COSHH stands for the Control of Substances
Hazardous to Health and includes many chemicals, fumes, dusts and
biological agents. Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to
Health Regulations there is a requirement for employers to control
the exposure to these substances in order to prevent ill health in
employees and others who may be exposed.
The effects of exposure to these to these
substances can range from minor skin irritations to eye injuries,
lung diseases, cancers and even death. A failure to control
exposure can lead to employers facing enforcement action, loss of
business and civil claims.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health
Regulations specify what substances must be controlled. Suppliers
of these substances must provide a safety data sheet for the
substance which specifies the hazards and suggested precautionary
measures. These should be referred to when carrying out an
assessment under these regulations.
There are several steps that must be taken
when carrying out an assessment under these regulations.
Step 1 - Assess the risks:
Identify the hazardous substances and the
risks that they present. Consider how the chemical is used and by
whom. This will allow you to determine how people could be exposed
to harm (e.g. inhalation, ingestion, skin contact)
Step 2 - Decide what precautions are needed:
Precautions should be considered in the
following order and the highest possible on the list adopted.
Substituting the substance with a less harmful one
Change the process (e.g. eliminate the release of fume)
Use a safer form of the substance (e.g. pellets not powder)
Enclose the process
Provide specific or general ventilation
Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as a last resort (e.g.
gloves, masks, goggles)
Step 3 - Prevent or control exposure:
It may be necessary to measure the
concentration of substances in the air from time to time to ensure
that employees are not exposed to unacceptable levels of hazardous
Step 4 - Ensure that controls are used and
Measuring the concentration of substances in
the air may also show whether the control measures are working
Step 5 - Monitor employee exposure:
It may be necessary to monitor individual
employees exposure to certain substances.
Step 6 - Carry out Health Surveillance:
This is required where employees are working
with certain substances and full details are provided in the
of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations.
Step 7 - Inform and train employees:
You must ensure that employees understand the
risks associated with the substances used, use the control measures
and report any concerns or faults.
Further information regarding COSHH can be
found on the HSE website and the