The COSHH hazards your business should know

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Opinion

  Posted by: electime      12th April 2023

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Act oversees occupational health and safety in the presence of hazardous substances. Yet, it is not often clear who is legally responsible for incorporating and maintaining COSHH into work activities, as well as assessing a company’s compliance on a regular basis. The employer bears the ultimate responsibility for implementing COSHH measures – but employees also have a responsibility to adopt and follow these measures.

It is vital that everyone in a company understands their COSHH duties and responsibilities in order to achieve COSHH compliance. In this article, occupational safety expert Kevin Rowe, from SafetyBuyer.com, outlines the hazardous substances covered by COSHH that your business encounters, how to detect the dangers posed by hazardous substances, and the three key control methods of which your business should be aware.

What are the seven potentially harmful substances?

COSHH regulations apply to the following hazardous substance categories:

  • Chemicals (and products containing chemicals)
  • Fumes
  • Dust
  • Vapours
  • Mists
  • Gases
  • Germs

There are nine danger symbols used for COSHH labelling to signify that a substance is harmful. These are some examples:

  • Explosives
  • Gases
  • Flammable liquids
  • Flammable solids
  • Oxidising agents and organic peroxides
  • Toxins and infectious substances
  • Radioactive material
  • Corrosives
  • Miscellaneous dangerous goods

Who is responsible for implementing COSHH at the workplace?

As previously stated, it is the employer’s legal responsibility to implement and maintain COSHH compliance in the workplace. This means that they must guarantee that all work methods and storage solutions are in accordance with the latest COSHH laws.

In addition, the employer must guarantee that all workers are aware of COSHH requirements and have the knowledge and capacity to follow them. If an employee causes an accident because they are unaware of the hazards posed by a hazardous chemical, the corporation may still be held accountable if it can be proven that the worker was not adequately trained or prepared for the risks posed by the hazardous substance. Therefore, all staff on-site must be informed of the dangers and necessary control measures.

The three COSHH control procedures that every employer should know

The employer must guarantee that three primary workplace compliance criteria are followed, which are as follows:

Control measures

Hazardous chemicals must be handled, stored, and used with a range of control procedures depending on the substance or activity. Using COSHH-compliant equipment ensures that all required requirements are met.

COSHH control strategies for hazardous substances help in establishing how they should be handled and stored to avoid spills or other incidents, protect employees from injury, and decrease the risk of harmful exposure. As a result, COSHH spill kits play an important role in ensuring compliance with COSHH regulations.

Methods of operation

The COSHH control procedures specify how employees should handle hazardous substances while doing their regular responsibilities. All actions, monitoring, and training must meet the COSHH safety criteria. Businesses are required by law to protect the health of their employees, but employees must also utilise their training and show caution while dealing with potentially dangerous substances.

Employee behaviour in the workplace

Everyone on-site must adhere to the control mechanisms and processes that have been developed. Moreover, the individual(s) in charge of workplace safety must ensure that the control methods and processes are suitable for the company’s operations and chemicals. When a new hazardous material is introduced into work operations, the employer must review current safety precautions to ensure that the risks posed by the new chemical are minimised.

Understanding COSHH risks

The ability to detect hazardous chemicals is the first step in ensuring that your company’s health and safety regulations are followed. Examine the various substances you and your employees may encounter in your workplace – chemicals, including cleaning supplies – and determine whether they pose a potential threat based on any warning symbols or labels on their packaging – this will help you decide whether additional action is needed to secure them against accidents.

Risk assessment

After determining whether anything is a possible threat, you must assess the severity of that hazard. This assessment should include factors such as how long people are exposed to the item, who is likely to be affected by it, and what protective gear or equipment is required for safety. Having all of this information at your disposal may assist you in determining what steps to take next to protect personnel from hazardous chemicals.

Assess the health implications

In addition to probable exposure levels, you should study the impact these compounds may have on health, since this will assist you in determining the extent and kind of any dangers associated with them. Examine any compounds mentioned on product labels or instructions to discover more about their toxicity levels, storage recommendations, and other factors.

Risk control

Once you have assessed the hazards associated with the hazardous substances present in your workplace, it is time to take action and implement COSHH control measures. There are a number of techniques to reduce these hazards, including:

  • Using suitable ventilation systems.
  • Providing safety equipment such as masks or skin covering with suitable attire.
  • Using common hygiene principles such as hand-washing after usage.
  • Providing information and instruction on safe handling methods.

When it comes to hazardous substances, any of these options (or any combination of them) can contribute to a safer working environment.

A workplace must always meet the highest levels of control measures, which are done by using COSHH-compliant cabinets, supplying employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) when needed, and developing and adhering to protocols that alert supervisors in the case of an emergency.