Understanding COSHH and its impact on your businessCOSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) is a UK law which requires all employers to control any substances on their premises which are hazardous to health. To comply with the COSHH guidelines you need to prevent or limit your workforce's exposure to hazardous substance by:
Many businesses aren't aware that they need to comply with COSHH but it applies to a wide range of substances some of which are bound to be used in your industry.
- Finding out and understanding what health hazards are
- Carrying out risk assessments to prevent harm to health
- Putting control measures in place to reduce harm and ensuring these measures are practised
- Monitoring and ensuring all measures are in good working order
- Providing a full range of information, instructions and training for your employees
- Planning for emergency situations
Substances Hazardous to HealthCOSHH covers a wide range of substances hazardous to health and they can take many forms including chemicals, products which contain chemicals, fumes, dust, vapours, nanotechnologies, gases, biological agents such as germs and germs that can cause diseases such as legionnaires.
Planning your COSHH AssessmentBefore carrying out your COSHH assessment you need to ask yourself some questions:
The first rule of thumb is to attempt to stop exposure at its source. For example you should try and use the hazardous substance in the safest possible way - use it in a water-based form rather than solvent if possible. Similarly, if you can substitute a marked hazardous substance for something safer then that would be recommended too. If this isn't possible then you need to think about control measures.
- What do you do that involves hazardous substances? It could be cleaning chemicals or other types of chemicals used in laboratories amongst other things.
- How can the chemicals in your workplace cause harm?
- How can you reduce the risk of that harm occurring?
Controlling measures can be the installation of safety equipment or the wearing of PPE. Controls are designed to ensure there is a minimal chance of the hazardous substance coming into contact with your employees in any way.
Further controls include ensuring all chemicals on your premises are correctly labelled and stored according to instructions. Wholesale cleaning chemicals should come with safety data sheets (MSDS) for use with your COSHH manuals or instructions which should too be stored in a place where all employees can access them. Additional COSHH Awareness Training is also valuable for industries where regular contact with hazardous substances is part of the job.
In emergency situations and in the case of a compensation claim you need to have as much evidence as possible to indicate you were following COSHH guidelines provided by all chemicals and all your staff are adequately trained in understanding it.
Taking COSHH seriously is important for your business' success. Even if the only hazardous substances in your business are cleaning chemicals used once a week they need to be stored properly and have the relevant documentation to hand. If you don't have an adequate understanding of COSHH then investing in training would be advisable.