begin the further roll out at School level. We would therefore ask that staff and students do not access the system until specifically asked to do so. This will enable us to manage the roll out and any training that may be required.

Occupational Hygiene Unit

Mandatory training for those potentially exposed to laboratory animal allergens

On 20th August 2014, the Central Management Group (CMG) gave its full backing to the creation and delivery of 3 mandatory training courses for all Research Group Leaders, Principal Investigators and other relevant managers and supervisors who themselves are potentially exposed to animal allergens, and/or whose group members, or other relevant colleagues, would expect to have a similar potential for exposure, and all their staff/researchers in their groups. These courses were formally launched by the Director of Health and Safety in November 2016 via a letter to all applicable Heads of School.

The University Health and Safety Policy, Framework: Organisation has now also been updated with this information in 'Section 13 Principal Investigators (PIs), supervisors or managers', an extract of which can be found on the Principal Investigators and supervisors guidance webpage.

Health and Safety Department

New Online Fire Safety Awareness Training

The University has introduced a new online Fire Awareness training course.  This is to ensure that every employee within the University receives information and training relevant to fire safety matters within the workplace.

This training will help the University meet its statutory obligations with regard to fire safety and is supported through the LEARN platform.   

New Online Fire Safety Awareness Training

Fire Safety Unit

Environmental air pollution

Many countries have a much higher environmental air pollution than Scotland, sometimes at an unhealthy level - this aspect of travel and work needs to be considered prior to staff and students going to those countries.

If air pollution is a major risk of the country you are visiting, then the travel risk assessment should fully consider the risks from air pollution to which the individual(s) may be exposed, and identify suitable control measures in order to ensure all hazards are managed as far as practicable.

The Travel Risk assessment at has been updated with an annexe of guidance tro try and minimise the risk of exposure.

Occupational Hygiene Unit

Tight fitting face masks and facial hair

To ensure that any tight fitting face mask, both half and full face masks, protect the wearer against hazardous substances, the person must be clean shaven. This requirement is discussed during the facefit testing process but it is worth reminding staff of this on a regular basis. Further information can be found at  and more specifically at

Occupational Hygiene Unit