Health and Safety Glossary

The latest Health and Safety terms

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

In some cases the acronyms and abbreviations occur in everyday speech but, in Health and Safety, some have different types of meaning to their common usage.
We have attempted to express these definitions in laymen’s terms and therefore should not be assumed to have any legal standing.

Online Health and Safety
Allot of these terms will be used throughout SME health and safety as we use them on a range of our online health and safety courses which can all be studied online allowing you to have the very best experience in learning all about health and safety.

Health and Safety Terms

AccidentAn undesired event resulting in death, injury, damage to health, damage to property or other form of loss
Abnormal EventAn unplanned, unusual, occurrence or emergency
AdaptationThe 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
AerosolsSubstance dispersed into the air such that the droplets or particles remain in suspension for a significant period of time
Air Exchange RateThe 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)
AllergenSubstance causing an allergic reaction in a person who is sensitive to that substance
AmbientSurrounding, e.g. Ambient temperature usually means the outside temperature
Anthropometric DimensionsThe 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 LoudnessMeasurement 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 PersonA 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 PracticeA 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.
AsbestosHydrated magnesium silicate in fibrous form
Audible RangeNormal hearing frequency, approximately 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz
Background LevelThe normal or typical level of a chemical in the environment, often referring to the naturally occurring level
Best PracticeA standard of risk control that is above the legal minimum
(See Good Practice)
Biological AgentA 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 PointTemperature at which a liquid changes to a gas at normal atmospheric pressure
CarcinogenSubstance that is known or suspected of causing cancer
Carpal Tunnel SyndromeA chronic disorder of the hand and wrist possibly resulting from repetitive work involving repeated wrist flexion or extension
CatalystA substance that initiates or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected by the reaction
Central Nervous SystemThe part of the nervous system that includes the brain and spinal cord
Cervical SpineThe uppermost 7 vertebrae of the spine which, being very delicate, is prone to degenerative processes
ChronicOccurring over an extended period of time
Code of PracticeRules 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 LiquidLiquid with a flash point above 37.8 C (100° F)
Common LawSource 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 PersonA 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
ComplianceThe act or process of fulfilling requirements
Compressed GasSubstance that is a gas at normal pressure and room temperature but is held in a pressurised container resulting in it becoming a liquid
ConcentrationThe quantity of one substance contained in another substance e.g. the amount of salt dissolve in sea water
ContaminantSubstance – usually undesirable – in another substance, product or space where it is not normally found, e.g. environmental pollutants
ContrastThe difference in brightness between the subject (e.g. text) and the background against which it is viewed
Control of Substances Hazardous to HealthRegulations promoting safe working with potentially hazardous chemicals
CorrosiveSubstance that causes destruction of another substance, including human tissue
CryogenicsMaterials that exist at extremely low temperatures, e.g. liquid nitrogen
CutaneousPertaining to or affecting the skin
Designated PersonA 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 EquipmentAny alphanumeric or graphic display screen regardless of the process employed to display the information. Typical examples include computer monitors and microfilm viewers
DoseThe 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 ServiceA Part of the Health and Safety Executive, offering advice on work related health issues and on people with health problems returning to work.
ErgonomicsThe application of information about human characteristics to design applications, e.g. equipment, tools, work tasks, with the aim of improving safety and efficiency
FatigueTransient reduced ability to work as a result of previous activity, resulting in reduced efficiency
FiresClass 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 PreventionPrecautions 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 GasGas that when mixed with air forms a flammable mixture at ambient temperature and pressure
Flammable LiquidLiquid with a flashpoint below 100°F (37.8°C)
Flammable SolidSolid that is liable to cause fires through friction, absorption of moisture, etc. or which can be readily ignited
Flash PointThe lowest temperature at which a flame will propagate through the vapour of a combustible material
Freezing PointTemperature at which a liquid becomes a solid, at normal atmospheric pressure
GlareWhen a portion of the visual field has a significantly higher luminance than its surroundings, resulting in reduced contrast
Good PracticeHSE 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)
HazardPotential for harmful effects
Health And Safety ExecutiveOrganisation responsible for proposing safety regulations throughout the UK. It is responsible for enforcing, statute, regulations, approved codes of practice and guidance.
IlluminanceA measure of the amount of light falling on a particular point, measured in Lux
Improvement NoticeA 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
IngestionTaking a substance into the body through the mouth, for example in the form of food or drink – one of the Routes of Entry
InhalationTaking 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
InhibitorA substance which, when added to another substance, prevents or slows down an unwanted change or reaction
InjectionTaking a substance directly into the body by puncturing the skin, for example with a needle – one of the Routes of Entry
IrritantA substance that produces inflammation when it makes contacts with the skin, eyes, nose, or respiratory system
Liquid Petroleum GasLPG 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-OffMechanisms that, as part of engineering controls, are designed to prevent potentially dangerous equipment from being energised during routine maintenance and/or repair work
Lumbar SpineThe lower 5 vertebrae of the spine, situated below the thoracic vertebrae and above the sacral vertebrae
LuminanceA measure of the amount of light emitted or reflected by a surface in a given direction
LuxUnit of measurement of illumination, equivalent to lumen per square
Manual Handling OperationsTasks that require a person to exert force in order to lift, lower, push, pull, move, carry, hold or restrain an object
Material Data Safety SheetContain information on the hazards associated with a chemical, along with guidance on its safe use
MutagenSomething that is able to cause a mutation (or genetic change) in a living cell
Near MissA generic term for those events that do not cause harm but which might have done so under different circumstances
NegligenceCan 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.
PersistenceRemaining 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 BillionSpecifies the concentration by volume of a substance dispersed in another substance
Parts Per MillionSpecifies the concentration by volume of a substance dispersed in another substance
Permit to WorkFormally 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 SupervisorResponsible 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.
PolicyA 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 MaintenanceMaintenance (including inspection, cleaning, and repair) of equipment on a regular basis that is sufficient to prevent unplanned failure
Prohibition NoticeA 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.
RegulationA 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 DeviceAn 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 HumidityThe percentage ratio of vapour pressure in the atmosphere compared to the saturated vapour pressure at that temperature
RiskA quantifiable expression of the likelihood of injury or harm resulting from a hazard
Risk AssessmentA formal estimation of the likelihood that persons may suffer injury or adverse health effects as a result of identified hazards
Risk ManagementThe 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 EntryThe various ways in which toxic substances may enter the body, including; Absorption, Ingestion, Inhalation, Injection and Eye-splashes
Safe System of WorkA method of working designed to eliminate, if possible, or otherwise reduce risks to health and safety
Safety CommitteeA committee that promotes health and safety in the workplace, with members representing employees and management from all sections of an organisation
Safety CultureA general term for the degree to which the culture of an organisation promotes and cooperates with safe and healthy work practices
Self-AssessmentAssessments performed by individuals (or organizations) to determine how safely they are working and meeting their health & safety responsibilities toward themselves and others
SensitizationDevelopment, over time, of an allergic reaction to a substance
SensitizerSubstance that may cause a person to develop an allergic reaction after repeated exposure
SolubilityAbility of a substance to dissolve in a liquid
SolventSubstance that is capable of dissolving another substance
StressThat 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 FluidA viscous fluid that lubricates joints and tendon sheaths
TenosynovitisInflammation and swelling of the tendon sheaths, usually of the wrist or hand, potentially caused by repetitive movements such as very high-speed typing rates
ToxicSubstances that cause irritation of are otherwise harmful to health, such as carcinogens and poisons
ToxicityThe potential for a substance to be harmful to health
UN Hazard CodesClass 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
VapourThe gaseous form of a substance that is normally liquid or solid at room temperature
VentilationMovement of air, usually associated with the introduction of fresh air
VolatilityAbility of a substance to evaporate
Workplace Exposure LimitEstablished concentration of a substance that, if not exceeded, will not normally result in adverse effects to persons who are exposed
WorkstationThe 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 & FlexionBending 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 & Safety Abbreviations

ACOPApproved Code of Practice
ADREuropean Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (see RID)
ALARPAs Low as Reasonably Practicable (see SFAIRP)
BMABritish Medical Association
BOHSBritish Occupational Hygiene Society
BSIBritish Standards Institute
BTSBritish Toxicology Society
C(WP)Construction (Work Place) Regulations
CBIConfederation of British Industry
CDGThe Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road Regulations
CDMConstruction (Design & Management) Regulations
CEThe 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.
CFMCubic Feet per Minute Amount of air flowing through a given space in one minute 1 CFM approximately equals 2 litres per second (l/s)
CHIPChemical Hazards Information and Packaging
COCarbon Monoxide
CO2Carbon Dioxide
COMAHControl of Major Accident Hazards Regulations
CONIACConstruction Industry Advisory Committee
COSHHControl of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
CNSControl of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
CRTControl of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
CTSControl of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
CVDControl of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
DBControl of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
DDAControl of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
DSEControl of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
DSEARControl of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
EAControl of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
EAWControl of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
EHOEnvironmental Health Officer
EMASEco-Management and Audit Scheme
EMASEmployment Medical Advisory Service
FAFactories Act
FH(G)Food Hygiene (General) Regulations
FLTFork Lift Truck
FPAFire Precautions Act
FPWRFire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations
H&SHealth & Safety
HAZCHEMHazardous Chemical Warning Signs
HRHuman Resources
HSCHealth & Safety Commission
HSDSERHealth & Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations
HSEHealth & Safety Executive
HASWAHealth & Safety at Work Act
ICOHInternational Commission on Occupational Health
IOSHInstitution of Occupational Safety & Health
LOLERLifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations
LPGLiquid Petroleum Gas
MAPPMajor Accident Prevention Policy
MELMaximum Exposure Limit
MHORManual Handling Operation Regulations
MHSWRManagement of Health & Safety at Work Regulations
MSDMusculoskeletal Disorder
MSDSMaterial Data Safety Sheet
NAWRNoise at Work Regulations
NEBOSHNational Examination Board of Occupational Safety and Health
NHSNational Health Service
NIHLNoise Induced Hearing Loss
OHACOccupational Health Advisory Committee of The Health & Safety Commission
OHSAS 18001BSI Standard for Occupational Health & Safety
OSRPAOffices Shops & Railway Premises Act
PATPortable Appliance Test
PPEPersonal Protective Equipment
PPEWRPersonal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations
PpbParts Per Billion
PpmParts Per Million
PUWERProvision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations
QA/QCQuality Assurance/Quality Control
RCDResidual Current Device
RIDEuropean Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail (see ADR)
RIDDORReporting of Injuries, Disease & Dangerous Occurrences Regulations
RITARecord of In-Training Assessment
RoSPARoyal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
RPERespiratory Protective Equipment
RSARegional Specialty Adviser
RSIRepetitive Strain Injury
SBSSick Building Syndrome
SFAIRPSo Far As Is Reasonably Practicable (see ALARP)
VDUVisual Display Unit
WHSWRWorkplace (Health Safety & Welfare) Regulations
WRULDWork Related Upper Limb Disorder