COSHH Key Takeaways


COSHH Regulations 2002: Key Takeaways

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations - Every year, thousands of people experience injuries or ill health caused by hazardous substances and, in some cases, contract serious diseases such as asthma or dermatitis. For this reason, it is essential that the use of hazardous substances is controlled in the workplace.

In this article, we will look at the COSHH Regulations and explore some of their key takeaways.

COSHH Toxic Exposure

What is COSHH?

COSHH is a set of regulations that are designed to protect employees from experiencing harm or ill health from any hazardous substances that they use at work. They do this by placing a number of responsibilities on employers and employees, which we will explore later in this article.

What does COSHH stand for?

COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

Which substances are covered by COSHH?

There are a large number of substances covered by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002. More specifically, the regulations state that a hazardous substance is any one of the following:

  • Any substance that is classified as very toxic, toxic, harmful, corrosive or irritant by the GB CLP Regulation.
  • Any substance that has been given a workplace exposure limit by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
  • Any biological agent, which is a microorganism, cell culture, or human endoparasite that may pose a hazard to human health.
  • Any dust present in the air over a certain concentration.
  • Any other substance that, because of its chemical or toxicological properties and the way it is used, poses a risk to health.

In practice, this means that almost any substance that could harm human health is considered to be a hazardous substance for the purposes of the COSHH Regulations.

What does COSHH require of employers?

Regulations 6 - 13 of the COSHH Regulations outline several things that employers must do in order to protect the health of its employees who work with hazardous substances. We will explore each of these regulations, and their requirements, below.

Regulation 6

Before their employees carry out work with hazardous substances, regulation 6 of the COSHH Regulations require that employers carry out a 'suitable and sufficient' risk assessment.

The assessment must identify the risks associated with the substances, and determine the measures needed to comply with the COSHH Regulations and protect those using them. There are several things that should be considered while completing this assessment, including:

  • The hazardous properties of the substance.
  • The level and duration of exposure to the substance.
  • The health information provided by the substance's supplier.

If you would like to learn more, consider taking our Online Risk Assessment Training Course

Regulation 7

This regulation requires employers to prevent its employees from being exposed to hazardous substances or, where this is not possible, control their exposure to these substances as much as they can.

There is a broad hierarchy of control that outlines an order in which control measures should be considered:

  • Eliminate the hazardous substance to prevent exposure.
  • Modify the substance, process or workplace.
  • Apply controls to the process, such as the use of enclosures and local exhaust ventilation (LEV).
  • Use safe systems of work that minimise exposure, such as dictating a distance that an employee must maintain between themselves and the substance.
  • Providing equipment or devices worn by exposed individuals, such as personal protective equipment (PPE).

Regulations 8 and 9

Regulations 8 and 9 are similar in function, and require employers to ensure that control measures are used correctly, and are maintained, examined and tested as needed.

The steps an employer must take to comply with these regulations will vary significantly. This is because there are a wide range of control measures that can be used to limit exposure to hazardous substances, which will all have different maintenance and testing needs.

Regulation 8 also requires employees to make full use of the control measures that their employer has provided, and report any issues or defects that they identify as soon as possible.

Regulation 10

Regulation 10 requires that, where necessary, employers provide exposure monitoring to assess the extent of its employees’ exposure to hazardous substances.

Specific information on what exposure monitoring looks like, and who is responsible for carrying it out, can be found on the HSE website.

Regulation 11

This regulation requires employers to provide health surveillance to its employees if necessary. Not all employees need to have their health monitored - it is usually reserved for those that use a substance that is likely to cause an identifiable disease or adverse health effect.

Health surveillance is an important process, and is used to:

  • Detect, as early as possible, illnesses or changes that may be caused by exposure to hazardous substances.
  • Collect data that can be used to identify other hazards to health, and determine the actions required to prevent them from causing harm.
  • Check that a risk assessment is accurate, and that the control measures identified by it are working effectively.

Regulation 12

Anyone who works with hazardous substances must be provided with 'suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training'. This includes information on:

  • The substances they will be using, and the health risks associated with them,
  • The main findings of the risk assessment.
  • What they must do to protect themselves and those around them from experiencing harm as a result of the substance.

Regulation 13

Regulation 13 requires employers to have appropriate arrangements in place to deal with any accidents, incidents or emergencies that may occur. The exact arrangements will vary between employers, but should include:

  • Appropriate facilities, such as those required to provide first aid.
  • Pre-arranged procedures, which are practised using regular safety drills.
  • A warning or communication system that can be used in the event of an incident.

At Commodious, we offer a COSHH Awareness course that is designed to provide employees with the information they need to work safely with hazardous substances. To find out more about this course, use the link below: