Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations or COSHH, is a law that requires employers to regulate exposure to hazardous substances that can become dangerous to employees or potentially cause wider harm.

COSHH is a guideline to good management which sets out clear and precise measures that employers and potentially employees must abide by.

Table of Contents

Why COSHH matters?

This article will cover each process required by COSHH to aid employers to assess risk, implement measures needed to control exposure and establish good working practices.

A great deal of businesses either use substances or produce products that require a mixture of substances; or even create substances, depending on the line of work. You might be thinking how does this apply to you? Well there are a lot of common substances that may also be harmful that are covered by COSHH including paint, bleach or dust from natural materials.

If your employer fails to sufficiently control any hazardous substances this could result in employee illness, ranging from mild eye irritation to chronic lung disease. Besides from the damage to employee health failing to comply with COSHH may also harm your business; ranging from loss of productivity to prosecution.

Through following the requirements of COSHH this could positively impact your business; from increased productivity due to effective controls introduced, this could be in the form of using less raw materials.

Employee morale could be boosted knowing their employers are taking the appropriate precautions to ensure their safety. Employees will also have a better understanding and compliance with health and safety requirements.

Requirements of COSHH

When conducting a COSHH assessment there are clear objectives that you must consider when proceeding with the assessment. These include;

  • Identifying what the potential hazards are
  • Evaluate the risk to employees
  • If any significant risks, contemplate alternative chemicals that can be used or ways to which reduce the risk to a minimal

COSHH Assessments are the responsibility of the employer, the assessment should be conducted by a competent person who needs to:

  • Have access and understanding of COSHH, related legislation depending on the line of work, codes of practice and recommended published guidance
  • The ability to consult with all levels of the workforce and educate them of the results accordingly
  • Take into consideration peripatetic workers

 

Steps Objectives
Step 1: Assessment of the risks Determine if there is a risk to health from hazardous substances used in the workplace.
Step 2: Deciding what precautions are needed You cannot expose employees to hazardous substances without considering the risk factor and necessary precautions for safety to comply with COSHH.
Step 3: Prevention and control of exposure You must prevent hazardous exposure to employees, if it’s inevitable you must take the necessary precautions to control it.
Step 4: Ensuring that control measures are used and maintained You must ensure all employees abide by control measures set and ensure they are maintained and safety procedures are followed.
Step 5: Monitoring exposure If and when necessary; to monitor exposure from hazardous substances that can harm employee’s health.
Step 6: Health surveillance where necessary You must carry out health surveillance where assessments have determined it is fit to do so; or where COSHH set specific requirements to do so.
Step 7: Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies You must prepare plans and procedures to address different types of accidents, incidents and emergencies involving hazardous substances.
Step 8: Ensure employees are properly informed, trained and supervised You should give employees the appropriate information, training and supervision needed.

What’s covered by COSHH?

All workplace exposure limits that are covered by COSHH can be found in Health and Safety Executives (HSE) publication ‘EH40 workplace exposure limits’, which is revised every year.

Mostly all dangerous substances can be found in HSE’s publication Approved Supply list. However not every substances will be found in the publication, and if so suppliers must conclude if substances are dangerous and label them accordingly.

From June 2015 the European regulation for labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures known as CHIP has been revoked; in its place has come the CLP regulation or “Classification, labelling and Packaging”. Under this regulation all substances and mixtures deemed dangerous to health must legally be identified by their warning label and suppliers must provide a safety data sheet.

Other hazardous substances include;

  • Biological agents (bacteria and other micro-organisms), if they are directly connected with the line of work, these can include farming and healthcare.
  • Any form of dust that is of high concentration that exceeds the recommended levels specified by COSHH.

Substances that are not covered by COSHH include;

  • Asbestos;
  • Lead and radioactive substances;
  • Explosive and flammable materials – which have their own regulations.

The Risk Assessment

When conducting the risk assessment the following areas need to be addressed;

  • All tasks that are undertaken that involve the handling, generation and release of hazardous substances.
  • Who and what could be affected, how likely is exposure? To what extent can exposure happen?
  • What is the nature of the exposure; this can be from breathing in the fumes, swallowing, skin absorption etc.
  • What measures are currently in place to control or prevent exposure, can these be improved?
  • The possibility of accidental leakage, spillage or release of hazardous chemicals.
  • What cleaning and maintenance operations are in place, can these be improved?

