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Dangers from Free-Flowing Solids


Free-flowing solids describes substances which are comprised of many small individual solid pieces which together can cause the same dangers as a liquid. Typical examples include sand or gravel, and are obviously common substances used in many places of work around the world, particularly construction sites.

Whilst technically sand and gravel are classed as solids because of the molecular make-up of each individual piece, their small size combined with the presence of thousands or millions of pieces gives the overall mass the same properties as liquids in terms of being able to take the shape of their container and allowing movement "through" the overall mass.

Of course, this means that the same dangers associated with liquids are also present from free-flowing solids. Whilst sand and gravel will usually be in relatively small bags, substances such as grain will typically be stored in large silos. Anybody unfortunate enough to fall into one of these silos will find the grain is similar to liquid in that the person will probably sink to the bottom and struggle to breathe, which can ultimately result in death. This is why free-slowing solids are just as much of a risk to the health and safety of workers as liquids are.

The Need for Health and Safety Training

A good health and safety training programme for staff members will include time spent going over the potential risks to health that are present from free-flowing solids, and will obviously be even more pertinent to those workplaces which have an increased risk of this danger such as construction sites or agricultural businesses. The training courses or sessions should also take into consideration other related risks. These include:

Falling From Height

Falling into a tall grain silo or other large container filled with free-flowing solids is dangerous, but so too is going the other way and falling a long way to the ground. Suitable precautions, working at height training and safety features all need to be combined to minimise the risks to those workers whose job role entails working at height.

Manual Handling

Even if the quantity of the free-flowing solids is not enough for a person to fall in and get trapped, they are still likely to be stored in bags or other containers which are extremely heavy. There is therefore a strong probability of a manual handling injury occurring if the person has to lift or move these containers. Manual handling training will be essential in order to teach correct lifting/moving techniques and to minimise the risk of working days lost through workers having to take time off from work to recover from any manual handling related injuries.


The small nature of these individual pieces means that either they themselves or the dust that can be released when they are moved means that there is often a COSHH risk present where free-flowing solids are concerned, as exposure to the dust such as through inhalation can cause health problems, particularly when this exposure takes place over a long period of time.

Crush Injuries

As mentioned in the Manual Handling point above, bags of free-flowing solids are likely to be extremely heavy. Just as they can cause manual handling injuries, they are also cable of causing crush injuries if a person were to get a part of their body such as their foot or their hand between the bag and a solid surface.

Selected Courses

Please see below for a selection of health and safety courses and qualifications which you may be interested in:

NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety is the flagship NEBOSH qualification, and is the first UK vocational qualification to be developed specifically for health and safety professionals.

The NEBOSH National Diploma provides the core health and safety knowledge (transferable across industry, commerce and the public sector) which, combined with understanding and appropriate application, underpins the competent performance of an occupational health and safety practitioner.

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NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH General Certificate is one of the most popular and widely-held health and safety qualifications in the UK. It is intended to be taken by managers, supervisors and any other employees who require an understanding of general health and safety issues.

The NEBOSH General Certificate covers the main legal requirements for health and safety in the UK, along with the identification and control of workplace hazards, and the practical application of this knowledge. The general content of the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus means it is suitable and relevant for those working in virtually any industry, and is often used as a solid foundation for those going on to further study and specialising in a particular area such as construction site health and safety or fire safety.

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IOSH Managing Safely Course

The IOSH Managing Safely course is designed for managers and supervisors of organisations in virtually all industry sectors, in order to give them all they need to know to effectively manage health and safety in the workplace.

Recently updated, the new high impact programme covers key health and safety issues, and includes references to international case studies.

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CITB Site Management SMSTS Course

The Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) is one of the most popular health and safety training courses, and is intended for construction site managers, project managers and senior supervisors, as well as proprietors of smaller companies.

Client-based personnel would also benefit from attending the SMSTS course.

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CITB Health and Safety Awareness Course

This course is for those who have entered, or are about to enter, the construction and civil engineering industry as a member of the workforce to help them understand the potential hazards that they face at work on site. It aims to provide a practical summary of health and safety, welfare and environmental health and safety issues.

The course also allows delegates to identify their individual responsibilities for looking after themselves and others, what the employer's duties are and what should be done if they think anyone's health and safety is being put at risk.

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