COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Regulations in the UK

COSHH Regulations in the UK

COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health. It is a legal requirement that employers carry out risk assessments for all hazardous substances which are used within the workplace.

Hazardous substances may be used in certain procedures or they may be produced as a result of procedures which are in operation. A COSHH assessment needs to be performed for all substances which have been identified to be already present and for all those which are produced as a result of a procedure such as hazardous materials produced as a result of sanding.

A COSHH assessment must be carried out for each process which is in use. Written records must be kept detailing the extent of the risks and what steps have been carried out to reduce or eliminate the risks. These must be reviewed on a regular basis and in the event that a new process or added or an existing one is changed.
It is a legal requirement for all businesses to assess and control all risks in a workplace.

A chart showing COSHH rules

A chart showing COSHH rules

How to Identify Hazards

• Systematically examine each section of the procedure which is under investigation
• If any chemicals are used then the hazards can be determined by reading the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) which are sent with the chemical. The product labels also give a good indication of the risk
• If there is any doubt or ambiguity, then suppliers’ websites can provide good information, or a direct call to the supplier can also be useful
• Identify any toxic or harmful substances which may be produced as a result of the procedure which would need to be contained. For example, does a tile cutting procedure produce silica dust?

Make sure you keep any hazardous materials out of harm’s way.

Make sure you keep any hazardous materials out of harm’s way.

Assess the Exposure of the Hazard

• Evaluate the exposure of this hazard for everyone who might come into contact with it. This might not only include people who are working directly with it, but also people at adjacent workstations and also incidental visitors such as cleaners or maintenance staff
• How could this substance enter the body? Is it a vapour which could be breathed it? Could eye splash occur? Does it produce sensitivity on contact with the skin?
• How long will the exposure last?
• Think about what to do in the event that the control measures go wrong. Is there an alternative safety procedure in place?

Make sure you plan around COSHH regulations.

Make sure you plan around COSHH regulations.

Risks and Precautions

Risks

• Once the hazards have been identified, then exposure must be limited or if possible, eliminated
• Is it possible to use a less harmful alternative?
• Or can a different procedure be used which has fewer hazards?

If there is no safer alternative and this hazard cannot be eliminated, then adequate safety equipment must be used to ensure minimal risk to those who are working directly with it and those nearby who may suffer from incidental exposure.

Precautions

• Consider changing the procedure. Is it possible to reduce temperatures to minimise the production of harmful vapours?
• Consider reducing the speed of a reaction by using pellets instead of powders for example
• Ensure that adequate ventilation is in place or deploy emission ventilation
• Ensure that adequate personal safety equipment is used. Minimise exposure to the skin by wearing gloves or adequate safety clothing. Use safety boots if necessary and wear eye protection and use breathing safety equipment if it is required
• Make sure that Signage is in place to make others aware of the hazard
• Also make sure that there are adequate labels on any storage containers. Manufacturers provide safety labels on hazardous materials, but these also need to be in place if the container is stored within another container for example, or if it has been transferred to another receptacle
• Store reactive substances separately

If working with toxic substances make sure you are careful

If working with toxic substances make sure you are careful

Systems of Work Flow

• Make people aware of the hazards of the procedure. If necessary, restrict access until the procedure has been carried out
• Make sure that disposal is carried out according to local environmental guidelines
• Also make sure that disposable safety equipment such as gloves are disposed of safely and according to guidelines

Cleaning and Maintenance

• Organise your working conditions to make cleaning easier
• Use disposable surfaces if necessary, such as absorbent papers
• Store safety equipment nearby with adequate Signage and make sure that all workers know how to use it
• Use a method to clean which minimises the risk, for example, use a vacuum to clean up harmful dust instead of using a brush
• Inspect all equipment and safety equipment from time to time

 

Image credits: Simon Strandgaard, J’Roo and ssoosay