Post Risk Assessment

After the risk assessment is complete, deciding what the appropriate action needed depends on the outcome of the assessment;

  1. If the results conclude there is no significant risk, no action is needed until the assessment is reviewed at a later date.
  2. If risks have been revealed then taking the appropriate precautions should follow in the order of importance, starting with;
    1. Prevention
      • Is it possible to change the process to eliminate the requirement of the hazardous substance?
      • Can a safer alternative been found
      • Is there a way to use the substance in a more controlled manner
    2. Control can be any of the following;
      • Total enclosure of the process
      • Partial enclosure and extraction equipment
      • General Ventilation
      • Using handling procedures to minimise chances of spills and leaks etc.
    3. Personal Protective Equipment
      • Personal protective equipment such as respirators and clothing are only as a last resort if the exposure cannot be sufficiently controlled.
  1. Monitoring Exposure of a substance is essential when there is a possibility of risk to health, or in cases were exposure limits need to be monitored in case of exceeding them.
  2. Health surveillance is required
    • When an employee has been significantly exposed or engaged with a hazardous chemical.
    • When an employee comes into contact with a substance that could cause adverse health effects and under the circumstances could possibly occur. Suitable records must be kept for 40 years.

Recording and Reviewing the Assessment

All assessments should be conducted in writing and reviews should happened on a regular basis, the minimum legal requirement is five-yearly intervals.

Informing, instructing and training employee’s

All employers that put their employees in contact with hazardous substances must associate the risks and precautions involved. All employees should be given sufficient information and instructions on control measures personal protective equipment and should be made aware of any exposure monitoring, health surveillances and should be given all emergency procedures.

Storage Types Required to Comply with COSHH

Here at Safe Options we have every aspect of COSHH covered to ensure you meet all requirements needed. No matter what type of Hazardous Storage you are looking for we have it.

Hazardous Storage Cabinets

Hazardous-Storage-Cabinets

Flammable Site Storage

Flammable-Site-Storage

COSHH Cabinets

COSHH-Cabinets

COSHH Site Storage

COSHH-Site-Storage

Gas Bottle Cages & Storage

Gas-Bottle-Cages-and-Storage

Toxic-Storage Cabinets

Toxic-Storage-Cabinets

Drum Storage & Spill Pallets

Drum-Storage-and-Spill-Pallets

PPE Storage Cabinets

PPE-Storage-Cabinets

Medical Steel Cabinets

Medical-Steel-Cabinets

Acid Corrosive Cabinets

Acid-Corrosive-Cabinets

CLP Pictograms

From June 2015 the regulation for classification and labelling for hazardous substances also known as CHIP has been revoked; taking its place is the CLP Regulation a new system for classification and labelling for hazardous chemicals inside the European Union. With this change comes completely new pictograms that meet with the United Nations Globally Harmonised System.

A hazardous pictogram is required on any hazardous substance or mixture that can cause ill-health or damage to the environment. The pictogram consists of a warning symbol and specific colours to present their dangers.

The old pictogram symbols were orange squares with black warnings signs, this is being replaced by the new CLP legislation with a red diamond shape on a white background with black warning signs.

The old pictograms can still be found labelled on products at your local supermarkets and hardware stores until 1 June 2017.

Symbols

Gas Under Pressure Symbol: Gas cylinder (GHS-04)

Gas Under Pressure

What does it mean?

This symbol indicates that the product contains compressed gas; and could explode if heated.

Example of where would you’d likely find this symbol?

Gas containers

Example of precautionary statements

Never expose to sunlight

Always wear personal protective equipment such as insulated gloves, face shield and eye protection when handling.

In case of an emergency seek immediate medical advice/attention.

What do I need to store them?

Gas-Bottle-Cages-and-StorageDrum-Storage-and-Spill-Pallets


Explosive Symbol: Exploding bomb (GHS-01)

Exploding Bomb

What does it mean?

This symbol indicates that the labelled product has been deemed as an unstable explosive, which could have a potential mass explosion hazard, severe projection hazard, and may mass explode in fire.

Example of where would you’d likely find this symbol?

Fireworks, ammunition

Example of precautionary statements

Always use personal protective equipment such as gloves, eye protection and face protection when handling.

Never handle until containing all specific instructions have been read and understood.

Never store near open flames, hot surfaces and direct sunlight.

What do I need to store them?

PPE-Storage-Cabinets COSHH-Cabinets


Oxidising Symbol: Flame over circle (GHS-03)

Oxidising

What does it mean?

This symbol indicates that the labelled product has been deemed as a danger that can cause or intensify a fire; oxidiser. This is also a highly dangerous explosive; strong oxidiser.

Example of where would you’d likely find this symbol?

Bleach, oxygen for medical purposes

Example of precautionary statements

Always wear personal protective equipment when handling such as gloves, eye protection and face protection.

Never store near open flames, sparks, or direct sunlight.

If spilt on clothing rinse immediately all contaminated clothing and skin with plenty of water.

What do I need to store them?

Flammable-Site-Storage COSHH-Cabinets


Flammable Symbol: Flame (GHS-02)

Flammable

What does it mean?

