Safe Handling of Hazardous Substances – COSHH

One of the questions we are often asked is what is COSHH? COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) is the law which requires employers to control these hazardous substances and prevent or reduce the risk to workers using them.

A variety of substances, which could be harmful, are found in our everyday working environments and knowing how to handle these safely is key to protecting your workforce and others from injury. Some chemicals are easily recognised as harmful and there are some common substances such as bleach, paint or dust from natural materials, which may be less recognisable.

Thousands of workers are made ill by hazardous substances every year, contracting lung diseases such as asthma, cancer and skin diseases like dermatitis. These diseases cost millions each year to:

  • Industries – replacing trained workers

  • Societies – in disability allowances and medications

  • Individuals – who may lose their jobs

As an employer, you are responsible for taking effective measures to control exposure and protect the health of your workers. These measures can improve production and cut waste.

You can prevent or reduce workers exposure to hazardous substances by:

  • Finding out what the health hazards are

  • Deciding how to prevent harm by conducting a COSHH Risk Assessment

  • Providing control measures and ensuring they are used

  • Providing information, instruction and training for employees and others

  • Providing and monitoring health surveillance in appropriate cases

  • Planning for emergencies

What is the difference between a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and a COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Risk Assessment?

Material Safety Data Sheets provide information about the hazardous product to help users of those chemicals to make a risk assessment. They describe the hazards the chemical presents and give information on handling, storage and emergency measures in case of an accident.

A COSHH Risk Assessment describes what control measures are needed to prevent harm and the measures needed when you use the product to ensure your safety.

Whenever you expose yourself, your employees or anyone else to a substance that could cause harm whether it is dust, liquid, powder or gas, a COSHH Risk Assessment is required. Even everyday chemicals such as glue need to be handled correctly; if it is used in a windowless room the fumes could easily make you pass out. Cement used every day on every building project, if used incorrectly, could cause severe burns. 

Remember to always review your COSHH Risk Assessments and that our fully qualified Health and Safety Consultants, at Embark Consulting, are here to help you achieve this. For reassurance of a safer working environment contact us today.


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