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What is COSHH?


Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) is a part of health and safety regulations required by law in order to prevent or reduce employee exposure to particular hazardous substances.

Breach of COSHH regulations by an employer and/or employee is a crime and punishable by an unlimited fine depending on the extremity of the breach. Many workplaces have obvious risks – quarries, mines or factories – but there are many more that are less obvious such as cleaners, construction sites, the automotive industry and even food processing plants.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, were introduced to control the exposure of a business’ employees to hazardous substances.

According to estimated HSE statistics for 2021/22, 13,000 deaths annually are linked to past exposure at work, primarily to chemicals or dust, and an average of 17,000 new cases of breathing or lung issues have been diagnosed each year over the last three years.

Hazardous substances can take different forms, including:

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

A full breakdown of what is included within the umbrella of hazardous substances can be found on our dedicated COSHH page. Although a wide range of substances fall under COSSH regulations, some have their own specific set of regulations, such as:

Employers and other duty holders must comply with the above legislation for these specific hazardous substances if there is a risk of exposure in their workplace.
COSHH – An employer and employee’s responsibilities

Employer’s responsibilities

Employers play a vital role in the implementation of COSHH regulations. The regulations are:

  • Exposure – It is an employer’s responsibility to prevent or control exposure to hazardous substances. This is done by providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary.
  • Control measures – Another aspect of an employer’s responsibility is to implement control measures around hazardous substances and ensure that these are maintained, kept up to date and in full working order.
  • Instruction – employers must provide employees with the correct information, instruction and training around working with hazardous substances and there risks.
  • Procedures – In addition to providing the correct information, employers must have appropriate procedures in place to deal with any accidents or emergencies related to hazardous substances.
  • Surveillance – It falls on the shoulders of the employer to ensure that employees who are exposed to hazardous substances are under adequate supervision.
  • Risk Assessments – COSHH risk assessments must be completed to analyse the risk at each workplace, for example, some harmful substances can be produced by the processes used, e.g., wood dust from sanding, or silica dust from tile cutting.

Employees’ responsibilities

Employees also have their own responsibilities to ensure no harm to themselves or others. These include:

  • Safety – employees must assist fellow colleagues in creating a safe working environment through abiding by specific regulations.
  • Procedures – following the procedures outlined by the employer put in place to prevent accidents and overexposure.
  • PPE – it is the employees’ responsibility to wear the correct PPE, including eye and noise protection, while also ensuring it is stored correctly in the appropriate places.
  • Reporting – part of the employees COSHH responsibility includes reporting and recording all accidents, spillages and breakages.
  • Check-ups – employees must attend medical check-ups when required to.
  • Training – it is the employees’ responsibility to attend COSHH training provided by employers.

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 us to find out more about COSHH Training and COSHH Assessments.