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Hazardous substances found in a health and social care environment may include:

  • Cleaning materials
  • Disinfectants
  • Body fluids
  • Medication
  • Clinical waste such as dressings or contaminated bed linen.

These substances can enter the body via inhalation (breathing in), ingestion (swallowing), injection (needle stick) or absorption (through the skin). For all products you use, read the hazard information found on the label; this will inform you about the hazards of use and help you to keep yourself and others safe.

The workplace must have a secure and special area especially for the storage of hazardous substances. Some hazardous substances should only be handled when the worker is wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). Your employer will have policies and procedures which set out when PPE should be worn which will normally include handling clinical waste and some chemicals.

You must always work within agreed ways to protect your own health and wellbeing as well as those around you.


Cleaning products and disinfectants should be kept in their original containers as these give the manufacturer’s instructions for correct usage. These instructions must always be followed. An individual may choose to transfer products out of their original containers in their own home. For your own safety, You should only use products that are in their original containers.

Identifiable human tissue must always be incinerated. Other biological waste needs to be put in orange or yellow bags and disposed of separately from household waste. Local authorities may arrange a separate collection for this type of waste from individuals’ own homes.

Body fluids such as blood, urine, vomit and faeces must be cleaned up immediately. Disposable items used for cleaning the spills, such as paper towels and gloves, should be disposed of as clinical waste.

Clinical waste includes contaminated waste such as used dressings and contaminated personal protective equipment. This waste should be put into bags which identify it as potentially harmful (these are usually yellow or orange) and stored securely until it can be disposed of as set out in the procedures for your workplace. Many local authorities will arrange safe collection of clinical waste from individual’s homes if it has been assessed as clinical waste by community healthcare professional.

Some contaminated, clinical waste can pierce the skin and should be stored in sharps bins rather than bags which protect workers from these injuries. You must follow the agreed ways of working. If supporting people in their own homes, a risk assessment for disposing of sharps will have been carried out. Sharps should normally be returned, in an approved sharps box, to the place they were prescribed.

Linen which has been contaminated with body fluids should ideally be washed immediately if you are supporting a person to live in their own home. In the health and social care workplace, it should be placed in identifiable bags and placed in a hot wash, separate from other linen.