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COSHH Advice

24/11/2014

Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)

1) Is it COSHH or not?

What is a substance hazardous to health under COSHH?

Under COSHH there are a range of substances regarded as hazardous to health including:

  • Substances or mixture of substances classified as dangerous to health under the chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2002 (CHIP). Their warning label can identify these and the supplier must provide a safety data sheet for them.
  • If biological agents, bacteria and other micro organisms are directly connected with work, such as farming, sewage treatment, or healthcare, or if the exposure is incidental to the work (e.g. exposure to bacteria from an air conditioning system that is not properly maintained).
  • Any kind of dust if its average concentration in the air exceeds levels specified in COSHH.
  • Any other sustances which creates a risk to health, but which for technical reasons may not be specifically covered by CHIP including: pesticides, medicines, cosmetics or substances produces in a chemical process.

What is not a substance hazardous to health under COSHH?

For the vast majority of commercial chemicals, the presence or not of a warning label will indicate wheter COSHH is rrelevant. For example, there is no warning level on ordinary household washing-up liquid, so if its used at work you do not have to worry  about COSHH but there is a warning level on bleach, and so COSHH does apply to its use in the workplace.

2) Assess The Risks

The risk assessment must:

  • Identify the hazardous substances present in your workplace.
  • Consider the risks these substances present to people's health. Identify and consider who could be exposed to the substance and how often?
  • Remember to include all groups of people who come into contact with the substance.

Whoever carries out the assessment will need to have access to and understand the COSHH Regulations and relevant Approved Codes of Practice.

3) Develop Practices

Decide on what precautions are needed to prevent or adequately control exposure

a. Prevent exposure

The COSHH Regulations require you to prevent exposure to substances hazardous to health, if it is reasonably practicable to do so.

b. Adequately control exposure

If prevention is not reasonably practicable, you must adequately control exposure. Such as:

  • Use work systems and engineering controls and provide suitable work equipment to reduce exposure.
  • Control exposure at source and reduce the number of exposed employees to a minimum and the level and duration of their exposure.
  • The quantity of hazardous substances used or produced in the workplace.

4) Implement Control Measures

Using the control measures

COSHH requires employees to make proper use of control measures and to report defects. This is why employees must be suitably trained, have suitable information and appropiate supervision.

Maintaining Control Measures

COSHH places specific duties on the need to ensure that exposure controls are maintained.

5) Monitor exposure

Under COSHH you must measure the concentration substances in air if:

  • There could be a serious risk to health if failed or deteriorated.
  • Exposure limits might be exceeded or control be working properly.

Air monitoring must be carried out when employees are exposed to certain substances and processes specified in Schedule 5 to the COSHH Regulations.

6) Carry out health surveillance

COSHH requires health surveillance to be carried out in the following circumstances:

1. Where an employee is exposed to one of the substances listed in Schedule 6 to COSHH and is working in one of the related processes, e.g. In the manufacture of certain compounds where there is reasonable likelihood that an identifiable disease or adverse health effect will result from that exposure.

2. Where employees are exposed to a substance linked to a particular disease or adverse health effect and there is reasonable likelihood, under the conditions of the work, of that diease or effect.

7) Inform, instruct and train

Ensure employees are properly supervised, informed and trained

COSHH requires the provision of suitable and sufficient information and training for all employees which should include:

  • The main findings of any risk assessment.
  • The names of substances they work with or could be exposed to and the risks created by exposure. 
  • Access to any data sheets that apply to those substances.
  • The precautions they should take to protect themselves and other employees.
  • How to use personal protective equipment and clothing provided.
  • The results of any exposure monitoring and health surveillance. 
  • The emergency procedures that need to be followed

8) Prepare plans & procedures

Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents & emergencies

COSHH requires a plan outlining the response required before an accident happens.

The plan must include:

1. Preparing procedures and setting up warning and communication systems to enable an appropriate response immediately if any incident occurs.
2. Ensuring that the information on the emergency arrangements is available to those who need to see it including the emergency services.
3. If any accident or emergency occurs all steps required must be taken to minimise the harmful effects and restore the situation to normal immediately.
4. Employees who may be affected must also be informed
5. Only those staff necessary to deal with the incident may remain in the area and they must be provided with appropriate safety equipment. 
6. It also requires safety drills to be practiced at regular intervals. 


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