Health & Safety Terms and Abbreviations

Health, Safety and Environment has its own terms, acronyms and abbreviations.

In some cases the terms occur in everyday speech but, in Health and Safety, some have different shades of meaning to their common usage.

We have attempted to express our definitions in laymen's terms and therefore should not be assumed to have any legal standing.

Health and Safety Terms


Accident An undesired event resulting in death, injury, damage to health, damage to property or other form of loss
Abnormal Event An unplanned, unusual, occurrence or emergency
Absorption Taking a substance into the body by penetration through intact skin - one of the Routes of Entry
Adaptation The limited ability for people to tolerate small departures from optimal conditions (equipment design, environment, etc) without significantly affecting performance, for example _ use of a chair that is a little too high or a little too low
Aerosols Substance dispersed into the air such that the droplets or particles remain in suspension for a significant period of time
Air Exchange Rate The rate at which inside air is replaced by outside air. The rate may be expressed as the number of changes of air per unit of time (e.g. Air Changes per Hour - ACH) or the volume of air exchanged per unit of time (e.g. Cubic Feet per minute (CFM)
Allergen Substance causing an allergic reaction in a person who is sensitive to that substance
Ambient Surrounding, e.g. Ambient temperature usually means the outside temperature
Anthropometric Dimensions The dimensions of the human body. These may be static measurements (i.e. when the subject standing or seated) or functional (i.e. when the person assumes an unnatural posture)
Apparent Loudness Measurement in decibels of sound pressure measured against the threshold of hearing, being 0 decibels. The pain threshold is 120 decibels and an increase of 3 decibels is perceived as doubling in loudness
Appointed Person A person who has been nominated to take charge in the event of an accident or illness (and support designated first aiders if present) and has been trained in basic lifesaving first aid techniques (See Designated Person)
Approved Code of Practice A code of practice, associated with specific regulations, that has been approved by the Health & Safety Commission. A Code of Practice is seen as the accepted standard and can be used as evidence in a court of law. It is not mandatory to follow a Code of Practice but, to be acceptable, any alternative must be demonstrated to be of equal measure or better.
Asbestos Hydrated magnesium silicate in fibrous form
Audible Range Normal hearing frequency, approximately 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz

Background Level The normal or typical level of a chemical in the environment, often referring to the naturally occurring level
Best Practice A standard of risk control that is above the legal minimum
(See Good Practice)
Biological Agent A living organism or something made from a living organism that can be used beneficially (e.g. to prevent or treat disease) or maliciously (e.g. germ warfare)
Boiling Point Temperature at which a liquid changes to a gas at normal atmospheric pressure

Carcinogen Substance that is known or suspected of causing cancer
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome A chronic disorder of the hand and wrist possibly resulting from repetitive work involving repeated wrist flexion or extension
Catalyst A substance that initiates or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected by the reaction
Central Nervous System The part of the nervous system that includes the brain and spinal cord
Cervical Spine The uppermost 7 vertebrae of the spine which, being very delicate, is prone to degenerative processes
Chronic Occurring over an extended period of time
Code of Practice Rules established by regulatory bodies or trade associations, which are intended as a guide to acceptable behaviour. As such they do not have the force of law behind them
Combustible Liquid Liquid with a flash point above 37.8 C (100° F)
Common Law Source of law that is not written in statute but which has been developed through judicial precedent. A breach of common law could result in a criminal offence or a civil action for damages.
Competent Person A person who is appropriately trained, qualified, experienced and skilled to undertake specific health and safety duties without risk to their own safety or that of others
Compliance The act or process of fulfilling requirements
Compressed Gas Substance that is a gas at normal pressure and room temperature but is held in a pressurised container resulting in it becoming a liquid
Concentration The quantity of one substance contained in another substance e.g. the amount of salt dissolve in sea water
Contaminant Substance - usually undesirable - in another substance, product or space where it is not normally found, e.g. environmental pollutants
Contrast The difference in brightness between the subject (e.g. text) and the background against which it is viewed
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations promoting safe working with potentially hazardous chemicals
Corrosive Substance that causes destruction of another substance, including human tissue
Cryogenics Materials that exist at extremely low temperatures, e.g. liquid nitrogen
Cutaneous Pertaining to or affecting the skin

