Hazardous substances regulation—potential liabilities
Produced in partnership with Susannah Wilks
Hazardous substances regulation—potential liabilities

The following Environment practice note produced in partnership with Susannah Wilks provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Hazardous substances regulation—potential liabilities
  • Liability in the workplace
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
  • Classification, labelling and packaging regulation
  • Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations
  • Liability for breach of planning controls
  • Planning (Hazardous Substances) Act 1990
  • Civil liability
  • Negligence
  • Nuisance
  • More...

Hazardous substances regulation—potential liabilities

Substances which could pose a threat to human health or the environment are regulated in a variety of contexts:

  1. in the workplace, via health and safety legislation

  2. through planning controls, governing how and where substances may be stored

  3. by ‘polluter pays’ legislation aimed at tackling damage to the environment

Breaches of these regulations may result in criminal prosecution. In some circumstances, civil liability (negligence or nuisance) can also arise where damage is caused by a hazardous substance.

Different categories of potentially hazardous substances are covered by the different sets of regulations. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH Regulations), SI 2002/2677 (discussed further below) contain a broad definition covering essentially anything that could create a risk to health. The planning regulations in contrast contain a list, including named substances and categories of substance which present particular dangers such as toxicity or flammability. Certain substances, such as asbestos and radioactive materials, have dedicated legislation, discussed in the final section of this Practice Note.

Liability in the workplace

According to the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA 1974), breach of health and safety regulations will constitute an offence (see section 33(1)(c)). This applies to the regulations governing hazardous substances in the workplace discussed below. Schedule 3A of HSWA sets out the penalties for such offences: an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment for

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