Tuesday 6th February 2024
COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulations were put in place to protect workers from poor health in the workplace. Many materials and substances used in the workplace can be harmful to human health and therefore it is important to limit the exposure. COSHH regulations require employers to identify harmful substances in the workplace and put measures in place to protect employees.
What are COSHH hazardous substances?
COSHH covers the different forms of hazardous substances; liquids, dusts, gases, vapours, mists and fumes. COSHH substances can cause problems to human health causing issues such as such as skin damage, asthma, lung damage, cancer and more. Effects such as stinging or dizziness when exposed to COSHH substances can be immediate. However, some can take years to develop like lung disease.
In the workplace you can often be exposed to different forms of hazardous substances without even knowing. Here’s a few to look out for:
Liquids – Found in cleaning products, fuels, pesticides, processed chemicals, liquified gases
Dusts – Found in wood, concrete, bricks, glass, grains, flour
Gases – Make sure you know what gases you’re dealing with before using them. There are a wide range of gases that are harmful in different ways
Vapours – Solvent vapours released from adhesives, glues, paints, inks
Mists – Released from sprays, jets, hand dispensers
Fumes – Created from heating a solid, e.g created when welding. Strong and strict control measures around the extraction of the potentially harmful fumes
What are the COSHH hazard classes?
COSHH symbols are used to identify the COSHH hazard classes. COSHH symbols relate to specific types of harm that can occur from harmful materials or substances, and there are 9 official COSHH symbols in total; corrosive, harmful, explosive, flammable, irritant, oxidising, toxic, health hazard and environmental hazard. Most products have COSHH symbols on their packaging to inform users if the material or substance is harmful. Here are the symbols:
What is a COSHH regulations assessment?
It’s the employer’s responsibility to perform a COSHH Assessment to understand the level of risk that exists within the workplace. The COSHH Assessment includes a review of hazardous properties, looking at how they are used and identifying any control measures needed to prevent harm to health. It’s the employers responsibility to ensure COSHH regulations and prevention processes are being followed.
Assess the risks
Think about how workers might be exposed, who might be exposed, how to control the risks, who needs to carry out the action and when the action is needed.
Control the risks
Eliminate unnecessary substances or replace substances where a safer alternative is available and consider whether a process can be changed to so it results in less exposure. If a substance is not directly replaceable, adequate control measures must be put in place to reduce exposure.
Training and educating staff about any risks to health from hazardous substances is critical. Hanging a COSHH poster in the workplace to show a clear list of hazard symbols for staff to familiarise themselves with is a good way to raise awareness.
As the employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that workers understand the policies around COSHH regulations and what it means for them. This may include which hazards are present, necessary training and how the risks are being controlled.