Composites Design and Manufacture (Plymouth University teaching support materials)
Health and Safety

This H+S briefing is available to all interested parties via Plymouth Extra.
Next session: Friday 03 February 2017 at 16:00-17:00 in Robbins SR1.
If you would like to attend, please e-mail John Summerscales.

Go direct to Product Data Sheets and Material Safety Data Sheets or Fibres - Health and Safety
Safety in Manufacturing Plastics and Composites

Required viewing before using Brunel 007 laboratory:

The key points to remember:

Before you commence work in the laboratory, you should:

The appropriate forms can be downloaded:

A collaboration between Composites UK (the trade association for the UK composites industry) and HSE UK (Health and Safety Executive) has developed an online health and safety management system (HSMS). The HSMS is in two parts:

Product Data Sheets and Material Safety Data Sheets

 Resin System  Product Data Sheet  Material Safety Data Sheets
 CEFIC unsaturated polyester and epoxy vinyl ester   Safe Handling Guides (14 sections - 6 languages)
 Cytec Cycom® 977-2 Toughened Epoxy Resin 977-2  
 EasyComposites IP2 isophthalic polyester resin for vacuum resin infusion IP2 IP2
 Gurit (SP Systems) AMPREG 21 epoxy wet laminating system  AMPREG 21 AMPREG 21
 Gurit (SP Systems) AMPREG 22 epoxy wet laminating system AMPREG 22 AMPREG 22
 Gurit (SP Systems) AMPREG 26 epoxy laminating system AMPREG 26 AMPREG 26
 Gurit (SP Systems) PRIME 20LV epoxy infusion system PRIME 20LV PRIME 20LV
 Scott Bader Crystic 701PAX pre-accelarated isophthalic polyester resin for vacuum injection 701PAX  
 Scott Bader Crystic 703PA polyester resin for vacuum injection 703PA  
 Scott Bader Crystic 785PA(LR) pre-accelerated DCPD-based polyester resin for RTM 785PA(LR)  
 Sicomin SR 5550 wood epoxy system  SR5500  Resin  Hardener SD5505
 Sicomin SR 8100  epoxy system for injection and infusion  SR8100  SR8100   SD8734   SD8822   SD8824
 Reinforcement Fibres    
 Torayca T300 230 GPa "baseline carbon fiber used in aerospace applications" T300 H&S
 Torayca M60J 588 GPa "high modulus fiber .. for premium sporting goods, aerospace, and industrial applications" M60J H&S
 Preimpregnated reinforcements  Product Data Sheet  Material Safety Data Sheets
 Cytec Cycom® 950-1 carbon fibre/epoxy prepreg 950-1  
 Cytec Cycom® 977-2 carbon fibre/epoxy prepreg 977-2  
 Core materials    
 Rohacell® RIST polymethacrylimide foam  RIST Rohacell environment and safety
 Tricast 2 low density rigid polyurethane foam TR2 Tricast/Tancast/MHD PU foam
 Tricast 6 Lloyds Approved rigid polyurethane high density foam TR6 Tricast/Tancast/MHD PU foam
 Mould preparation    
 Chem Trend Chemlease 15 Mold Sealet Chemlease 15 Chemlease 15
 Loctite Frekote 700-NC releasing interface Frekote 700-NC  Frekote 700-NC

The Health and Safety Executive have an online COSHH Essentials webpage.
The University of Reading - Plant Sciences website has a useful online COSHH Chemicals database.


Styrene - see Reduction of styrene in the environment and the workplace

Fibres - health and safety

"There is debate about the hazards associated with glass fibre but currently none of the other [acrylic or polyester] reinforcements are known to be harmful" [1].

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have adopted threshold limit values (TLV) for man-made mineral fibres during an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) exposure of:

These control limits correspond to the TLVs for nuisance dust. Care should be taken during the handling of reinforcements to ensure that these levels are not exceeded. Atmospheric monitoring and control measures may be required. General methods for dust sampling are outlined by the HSE [2]. Where exposure to fibre dust cannot be reduced by control measures (dust suppression or local exhaust ventilation), then suitable respiratory protective equipment should be provided [3, 4].

Broken fibres may cause irritation to sensitive areas of skin. Personal cleanliness, keeping dry and careful working habits are the best ways to prevent skin irritation. The use of a barrier cream, talcum powder or protective clothing (which does not induce perspiration) can be helpful. Thorough washing and rinsing should remove loose filaments [5]. Irritation of the upper respiratory tract is also possible. Fibres of <3μm diameter and <200μm length are classified as respirable [6].


A report [7] from DuPont research has suggested that lung tumours can occur in rats exposed to aramid fibres at concentrations over 250 times that in a typical composites workplace. No specific reactions were recorded at lower densities. Dr John Davis of the Institute of Occupational Medicine noted that the rat inhalation studies "were only possible because great ingenuity was used to break up the material and to keep it airborne" [8].


Carbon fibres are electrically conductive and can cause electrical hazard and equipment failure. Electrical equipment should be located remote from potential carbon fibre contamination, should be constructed to be immune to carbon dust, or special procedures (positive pressure of filtered air) must be adopted [5, 9]


The use of fibrous reinforcements in industry should be quite safe, but prudent factory management should always include frequent counts of respirable fibre levels to ensure that they remain low. No factory should use fibrous materials without routine checks on the levels of respirable fibres generated. If the levels of respirable fibres are negligible, then the health hazards should be negligible as well.


  1. A guide to health and safety in GRP fabrication, HSE Guide C35, December 1987. ISBN 0-7176-0294-X. #4.
  2. General methods for the gravimetric determination of respirable and total dust, HSE Methods for the determination of hazardous substances 14, ISBN 0-7176-0142-0.
  3. Certificate of approval (RPE), HSE, 1983 revised F2 486.
  4. Recommendation for the selection, use and maintenance of RPE, British Standard BS 4275, 1974.
  5. Handling precautions - Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Carrfibre datasheet - Handling precautions, September 1985.
  6. Man-made mineral fibres, HSE Discussion Document, July 1979. ISBN 0-11-883251-4.
  7. C Barrie, DuPont aims to calm cancer fears over Kevlar, The Engineer, 19 November 1987, 265, 6-7.
  8. JMG Davis, Private communication, 27 May 1988.
  9. Carbon dust: health and safety precautions, HSE Environmental Health Guidance Note EH21, January 1979. ISBN 0-11-883181-X.

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Updated by John Summerscales on 29-Jun-2018 16:17. Terms and conditions. Errors and omissions. Corrections.