Hazardous Substances in your Workplace

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Use to answer question 13.6a of the Care Certificate

Using Paraffin-based Creams Safely

Safety with paraffin based products

Regular use of paraffin based products could result in the contamination of fabrics such as dressings, clothing and bedding.  Once contaminated the clothing and bedding etc. could catch fire more easily if exposed to an ignition source.  Staff need to be aware that not all products have a warning label on the container (a recent investigation showed only 7 out of 38 products were shown to have a warning label on them).

Examples of paraffin based creams/ointments:

Creams (e.g. Diprobase) thicker and greasier than lotions but are still easy to use. They are less runny and tend to come in pots or pump dispensers.

Ointments (e.g. Epaderm or 50/50 white soft paraffin/liquid paraffin mix) greasy and thick, these products are oil-based rather than water-based.

Paraffin-based skin creams used for conditions such as eczema and psoriasis are not, in themselves, dangerous. They are perfectly safe to use but need to be kept away from an ignition sources such as a heater, a naked flame or a lit cigarette.

For clients using paraffin based products, staff should check a Medication Risk Assessment Form has been completed.

Important safety tips:


  • Wash bedding daily as it may be saturated with paraffin-based creams. This won’t removed the contamination completely but will reduce it.
  • Change and wash clothing daily as it may have been saturated with paraffin-based cream
  • Cover furniture or airflow cushions with throws to avoid them becoming contaminated, wash the throws daily.
  • Inform your supervisor if there is a change in the clients medical or health care needs which might compromise fire safety within their home.


  • Don’t smoke or allow others to smoke in your home
  • Don’t use any naked flame or ignition source such as matches, lighters and candles if there is a chance clothing could have been contaminated by a paraffin based cream.
  • Don’t use paraffin or oil based cream or liquid on skin in you are using oxygen equipment. Speak to a health professional about using a water based cream instead.
  • Advise clients to avoid being near people who are smoking or using naked flames; or avoid going near anything that may cause a fire.


Information from The Medicines and Healthcare Produces Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service

Using Home Oxygen Safely

Safety with Oxygen

Oxygen equipment is safe when used and stored correctly, in line with supplier instructions.  If a client has oxygen therapy equipment in the home you should take extra care around heat, sparks and fire. Tubes and cables associate with equipment can also become trip hazards if not tucked safely away.

Fire needs oxygen to burn, the more oxygen in the air, the easier and faster it will burn.  Oxygen itself is not

flammable but a fire cannot burn without it. (See fire triangle – heat, fuel and oxygen).

Oxygen Therapy

To ensure the safety of all employees, clients and family/carers staff need to know how to handle and therapeutic oxygen safely within the home.

Oxygen therapy means using an oxygen cylinder or a machine to breathe in air that contains more oxygen than normal.  Oxygen treatment may be prescribed for people with a heart or lung condition that causes low oxygen levels in their blood.

Oxygen treatment can be give  in a number of ways including through a:

  • Tube positioned under the nose (nasal cannula)
  • Face mask placed over the nose and mouth
  • Tube placed into the mouth and down the windpipe (trachea) of a person who’s unable to breathe on their own; the tube is attached to a ventilator machine that helps the person to breathe.

When oxygen therapy equipment is used, some of the oxygen is released into the atmosphere around you.  This extra oxygen will allow materials to flame which would normally only smoulder.  This means that a fire will develop in the home and cookers and heating appliances will generate more heat.

Furniture, hair and clothes that are exposed to the oxygen rich environment will become saturated, making them more flammable.

Common causes of burns with oxygen therapy in homes.

  • Cigarette smoking while using oxygen (70%)
  • Cooking while using oxygen (30%)
  • Burns occurred most often to the nose and face (90%)

Inhalation burns (30%)

National Services Scotland, the NHS and the Fire Brigade have produced guidance for the safe use of oxygen in the home, to manage the risks highlighted above, in the form of Do’s and Don’ts.



  • keep at least 3 metres(10 feet) from open fires.
  • ensure oxygen supply is switched off when not in use.
  • Keep oxygen equipment at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) away from heating sources and stoves.
  • Keep oxygen equipment away from other heat/static sources e.g. TV’s, hairdryers and fans.
  • allow at least 30 minutes after turning off oxygen before it is safe to go near sources of heat for example when cooking as oxygen may build up in material and make it more flammable.
  • ensure oxygen is stored in a well-ventilated room.
  • ensure a firebreak (where provided) remains in the oxygen tubing (the blue arrow should be pointing toward the client.)The firebreak will stop fire spreading down the oxygen tubing in the event of a fire.
  • If upholstery, bedding or clothing have become saturated with oxygen, air them for at least 30 minutes afterwards.
  • Open the windows whilst using oxygen.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher to hand and keep within reach
  • take care to avoid trips and falls over oxygen tubing.

Clean cannulas and breathing masks weekly

Inform your local fire station that you have oxygen at home. They advise on keeping safe.

Ensure you have smoke/fire alarms within your home and check that they are in working order (the local fire service can advise you and supply you with them).

National Services Scotland, the NHS and the Fire Brigade have produced guidance for the safe use of oxygen in the home, to manage the risks highlighted above, in the form of Do’s and Don’ts.  See Active’s Policy and Procedure Oxygen in the Home for more information.



  • allow smoking around oxygen – including electronic cigarettes, as they have a heated element
  • use electric razors while using oxygen
  • apply oil or grease to equipment, this includes clients using face or hand creams that are oil based. *Only creams that are water based should be used. Check ingredients – water should be the first ingredient. Ensure hands are clean and dry when handling oxygen equipment.
  • lay mask or cannula down for any length of time when oxygen in use, as oxygen can settle, maintaining an invisible hazard.
  • tamper with oxygen equipment or change flow rate without consulting the Oxygen Prescriber.
  • let oxygen tubing get trapped which may result in reducing or stopping the flow of oxygen.
  • attempt to dismantle, repair or otherwise interfere with the equipment.


Active undertakes medication risk assessments for all medicines we provide support with. This may include suggesting that the client seeks a medication review to consider safer alternatives and using waterproof, disposable aprons to prevent creams soaking into clothing.

Basic hygiene with consumables

Cannula: Clean daily with warm soapy cloth.  Never immerse cannula in water.  Wipe dry.

Facemasks: Clean daily with warm soapy water, rinse and leave to air dry.

Clients are given replacements at each quarterly service visit.

For clients using oxygen, staff should check a Medication Risk Assessment Form has been completed.

Promoting Fire Safety for Clients who use Oxygen in their own homes


Although oxygen itself is not flammable, it is a fire hazard as it makes other materials flammable. The following precautions can reduce these risks:

  • never let anyone smoke while you’re using oxygen
  • avoid paraffin and oil-based creams, as these increase the risk of fire and persist on skin and fabrics
  • keep oxygen at least six feet away from flames or heat sources, such as gas cookers and gas heaters
  • don’t use flammable liquids, such as cleaning fluid, paint thinner or aerosols while you’re using oxygen
  • keep a fire extinguisher within easy reach at home
  • install fire alarms and smoke detectors in your home and make sure they’re working
  • inform your local fire brigade that you have oxygen at home
  • keep oxygen cylinders upright to prevent them being damaged


The supplier of home oxygen may inform the local fire service to make them aware that there’s oxygen in your home. They may also request a risk assessment.

Active assessors check this has been undertaken and record any guidance.

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