Designated Person A person who has been designated as a first aider at work and has been trained to have the knowledge and confidence to deal with any first aid emergency (See Appointed Person)
Display Screen Equipment Any alphanumeric or graphic display screen regardless of the process employed to display the information. Typical examples include computer monitors and microfilm viewers
Dose The amount of substance to which a person is exposed in terms of the concentration of the substance and the time period during which the exposure occurs

Employment Medical Advisory Service Part of the Health and Safety Executive, offering advice on work related health issues and on people with health problems returning to work.
Ergonomics The application of information about human characteristics to design applications, e.g. equipment, tools, work tasks, with the aim of improving safety and efficiency

Fatigue Transient reduced ability to work as a result of previous activity, resulting in reduced efficiency
Fires Class A - Fires in ordinary combustible materials such as wood, cloth, paper, etc.
Class B - Fires in flammable liquids and liquefiable solids or electrical fires
Class C - Fires involving gases.
Class D - Fires involving combustible metals such as potassium or sodium
Class F - Fires involving cooking oils or fats
Fire Prevention Precautions designed to avoid an outbreak of fire, reduce the potential for fire to spread and safeguard persons and property in the event of fire
Flammable Gas Gas that when mixed with air forms a flammable mixture at ambient temperature and pressure
Flammable Liquid Liquid with a flashpoint below 100°F (37.8°C)
Flammable Solid Solid that is liable to cause fires through friction, absorption of moisture, etc. or which can be readily ignited
Flash Point The lowest temperature at which a flame will propagate through the vapour of a combustible material
Freezing Point Temperature at which a liquid becomes a solid, at normal atmospheric pressure

Glare When a portion of the visual field has a significantly higher luminance than its surroundings, resulting in reduced contrast
Good Practice HSE Definition: Those standards for controlling risk which have been judged and recognised by the HSE as satisfying the law when applied to a particular relevant case in an appropriate manner.
(See Best Practice)

Hazard Potential for harmful effects
Health And Safety Executive Organisation responsible for proposing safety regulations throughout the UK. It is responsible for enforcing, statute, regulations, approved codes of practice and guidance.

Illuminance A measure of the amount of light falling on a particular point, measured in Lux
Improvement Notice A statutory notice that is issued by an authorising body such as Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Environmental Health Officer (EHO) or Fire Officer on discovery of a breach of statute. It states that an offence has been committed, what action needs to be taken, the reason for the action and the time deadline by which it must be taken.
Incident (or Near Miss) A generic term for those events that do not cause harm but which might have done so under different circumstances
Ingestion Taking a substance into the body through the mouth, for example in the form of food or drink - one of the Routes of Entry
Inhalation Taking a substance, typically in the form of gases, fumes, vapours, mists, aerosols or dusts, into the body by breathing it in - one of the Routes of Entry
Inhibitor A substance which, when added to another substance, prevents or slows down an unwanted change or reaction
Injection Taking a substance directly into the body by puncturing the skin, for example with a needle - one of the Routes of Entry
Irritant A substance that produces inflammation when it makes contacts with the skin, eyes, nose, or respiratory system

Liquid Petroleum Gas LPG consists of commercial Butane, Propane or a mixture of the two. Major hazards are fire and explosion, though asphyxiation is also a danger in low lying areas due to LPG being heavier than air
Lock-Off Mechanisms that, as part of engineering controls, are designed to prevent potentially dangerous equipment from being energised during routine maintenance and/or repair work
Lumbar Spine The lower 5 vertebrae of the spine, situated below the thoracic vertebrae and above the sacral vertebrae
Luminance A measure of the amount of light emitted or reflected by a surface in a given direction
Lux Unit of measurement of illumination, equivalent to lumen per square

Manual Handling Operations Tasks that require a person to exert force in order to lift, lower, push, pull, move, carry, hold or restrain an object
Material Data Safety Sheet Contain information on the hazards associated with a chemical, along with guidance on its safe use
Mutagen Something that is able to cause a mutation (or genetic change) in a living cell

Narcotic A substance that has the potential to affect the nervous system by, for example, inducing drowsiness, stupor or insensibility
Near Miss See "Incident"
Negligence Can be either the omission to do something that a reasonable person would do when guided by those considerations that ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, or the commission of some act that a prudent and reasonable person would not do.

