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A hazard is something that can cause harm to someone, therefore, a hazardous substance is something that causes harm when a person comes into contact with it.  Every year, thousands of workers are made ill by hazardous substances, contracting lung diseases such as asthma, cancer and skin disease such as dermatitis. These diseases cost many millions of pounds each year to industry, to replace the trained worker; to society, payments of disability allowances and medicines; and individuals, who may lose their jobs. 

Employers are responsible for taking effective measures to control exposure and protect health. These measures can also improve production or cut waste. Hazardous substances can be found in any workplace and they are not just chemicals. They can be in different forms from liquid or vapour to dust or smoke. 

The substances can affect us in different ways by causing illness or death, environmental problems, fire or explosion. They can also be biological agents such as pathogens or cell cultures. Not all substances are obliviously hazardous, a food like flour may seem safe as we eat it but in dust form, it can cause many medical problems including respiratory disorders. 

We need to look at all potential substances and decide on the level of risk they pose and deal with reducing or eliminating the risk. When we look at hazardous substances, there are some chemicals that in themselves are not a risk, but when mixed with other chemicals or environments they can pose a health risk. Every substance we use in the workplace needs to be considered if it poses a risk as a hazardous substance.