The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002 are designed to protect employees from all manner of substances that could endanger life or cause illness or injury. The 2002 regulations implemented some EU directives and supersede the 1999 regulations. COSHH is not about the general risks covered by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 – it is specifically concerned with “substances”. By substances, the Regulations refer to “chemicals, products containing chemicals, fumes, dusts, vapours, mists, nanotechnology, gases and asphyxiating gases and biological agents (germs)” (source: hse.gov.uk). However COSHH does not cover lead, asbestos or radioactive substances. Employers need to make sure that they have identified as many substance risks as practicable by identifying all possible sources of hazardous substances. While there might be a temptation to assume offices and shops are safe compared to factories and mines, there will probably still be hazardous materials such as cleaning products and even printing products that could constitute a substance hazard. It is employers’ responsibility to assess their own premises to ensure that any hazardous substances or potential hazardous substances (e.g. substances that become hazardous when substances are mixed together, agitated or heated up) are identified. This can be done by simply walking around the workplace accompanied by people who understand the substances in question and noting down potential hazards. The next step is to go about isolating risks where possible, putting up warning signs and taking measures to educate employees and visitors about them. Depending on the nature of the hazards, you should also seek advice on what the appropriate emergency plans are to deal with leaks, spillages and people being affected by the substances and act upon it. In the longer term, you will need to ensure that all your measures are up to date and that the health of employees who come into contact with the risk substances is monitored. Risk assessments and their subsequent actions might lead you to conclude that certain substances should not be stored or used in the way they are being used. In many cases you might find that there are alternatives that are safer, or that certain tasks can be outsourced to specialist companies.
Peninsula’s COSHH Advice and Assistance
As employers, the safety and wellbeing of your employees is your paramount concern. That means that known risks from substances should be treated appropriately and at Peninsula our health and safety service is perfectly placed to ensure you perform thorough and effective COSHH risk assessments. We understand that different industries have different risks from substances, and we have all the information to hand to ensure that your COSHH risk assessment is as thorough as possible. Performing COSHH risk assessments leaves no margin for error, and since they can be complicated, we recommend your assessments and the subsequent conclusions and actions benefit from the assistance of our experts. We can make sure you’re not only complying with the law on hazardous substances but also doing your utmost to protect your most precious resource: your employees. Contact us online or call 0800 328 9348 and we’ll be pleased to discuss your requirements.