Persistence Remaining for an extended period of time. Applicable to some chemicals (e.g. DDT) that do not easily break down into less hazardous substances
Parts per Billion Specifies the concentration by volume of a substance dispersed in another substance
Parts Per Million Specifies the concentration by volume of a substance dispersed in another substance
Permit to Work Formally delivered criteria for control/risk reduction when undertaking pre-planned work that is hazardous, either because of its location or the nature of the activity.
Planning Supervisor Responsible under Construction (Design and Management) Regulations for coordinating the health and safety aspects of the design, preparation of a health and safety plan at the pre-tender stage and preparation of the health and safety file.
Policy A statement of an organisation _ s strategy for achieving a safe and healthy working environment and the responsibility, organisation and arrangements for pursuing and implementing the strategy
Preventive Maintenance Maintenance (including inspection, cleaning, and repair) of equipment on a regular basis that is sufficient to prevent unplanned failure
Prohibition Notice A statutory notice that is issued by an authorising body such as Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Environmental Health Officer (EHO) or Fire Officer on discovery of a breach of statute that presents a risk of serious personal accident. The effect of the Prohibition Notice is to stop the activity from starting or to cause it to cease if it has already started.

Regulation A statutory device made under a general provision that is contained in an act of parliament. Regulations themselves are approved by parliament and are generally absolute legal standards.
Residual Current Device An electrical safety device that constantly monitors the electric current flowing through a circuit. If it senses a loss of current where electricity is being diverted to earth (as might happen if a person touches a live conductor), it rapidly shuts down the power.
Relative Humidity The percentage ratio of vapour pressure in the atmosphere compared to the saturated vapour pressure at that temperature
Risk A quantifiable expression of the likelihood of injury or harm resulting from a hazard
Risk Assessment A formal estimation of the likelihood that persons may suffer injury or adverse health effects as a result of identified hazards
Risk Management The introduction of change or control measures with the intention of eliminating or bringing the level of risk associated with a hazard within acceptable limits
Routes of Entry The various ways in which toxic substances may enter the body, including; Absorption, Ingestion, Inhalation, Injection and Eye-splashes

Safe System of Work A method of working designed to eliminate, if possible, or otherwise reduce risks to health and safety
Safety Committee A committee that promotes health and safety in the workplace, with members representing employees and management from all sections of an organisation
Safety Culture A general term for the degree to which the culture of an organisation promotes and cooperates with safe and healthy work practices
Self-Assessment Assessments performed by individuals (or organizations) to determine how safely they are working and meeting their health & safety responsibilities toward themselves and others
Sensitization Development, over time, of an allergic reaction to a substance
Sensitizer Substance that may cause a person to develop an allergic reaction after repeated exposure
Solubility Ability of a substance to dissolve in a liquid
Solvent Substance that is capable of dissolving another substance
Stress That which might result when an event or situation places increased demand on a person's mental or emotional resources. Sources of stress may arise from domestic or social situations as well as occupational circumstances.
The individual's response to such situations can lead to health and safety related problems such as depression, cardiovascular disease, musculo-skeletal disorders and an increased tendency to be accident-prone.
Synovial Fluid A viscous fluid that lubricates joints and tendon sheaths

Tenosynovitis Inflammation and swelling of the tendon sheaths, usually of the wrist or hand, potentially caused by repetitive movements such as very high-speed typing rates
Thoracic Spine The mid and upper regions of the back, comprising 12 vertebrae that occupy the same level as the rib cage
Toxic Substances that cause irritation of are otherwise harmful to health, such as carcinogens and poisons
Toxicity The potential for a substance to be harmful to health

UN Hazard Codes Class 1 - Explosive
Class 2 Gases
Class 3.1 - Flammable liquids, flash point below -18C
Class 3.2 - Flammable liquids, flash point between -18C and 23C
Class 3.3 - Flammable liquids, flash point between 23C and 61C
Class 4.1 - Flammable solids
Class 5.1 - Oxidizing agents
Class 5.2 - Organic peroxides
Class 6.1 - Poisonous substances
Class 7 - Radioactive substances
Class 8 - Corrosive substances
Class 9 - Miscellaneous dangerous substances
NR - Non-regulated

