Should I Be CoSHH Compliant?

by on May 26, 2014

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (CoSHH) Regulations 2002 was introduced to ensure that businesses protect their employees from substances that are hazardous to health. Chemicals or hazardous substances can damage people’s lives and using them in the workplace puts the health of workers’ at risk. As an employer you have a duty of care to your employees and fellow workers even if you run a small company or are self employed.

CoSHH applies to virtually all UK workplaces from charities to construction sites and includes offshore and gas installations.

Substances hazardous to health include biological organisms and dusts, as well as chemical substances or mixtures of substances. It also covers substances used directly in work activities such as solvents and cleaning agents, plus those generated during work activities. They can result in a number of adverse health effects including dermatitis, asthma and cancer.

The first thing to ask yourself is if your work involves any type of hazardous substance. If it does, then how can this substance cause harm? Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure a CoSHH risk assessment is completed in order to reduce their employees’ exposure to hazardous substances. If you have more than five employees then you must record your assessment and write down the steps you have taken to identify the risks.

The manufacturers of products containing hazardous substances supply safety data sheets that give users essential information on the health risks and on any precautionary and emergency measures.

Next, remove or reduce any identified risks. If it is plausible then stop using the harmful substance and replace with a safer alternative. Possibly change the process to emit less of the substance. The process should also be enclosed so that the substance does not escape. If exposure cannot be prevented exposure should be controlled using engineering controls. Any emissions should be extracted near the source. Limit the use of substances to certain individuals only and provide personal protective equipment (PPE) if necessary. Every employer should ensure the maintenance of control measures through regular safety inspections.

Another step for an employer to take is to ensure that employees who are exposed to hazardous substances are under suitable health surveillance. Health surveillance involves the gathering of information about employees’ health which helps protect them from health risks at work.

The final step is to ensure that staff who work with hazardous substances are provided with information, training and instruction. This should be sufficient enough so as the employee knows the risks to health created from exposure and the precautions which need to be taken. It is important that they understand the outcome of the CoSHH risk assessment and what it means for them. Employees should also have access to safety data sheets.

To finalise, it is important to have a plan set up to deal with accidents, incidents or emergencies. This should include making sure the right equipment is available to deal with the emergency and having the right people to take action.

Dale Allen delivers CoSHH compliance as one of the UK’s leading compliance authorities. Find out more about how you can use his online COSHH365 CoSHH asssessment tool to produce compliant CoSHH assessments with the benefits of a managed Safety Data Sheet library.

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