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COSHH is a law that requires employers to control hazardous substances in the workplace and ensure the safety of its employees. If you have worked in an industry that handles chemical substances, then this term might be familiar to you. 

COSHH is basically a set of health and safety procedures that will protect workers from getting sick when working with dangerous chemicals and substances.

Employers must follow these rules. Failure to comply is considered a crime and comes with heavy penalties. Whether you are an employer, employee, or contractor, or manager, you must be aware of what COSHH is. So here’s everything you need to know.

What Does COSHH Stand For? 

COSHH stands for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health. This is a set of rules that were put in place to protect workers from getting sick while handling certain substances and materials in the workplace.

Although the COSHH regulations have been in place for more than 25 years, it was reiterated in October 2002. The legislation was originally part of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Work Regulations 1999 and was introduced to minimize the exposure of employees to hazardous substances.

During the assessment, the focus is to check the hazards and risks of employees from dangerous substances and will usually ask the following questions:

  • Is there a possibility that the workers will be exposed to substances that can be hazardous to health?
  • In what way will the substances harm the employees’ health?
  • Which tasks can expose employees to hazardous substances?

Most businesses would use substances and chemicals to produce certain products. Some of these substances are harmful to the health of the employees. The “substances” can refer to any form of hazardous materials, such as solids, dust, fumes, liquid, fibers, particles, vapors, mists, and biological agents such as viruses and bacteria. The substances will be deemed  “hazardous” if they can cause damage to the lungs, nose, skin, mouth, internal, organs, etc.

What are Workers’ Responsibilities Around COSHH?        

COSHH training is essential for everyone who is working in an environment that deals with hazardous substances. 

Although it was created to protect the employees, as an employee, you also have responsibilities within the COSHH, which include the following:

  • Comply with any instructions, training, and information regarding COSHH. 
  • Ensure proper washing and showering when needed.
  • Following control measures and using the facilities provided by the employer to ensure protection from harmful substances.
  • Making sure that equipment is stored and returned properly.
  • Proper personal hygiene must always be maintained at work.
  • Reporting any insufficiencies and defects on the control measures that were put in place.
  • Taking off the PPE before drinking or eating to prevent contamination.
  • Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and storing it properly.

What are the COSHH Principles? 

The overall aim of the COSHH regulations is to minimize the risk of people, most especially the employees, from getting exposed to hazardous substances. There are various ways in which the principles of COSHH will be carried out. 

It is the legal responsibility of employers to keep their employees safe from harmful substances while working in the workplace, by following the advice laid out in the COSHH. 

Here are some ways in which employers can ensure safety in the workplace as per the guidelines laid out in the COSHH:

  • Risk Assessment just like the other guidelines of HSE, COSHH starts by assessing the risk. The assessment should involve going around the workplace and identifying all the potentially harmful substances and if there’s a possibility that they will get into contact with the employees. 
  • Substance Substitution After identifying the dangerous substances, the COSHH recommends substituting them with less harmful substances. This could mean replacing a cleaning fluid with a much safer one or using a liquid instead of powder for safe storage. 
  • Limiting Exposure in places where it’s necessary to handle hazardous substances, proper measures must be put in place to minimize possible exposure. This includes mandating employees to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), teaching them how to properly store hazardous substances, and minimizing the time they need to spend in performing tasks that would require exposure to these harmful substances.
  • Information Sheets some of these hazardous substances can be difficult to store and handle. This is why companies must provide data sheets to employees that will explain how they can properly use and store these substances.
  • Training proper training and education must be provided to employees whenever possible. This is to ensure that employees, as well as employers, will be aware of the things that they can do to minimize the risk of exposure to these harmful substances. Companies should have a well-structured training program on COSHH to ensure that the employees will receive proper knowledge and skills.

Female worker cutting wood with a power saw while male worker standing behind

What is COSHH Training?  

The law does not necessarily require that employees will have certain qualifications to work in an environment that handles hazardous substances. However, they must be given proper training to make sure that they can safely carry out their jobs. The overview COSHH training course includes all the basic principles of COSHH.

It will also teach employees of their role in helping to minimize the exposure of dangerous substances while they are at work. The training must also be given to individuals that would bring dangerous substances to other premises as part of their job. Any company that uses hazardous substances should provide mandatory COSHH training.

Why is COSHH Important?           

The main purpose of the COSHH regulations is to minimize the risk associated with dangerous substances that could be harmful to the employees. Without it, many employees will get sick as a result of being exposed to hazardous substances in the workplace. 

The COSHH regulations are there to protect the employees and prevent accidents within the workplace that could result in fatal consequences. 

Failure to follow the COSHH regulations could put various employees at risk and can come with legal repercussions. The Health and Safety Executive will hold business owners and corporations accountable if they fail to implement the COSHH regulations. 

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