COSHH - Control Of Substance Hazardous to Health

Why COSHH matters?

Picture of Test TubesUsing chemicals or other hazardous substances at work put peoples health at risk, so law requires employers to control exposure to hazardous substances to prevent ill health. They have to protect both employees and others who may be exposed by complying with the Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).

COSHH is a useful tool of good management which sets out eight basic measures that employers and sometime employees must take. These are:

  1. Assess the risk.
  2. Decide what precautions to take.
  3. Prevent or adequately control exposure.
  4. Ensure that control measures are used and maintained.
  5. Monitor the exposure.
  6. Carry out appropriate health surveillance.
  7. Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accident, incidents and emergencies.
  8. Ensure employees are properly informed, trained and supervised.

Too often we find that the first control measure that the Employer adopts is the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). There is a hierarchy of control measures under Regulation 7, which is as follows:

Prevent Exposure By:

  1. Eliminating the substance.
  2. Substitution with a substance less hazardous to health.

Control Exposure By:

  1. Total enclosure of the process, therefore removing exposure.
  2. Limiting the area of contamination.
  3. The use of LEV (Local Exhaust Ventilation).
  4. Dilution Ventilation.
  5. Reducing the period of exposure.
  6. Providing suitable PPE.

Personal Protective Equipment DOES NOT REMOVE THE HAZARD.

It should be remembered that the C.O.S.H.H Regulations relate to any substance irrespective of its form: including gas, solid, dust, liquid, vapour, aerosol or micro-organisms. Furthermore, substances not deemed to be detrimental to health can cause problems if not used correctly.

Hazardous substances

Hazardous substances include:

  • substances used directly in work activities (e.g. adhesives, paints, cleaning agents);
  • substances generated during work activities (e.g. fumes from soldering and welding);
  • naturally occurring substances (e.g. grain dust);
  • biological agents such as bacteria and other micro - organisms.

Where are hazardous substances found?

In nearly all work environments, for example:

  • factories;
  • shops;
  • mines;
  • farms;
  • laboratories;
  • offices;

If in doubt, contact your local HSE office. The staff there can refer you to the appropriate inspector or the environmental health officer at your local authority.

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Last Updated: 14.05.2008 at 16:34

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