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Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)

Most companies and sole traders will use chemicals within their workplace or to carry out their work.  The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) require a COSHH Assessment for the use or production of a hazardous substance which will identify the hazards of the product and assess and control the risks.

Employers have a legal duty to protect their employees and others from harm.  COSHH Assessments are a legal requirement as detailed in Regulation 6 of the COSHH Regulations:

  1. An employer shall not carry out work which is liable to expose any employees to any substance hazardous to health unless he has—
    • made a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk created by that work to the health of those employees and of the steps that need to be taken to meet the requirements of these Regulations; and
    • implemented the steps referred to in sub-paragraph (a).

 

Regardless of the industry, the chances are the COSHH Regulations will apply to your company.   Everyday cleaning agents can be considered hazardous.

According to the HSE Statistics, last year 1.4 million workers in the UK suffered from work-related ill-health.  Many of the injuries or medical conditions, including skin cancer and lung disease were caused by exposure to dangerous substances.

Hazardous substances can take different forms, including:

  • Liquids
  • Fumes
  • Dusts
  • Vapour
  • Mists
  • Gases
  • Fibres
  • Germs (bacteria and viruses)
  • Nanoparticles
  • Aerosols

 

The COSHH Assessment should assess the risks and decide on the control measures to avoid ill-health to those exposed to the substance.  The COSHH Assessment process will look at how the substance is managed, used, handled, stored, disposed of and where it is going to be used (e.g indoors, outdoors, confined space etc.)

The COSHH Assessment is a way of communicating the control measures and emergency arrangements to those who will be using the product and others who may be exposed to the substance whilst it is being used.

The Safety Data Sheet which is supplied by the manufacturer or supplier will be the starting point for the COSHH Assessment as it will provide information about the product.

The COSHH Assessment should include the following information (list is not exhaustive):

  • The substance name
  • Supplier details
  • Location substance to be used
  • The task or activity using product
  • Classification and hazardous properties
  • Health effects
  • Level type and duration of exposure
  • Exposure limits
  • Routes of entry
  • Control measures
    • Safe use
    • Safe handling
    • Safe storage
    • Disposal
    • Accidental release
    • First aid
  • Health surveillance
  • Monitoring

 

Preventing, or at least reducing the exposure to hazardous substances is one of the main requirements of the COSHH Regulations.  Employers are responsible for implementing control measures.  Here are some steps you can take to avoid/reduce exposure:

  1. Substitute hazardous substances with a produce that is less hazardous
  2. Use control equipment – equipment such as ventilation systems, extraction systems, Personal Protective Equipment and decontamination units are all types of control equipment which can reduce exposure of airborne hazards such as chemicals, dust and germs reducing the risk of contamination
  3. Provide Personal Protective Equipment – where working with substances hazardous to health is unavoidable, Personal Protective Equipment should be provided free of charge to employees. Types of PPE include protective gloves, safety glasses, clothing, footwear and respirators.  It is the employer’s responsibility that the PPE provided effectively protects employees form harm

 

The COSHH Regulations place most of the responsibilities and requirements on the employer, however the employee can share some of these responsibilities by making sure they follow health and safety procedures, requirements of the COSHH Assessments  and implement the required control measures.

If you require COSHH Assessment training or COSHH Assessments for the chemicals you use in your workplace CoreGenic can help.  Our highly qualified and experienced consultants can help with the preparation of COSHH Assessments.  Contact the office to find out more about COSHH Training and COSHH Assessments.

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