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Collaborating with Dstl to protect people from major hazards

Liquid leaking from an overturned tanker (photo courtesy of Pixabay)

HSE and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) both use complex mathematical models of fires, explosions and gas dispersion as part of their primary roles in supporting the UK government.

There is a significant overlap in the understanding that both HSE and Dstl need about how flammable and toxic substances can affect people. This includes workers and the public in the case of HSE, and armed forces and civilians overseas in the case of Dstl. In particular fire, explosion and exposure to toxic substances present a major hazard with the potential to cause significant harm to people in the vicinity, whether the release is unintentional or deliberate.

HSE and Dstl have been working collaboratively on a wide range of projects, sharing modelling knowledge. As part of this, HSE's scientists provide Dstl with modelling and fluid dynamics technical expertise. Each organisation uses modelling tools that have been developed for their own specific needs but much of the science upon which they are based is the same.

HSE scientists have recently been involved in developing new mathematical models to simulate the behaviour of spills of hazardous liquids and the initial conditions of a pool fire.

These new models will be used to feed into Dstl's wider modelling suite.

What were the benefits?

Both organisations have benefitted from the collaboration, which has allowed them to share expertise and resources, leading to improved knowledge across government on the behaviour of fires and of gas dispersion. This has ensured that the models used by HSE and Dstl are kept up to date, protecting people as new hazards are identified in a changing world.


This case study was featured on page 29 of the HSE Annual Science Review 2020.

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