What is COSHH? Your responsibilities explained

COSHH stands for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health COSHH Regulations cover everything from risk assessing the exposure to hazardous substances and implementing control measures around substances in your workplace to providing sufficient information around hazards and health risks and running health surveillance surveys.

There’s a lot to cover when it comes to COSHH and understanding your legal responsibilities can be time-consuming and confusing. When you partner with Citation to help manage your Health & Safety obligations, we take that confusion away. Our experts are on-hand 24/7 to help you figure out the regulations and formulate a COSHH policy that keeps you, your people and your business safe and compliant.

COSHH Regulations

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 is a legal requirement that employers must identify the hazards associated with working with substances and implement control measures to protect everyone who enters your premises from potential health hazards.

The amount may vary, but virtually every business will use substances in one way or another.

Some substances might be harmless alone but become hazardous when combined with others. Equally, certain processes can create substances that are hazardous – like the fumes emitted from welding or soldering, for example.

Your legal responsibilities as an employer

You’re required to follow several steps to prevent or reduce any potential risks. These are:

  • Identify what could cause health hazards
  • Conduct a thorough, COSHH risk assessment to prevent any risks from materialising
  • Implement control measures to prevent or reduce any risks discovered in your assessment
  • Regularly monitor that everybody is following your control measures
  • Make sure your control measures remain in good working order
  • Supply affected individuals with sufficient information, instruction and training on how to safely work with hazardous substances
  • Where appropriate, conduct health surveillance surveys
  • Put together a plan for in the event of an emergency

Identifying hazardous substances

Substances that can be hazardous to an individual’s health include, but aren't limited to:

  • Chemicals and products containing chemicals
  • Fumes
  • Dust
  • Vapours
  • Mists
  • Nanotechnology
  • Gases and asphyxiating gases
  • Biological agents
  • Any germs that can cause diseases – like leptospirosis or legionnaire’s disease
  • Germs used in laboratories
Lead, asbestos and radioactive substances aren’t covered by COSHH – they’ve got their own set of regulations for you to follow.

5 simple steps to COSHH risk assessments

5 simple steps To COSHH risk assessments

Download the guide

A beginner’s guide to COSHH in cleaning

Our back to basics guide covers everything from risk assessments and ratings to commonly used chemicals.

Download the guide

What is a COSHH assessment?

Performing COSHH risk assessments fall under your legal duties as an employer. They should be reviewed annually, each time a new substance is introduced and whenever any changes are made to a substance’s safety data sheet. We’ll touch on safety data sheets a little further on.

 

COSHH symbols

You’ll find specific symbols on the labels of any chemicals that can be hazardous to someone’s health. All symbols are contained within the shape of a diamond, with a bold red border.There are nine symbols to look out for:

  • Explosive
  • Flammable
  • Oxidising
  • Corrosive
  • Acute toxicity
  • Hazardous to the environment
  • Health hazard/Hazardous to the ozone layer
  • Serious health hazard
  • Gas under pressure
In some cases, more than one symbol might appear on a single label. Some substances are easier to identify as harmful than others. However, just because something’s harder to recognise, it doesn’t mean it can go ignored When dealing with COSHH, care should be taken at all times to ensure all hazards and risks are either prevented, reduced or controlled as much as possible.

COSHH safety data sheets

In cases where a substance’s packaging doesn’t go into enough detail with regards to its hazardous nature, you may need to refer to its safety data sheet.

Safety data sheets should be supplied by the manufacturer of the substance. If you haven’t got one, you should get in touch with them and ask for their most up-to-date version.

It’s important to note that safety data sheets are by no means a replacement for your COSHH risk assessment, but they can be called upon to form part of your risk analysis.

What is included in a safety data sheet?

Safety data sheets contain information like:

  • The types of hazards the substance poses
  • How the substance should be handled
  • How the substance should be stored
  • What to do in the event of an accident

How can Citation help?

We can’t complete your COSHH risk assessments for you. But what we can do is make sure you have all the knowledge and information you need to make sure that completing them is hassle-free for you.

Our qualified Health & Safety experts offer 24/7 guidance with COSHH risk assessments via our advice line. You’ll also receive access to our online platform, Atlas. You’ll find thousands of risk assessment templates – including COSHH specific risk assessments – as well as digital storage, distribution and email reminders when something is coming up for review.

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