The term COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations. COSHH regulations require all employers to control exposure to hazardous substances to prevent ill health.
Hazardous substances include:
- Biological agents such as bacteria
- Airborne substances such as vapour and dusts
It’s a legal requirement for both employers and employees to adhere to COSHH regulations, with those found to be in violation often subject to large fines.
To make sure you comply with these regulations you must assess the risks caused by the substance in relation to the work activity, put measures in place to either prevent or control the risk and ensure that these measures are understood and followed by employees.
How do you follow COSHH regulations?
- Assess the risks
- Establish the precautions needed
- Prevent or adequately control exposure
- Ensure the use of control measures are used and maintained
- Monitor exposure
- Carry out appropriate health surveillance
- Prepare emergency procedures
- Ensure staff are informed trained and supervised
The first step is to assess the risk. This means you must identify which hazardous substances are present within your business and what risks they pose to the health of your employees and customers. You need to remember that not all hazardous substances are chemicals that you buy ready-made – some harmful substances may be produced by your work activities (such as dust or fumes). Once a potentially harmful substance has been identified, you should then judge how it could affect someone’s health while considering such factors as levels of exposure and how long people are likely to be exposed to the hazard.
If a safer alternative is available and the risk can be removed completely, this should always be the first measure you implement. For example, if a different non-hazardous substance is available providing the same outcome but at no risk to health, this is the preferable option. If it is not reasonable to remove the substance entirely, you should consider how you’ll control the exposure with methods such as adjusting the process for handling the substance, adding ventilation, reducing the exposure levels and using protective equipment.
Next, ensure that staff have this information available and are appropriately trained. They must be seen to understand the contents of the risk assessment and be trained in how to adhere to control measures, such as how to use safety equipment or personal protective equipment (PPE). Employees also have a responsibility by law to keep themselves and their colleagues safe, but use of such items and control measures should be monitored and supervised by the employer.
You should also review the control measures on an ongoing basis at intervals relevant to the specific substance, while monitoring exposure levels where necessary. Also make sure you’ve put in place a procedure to be followed in case of an emergency or accident. As always, communicate this with your team and ensure they have everything they need to be able to react in the appropriate manner.
Having your safety data sheets up-to-date and available for staff to refer to is another key part of being COSHH compliant. CRAMS stores safety data sheets for all the products that you use and we’ll even review them periodically to make sure you have the most up-to-date versions available. You and your staff can log in and access safety data sheets from any web-enabled device. Combine this with the COSHH training module which is included within CRAMS and you can be confident that you’re able to keep your people safe when using any hazardous substances.
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