6 Steps to meet COSHH regulations: Control of Substances Hazardous to Health

Every year exposure to hazardous substances at work affects the health of thousands of people. Frequently reported illnesses are lung disease (dusty conditions), skin irritation, dermatitis or skin cancer (frequent contact with oils, contact with corrosive liquids), occupational asthma (sensitisation to isocyanates in paints or adhesives), and occupational cancer. Employers are obligated to protect workers and others who may be exposed to hazardous substances. The high costs of ill health arise from loss of earnings, loss of productivity, prosecution and civil action amongst others.

There are many hazardous substances in use in industry today therefore it is essential to ensure first of all that those being used are absolutely necessary, and that there are no safer alternatives.

Secondly it is vital that employees and the environment are protected from the effects of these substances by the use of training and appropriate protective measures.

Below you will find some simple steps which will enable you to meet the requirements of the COSHH Regulations.

1. Identify the hazardous substances used

Identify all the hazardous substances used in or created by your workplace activities and the likelihood of exposure. Consider all areas of the workplace including the production area, office and welfare facilities (Cleaning fluids).

2. Obtain Material Safety Data Sheets

Obtain Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) as required by the Chemical Hazard (Information and Packaging) Regulations 2002 (CHIP). These come from the suppliers of the products. If you are manufacturing a product then you will have to prepare a MSDS for distribution to your employees and customers.

3. Identify how the substances can harm your workers and record the substances that you hold

Using the Material Safety Data Sheets identify how the substances can harm your workers. If possible remove the substances from the workplace or replace them with substances less hazardous. Record the location and quantity of substances that you hold.

4. What control measures are required?

Identify what further control measures are needed to protect your workforce. These could include locked storage areas and authorised key holders and the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Ensure that control measures are used and maintained properly and that safety procedures are followed.

5. Monitor the exposure of employees to hazardous substances

If necessary, monitor the exposure of employees to hazardous substances. Carry out health surveillance where appropriate.

6. Plan procedures to deal with accidents and emergencies

Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies. Provide your employees with suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training.

If you would like to learn more or have help implementing these initiatives, please get in touch with our dedicated Risk Management team or click the link below.