There are several working environments where the use of chemicals or hazardous substances poses a risk to people’s lives. By law employers in such instances are required to take all reasonable measures to control employee’s exposure to these hazardous substances. These legally binding regulations are contained in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations of 2002 or COSHH for short.
What are classified as substances hazardous to health?
Hazardous substances are varied and can take the form of liquid substance, biological agents, dust or other substances that may create a risk to health. Substances that are manufactured and packaged will be labelled as hazardous and a detailed description included. This description will list all the potential hazards. Most commonly used hazardous substances are listed on the Approved Supplier list on the HSE publication.
What is contained within the regulations?
COSHH was designed to be a useful tool for employers to effectively manage in these environments. It lists eight measures that both employers and employees need to follow.
- Assess the risk.
- Decide what precautions are needed.
- Prevent or adequately control exposure.
- Ensure that control measures are maintained.
- Monitor the exposure.
- Carry out appropriate health surveillance.
- Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents, and emergencies.
- Ensure staff are properly informed, trained and supervised.
COSHH is designed to be followed in a step by step process in order to deal with these substances as safely as possible. One of the most important aspects of COSHH is ensure that employers are fully trained, are kept informed and receive the proper supervision.
Chemical poisoning is a major issue especially in work environments where hazardous substances are handled regularly. If the guidelines and regulations set out by COSHH are understood and followed then the risks will be greatly reduced.