The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) is a set of regulations that employers are required to comply with in the United Kingdom.
In this article, we’ll go over the main objectives of COSHH and the specific steps UK employers must take to keep their employees safe from hazardous substances.
We’ll also cover the tools managers or supervisors can use to simplify the process of staying compliant with COSHH, so employees can remain productive without compromising their safety.
The purpose of COSHH is to prevent or reduce employees' harmful exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace. COSHH regulations require employers to conduct risk assessments that:
COSHH regulations also require employers to:
Before we dive into more details of each step, let’s first cover the definitions of the most important terms employers need to know under COSHH:
|Biological agent||A micro-organism, cell culture, or human endoparasite which may cause infection, allergy, toxicity, or otherwise create a hazard to human health.|
|Carcinogen||A substance or preparation that:Falls under carcinogenic (category 1) or carcinogenic (category 2); Is listed in Schedule 1 or arises from a process specified in Schedule 1|
|Control measure||A measure taken to reduce exposure to a substance hazardous to health.|
|Hazard/hazardous substance||A substance with an intrinsic property or potential to harm a person’s health.|
|Inhalable dust||Airborne material capable of entering the nose or mouth during breathing.|
|Micro-organism||A microbiological entity that can replicate or transfer genetic material.|
|Mutagen||A substance or preparation categorised under mutagenic (category 1) or mutagenic (category 2).|
|Preparation||A mixture or solution of two or more substances.|
|Respirable dust||Airborne material that can penetrate the gas exchange region of the lung.|
|Risk||The likelihood that exposure to a substance hazardous to health will cause harm to an employee.|
|Workplace exposure limits||The exposure limit approved by the HSE according to their guideline, EH40 Workplace Exposure Limits 2005|
As a prerequisite, employers must make sure that managers or supervisors in charge of COSHH compliance are trained to:
a. Understand the most important terms under COSHH
b. Identify substances categorised under carcinogenic, mutagenic, or hazardous;
c. Know how employees will work with the hazardous substances;
d. Take relevant control measures approved by the HSE to prevent employees from exposure where possible to; and
e. In cases where prevention isn’t possible, design safety protocols to comply with HSE’s workplace exposure limits of hazardous substances.
Once these prerequisites are met, companies will be ready to conduct a COSHH risk assessment according to the steps outlined below.
The person conducting the risk assessment for hazardous substances needs to:
After identifying the hazards and the people they could affect, the risk assessment needs to include an evaluation of the risks each hazard could have on the health of an employee.
These steps include:
Once the health risks have been evaluated, the person conducting the risk assessment needs to choose the appropriate prevention or control measures by answering the following questions:
According to the HSE, employers must keep records of all COSHH risk assessments. The key points that need to be recorded are:
HSE has provided the following list of key hazards that should be investigated and recorded in risk assessments according to specific industries:
|Agriculture||Dust, chemicals, diseases, toxic gasses.|
|Baking||Dust, enzymes, flavour concentrates, cleaning products.|
|Beauty||Acrylic fumes, Ingredients that can cause skin irritation, allergies, or asthma|
|Catering||Fumes, ingredients that can cause dermatitis or skin allergies|
|Cleaning||Corrosive products, products that can cause dermatitis, allergies, or asthma|
|Engineering||Dusts, fumes, chemicals, germs in fluids|
|Hairdressing||Products that can cause dermatitis, allergies, or asthma|
|Offshore oil & gas||Dust, chemicals, gasses, radiation|
|Printing||Solvent vapours, products or ingredients that can dermatitis, allergies, asthma, or damage to internal organs over a long time.|
|Motor vehicle repair||Paints, fuels, fluids, lubricants, products, fumes, dust, battery acid|
|Welding||Fumes, dust, chemicals, inert gasses|
|Woodworking||Dust, adhesives, paints, fluids, lubricants, disinfectants|
COSHH risk assessments should be reviewed regularly for any possible changes.
The COSHH law does not specify how often a review should be done, so it is up to the employer or health and safety officer to decide on a reasonable and practical review period.
Other than regular reviews, COSHH reviews should be conducted immediately if:
COSHH risk assessment reviews should also revise any control measures that are not as effective as they should be.
Conducting COSHH risk assessments as accurately as possible is essential to maintain high workplace safety standards.
This is where having the right tools and templates can help health & safety managers or supervisors conduct risk assessments to keep their employees safe from hazardous substances and stay compliant with COSHH.
The two most invaluable tools to help managers in charge of COSHH assessment and reviews are:
1. Mobile inspections and task management software
Software like Workflows makes it easy to conduct inspections without the hassle of managing paperwork. With Workflows, health & safety managers or supervisors can:
Since Workflows allow one to assign tasks and discuss issues within an assessment, health & safety managers or supervisors can also easily keep track of:
2. Mobile hazard and incident reporting:
Although reporting hazards and incidents is not part of the COSHH risk assessment process, it is crucial to alert managers or supervisors of any immediate dangers that may require a COSSH risk assessment review.
By using a mobile app to report hazards and incidents:
HSE managers and supervisors have a lot to handle when it comes to completing and reviewing COSHH risk assessments to keep employees safe from hazardous substances.
Having the right tools and templates at their fingertips can make it much easier to meet COSSH compliance without spending much time on manual paperwork and follow-ups.
To learn more about how our inspection and task management software, Workflows, and hazard and incident reporting tool can help your organisation complete high-quality COSHH risk assessments, contact us here to speak to our sales.