This symbol indicates that the labelled product has been deemed as either a; extremely flammable gas, extremely flammable aerosol, highly flammable liquid or vapour, or a flammable solid.

Example of where would you’d likely find this symbol?

Lamp oil, petrol, nail polish remover

Example of precautionary statements

Never store near open flames, sparks or direct sunlight.

Ensure the product stays cool and the container is tightly closed.

Always wear personal protective equipment when handling, such as gloves, eye protection and face protection.

What do I need to store them?

Flammable-Site-Storage PPE-Storage-Cabinets


Corrosive Symbol: Corrosion (GHS-05)

Corrosive

What does it mean?

This symbol indicates that the labelled product has been deemed as corrosive to metals and can cause severe burns and potential eye damage if handled incorrectly.

Example of where would you’d likely find this symbol?

Drain cleaners, acetic acid, hydrochloric acid, ammoniac

Example of precautionary statements

Always wear personal protective equipment when handling, such as gloves, eye protection and face protection and masks.

Never breath fumes or vapours in

never attempt to store content in another container, keep in original packaging.

Keep product in a secure lockable cabinet.

Always wash thoroughly after handling to ensure safety.

What do I need to store them?

Acid-Corrosive-Cabinets Medical-Steel-Cabinets


Health Hazard/Hazardous to the Ozone Layer Symbol: Exclamation Mark (GHS-07)

Health Hazard

What does it mean?

This symbol indicates that the labelled product has been deemed to potentially cause the following; could cause respiratory irritation, drowsiness or dizziness, allergic reactions, eye irritation.

This symbol also indicates that if the substance is swallowed or inhaled will be harmful.

Any product with this labelling is a potential harm to public health and the environment through destroying the ozone layer.

Example of where would you’d likely find this symbol?

Washing detergents, toilet cleaner, coolant fluid

Example of precautionary statements

Never breathe in fumes or vapours.

Only use when in a well ventilated area, or outdoors.

If ever swallowed call a doctor immediately.

Always wear personal protective equipment when handling, such as gloves, eye protection and face protection and masks.

If on skin or eyes ensure to rinse cautiously with water for several minutes

What do I need to store them?

COSHH-Site-Storage Hazardous-Storage-Cabinets


Acute Toxicity Symbol: Skulls and Crossbones (GHS-06)

Acute Toxicity

What does it mean?

This symbol indicates that the labelled product has been deemed fatal or toxic if swallowed, in contact with skin, or inhaled.

Example of where would you’d likely find this symbol?

Pesticide, biocide, methanol

Example of precautionary statements

Never expose to sunlight

You must ensure the product is stored in a closed container and is in a lockable cabinet.

Always wear personal protective equipment when handling, such as gloves, eye protection and face protection and masks and respiratory protection.

Only use in well ventilated areas or outdoors.

Do not come into contact on skin, eyes or clothing if this happens wash with plenty of soap and water and remove all contaminated clothing.

If inhaled take victim away from the source into a well ventilated area and place in a comfortable position to breath.

If swallowed immediately call a doctor.

What do I need to store them?

Medical-Steel-Cabinets Toxic-Storage-Cabinets


Serious Health Hazard Symbol: Health Hazard (GHS-08)

Serious Health Hazard

What does it mean?

This symbol indicates that the labelled product has been deemed fatal if swallowed or entered into airways. Can cause damage to organs. Can cause cancer and genetic defects. Suspected to cause damage to fertility or an unborn child.

Example of where would you’d likely find this symbol?

Turpentine, petrol, lamp oil

Example of precautionary statements

Always wear personal protective equipment when handling, such as gloves, eye protection and face protection and masks and respiratory protection.

Never handle before reading and understanding special safety instructions.

If exposed or swallowed immediately call a poison centre or a doctor.

Never inhale fumes and seek medical attention if you feel unwell.

Wash thoroughly after handling.

If inhaled take victim away from the source into a well ventilated area and place in a comfortable position to breath.

What do I need to store them?

Toxic-Storage-Cabinets Medical-Steel-Cabinets

Hazardous to the Environment Symbol: Environment (GHS-09)

Hazardous to Environment

What does it mean?

This symbol indicates that the labelled product has been deemed very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects

Example of where would you’d likely find this symbol?

Pesticides, biocides, petrol, turpentine

Example of precautionary statements

Avoid release to the environment

Collect spillage

What do I need to store them?

Hazardous-Storage-Cabinets COSHH-Cabinets


Useful Resources:

COSHH essential tool – http://coshh-tool.hse.gov.uk/

Working With Hazardous Substances – http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg136.pdf

How does COSHH affect your industry – http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/industry.htm

COSHH publications – http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/further/publications.htm

Research Reports – http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/research-reports.htm