The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations are commonly referred to as COSHH. The law requires employers to control exposure to hazardous substances and to protect people who may be exposed. Using hazardous substances at work can put people's health at risk and failure to adequately control hazardous substances may result in staff or others becoming ill.
Basic control measures seek to achieve two aims; by controlling the introduction of harmful products into the workplace and by controlling existing risks in the workplace. When reviewing products, consideration should be given to reducing the number used, with a view to minimising the range, the amount of training required, and indeed, reducing cost.
Hazardous substances include those used directly in work activities such as cleaning agents, e.g. bleach and substances generated during work activities e.g. fumes from bleach, also natural occurring substances such as dust or plant residues.
Examples of the effects of coming into contact with hazardous substances include, skin irritation or dermatitis, infection from bacteria, losing consciousness and cancer.
Under COSHH regulations it is the responsibility of all employers to undertake a risk assessment of the risks to health and safety posed by substances under their control. Material Safety Data Sheets will provide information to assist employers in undertaking a risk assessment.
Employers need to retain a record of the main findings of the assessments and record suitable and sufficient information to explain the decisions they may have taken about whether risks are significant and the required control measures. Records should be maintained to ensure hazardous products are adequately controlled.
It is recommended that all COSHH Assessments are reviewed annually, or when, for example, a new supplier is used. A review date should be contained within the COSHH Assessment itself.
Ensure that all employees are trained on the use of hazardous substances. Training records should be used to record this.