Vapour The gaseous form of a substance that is normally liquid or solid at room temperature
Ventilation Movement of air, usually associated with the introduction of fresh air
Volatility Ability of a substance to evaporate

Workplace Exposure Limit Established concentration of a substance that, if not exceeded, will not normally result in adverse effects to persons who are exposed
Workstation The combination of equipment items that a user requires to fulfil their allotted tasks. In Display Screen Equipment terms, the components might include: desk, chair, computer monitor, keyboard, processing unit and such ancillary equipment as required by the work, such as document holder or telephone.
Wrist Extension & Flexion Bending movement of hand and wrist from the horizontal (up or down respectively). Causes tendons to curve around structures in the wrist, possibly causing friction, which can in turn result in fatigue or injury

Health and Safety Abbreviations


ACOP Approved Code of Practice
ADR European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (see RID)
ALARP As Low as Reasonably Practicable (see SFAIRP)

BMA British Medical Association
BOHS British Occupational Hygiene Society
BSI British Standards Institute
BTS British Toxicology Society

C(WP) Construction (Work Place) Regulations
CBI Confederation of British Industry
CDG The Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road Regulations
CDM Construction (Design & Management) Regulations
CE The letters "CE" do not represent any specific words but the mark is a declaration by the manufacturer, indicating that the product satisfies all relevant European Directives. Note, however, that the mark only applies to products that fall within the scope of European Directives.
CFC Chlorofluorocarbons
CFM Cubic Feet per Minute
Amount of air flowing through a given space in one minute
One CFM approximately equals Two litres per second (l/s)
CHIP Chemical Hazards Information and Packaging
CO Carbon Monoxide
CO2 Carbon Dioxide
COMAH Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations
CONIAC Construction Industry Advisory Committee
COSHH Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
CNS Central Nervous System
CRT Cathode Ray Tube
CTS Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
CVD Cardiovascular Disease

DB Decibel
DDA Disability Discrimination Act
DSE Display Screen Equipment
DSEAR Dangerous Substances & Explosive Atmosphere Regulations

EA Environmental Agency
EAW Electricity at Work Regulations
EHO Environmental Health Officer
EMAS Eco-Management and Audit Scheme
EMAS Employment Medical Advisory Service

FA Factories Act
FH(G) Food Hygiene (General) Regulations
FLT Fork Lift Truck
FPA Fire Precautions Act
FPWR Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations

GMC General Medical Council
GP General Practitioner

H&S Health & Safety
HAZCHEM Hazardous Chemical Warning Signs
HR Human Resources
HSC Health & Safety Commission
HSDSER Health & Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations
HSE Health & Safety Executive
HASWA Health & Safety at Work Act

ICOH International Commission on Occupational Health
IOD Institute of Directors
IOSH Institution of Occupational Safety & Health
LOLER Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations

LPG Liquid Petroleum Gas

MAPP Major Accident Prevention Policy
MEL Maximum Exposure Limit
MHOR Manual Handling Operation Regulations
MHSWR Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations
MSD Musculoskeletal Disorder
MSDS Material Data Safety Sheet

NAWR Noise at Work Regulations
NEBOSH National Examination Board of Occupational Safety and Health
NHS National Health Service
NIHL Noise Induced Hearing Loss

OHAC Occupational Health Advisory Committee of The Health & Safety Commission
OHSAS 18001 BSI Standard for Occupational Health & Safety
OSRPA Offices Shops & Railway Premises Act

PAT Portable Appliance Test
PPE Personal Protective Equipment
PPEWR Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations
Ppb Parts Per Billion
Ppm Parts Per Million
PUWER Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations

QA/QC Quality Assurance/Quality Control

RCD Residual Current Device
RID European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail (see ADR)
RIDDOR Reporting of Injuries, Disease & Dangerous Occurrences Regulations
RITA Record of In-Training Assessment
RoSPA Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
RPE Respiratory Protective Equipment
RSA Regional Specialty Adviser
RSI Repetitive Strain Injury

SBS Sick Building Syndrome
SFAIRP So Far As Is Reasonably Practicable (see ALARP)

TUC Trades Union Congress

VDU Visual Display Unit

WHO World Health Organisation
WHSWR Workplace (Health Safety & Welfare) Regulations
WRULD Work Related Upper Limb Disorder
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