For many of those entering the workforce, COSHH is the first concept hey encounter in relation to health and safety. It stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to health. The regulations aim to help minimize the exposure/risk of substances present in the workplace that could lead to the ill health of employees.
What defines a substance hazardous to health?
A substance hazardous to health under COSHH can take many forms. Some of the different types include:
- Gases and asphyxiating gases
- Biological agents (germs)
- Products containing chemicals
Whilst this is not a comprehensive list it gives you a good first glimpse into the types of substances that you as an employer need to be wary of.
How can I make sure my business is implementing COSHH in compliance with the law?
When it comes to the implementation of COSHH a common-sense approach works well. Consider how the various substances are intertwined with the work you do and how their exposure to your workforce can be minimized.
In some cases, the substance itself can be removed from the work environment or substituted entirely. Changing a fine powder of dust for a waxy solid product is often the most effective way to control a hazard under COSHH.
Looking at the process that the hazardous substance is involved in can also help in the implementation of COSHH. At the points of exposure look at any equipment involved and how it can be optimised to reduce the risks of hazards. Protective gloves may be a good way to protect against chemicals and chemical burns on the hands for example.
If you cannot prevent the hazard entirely you must demonstrate that you can control the hazard and reduce the risk of harm to ‘as low as is reasonably practicable’. Broadly this means your business must:
- All control measures are in good working order
- Exposures are below the set workplace exposure limit if one is in place
- The exposure to substances that cause cancer, genetic damage or asthma is kept as low as possible
As with any aspect of health and safety, developing an interactive process where your company is learning and developing and improving on previous processes will help in the implementation of COSHH and control of dangers in the workplace.
Health and safety is paramount in any business to protect the workforce. If you are working out a health and safety policy for your business make sure you base it on reputable sources of information to ensure you are properly complying with COSHH.
Understanding the various COSHH symbols is important as It will help your business display the relevant HSE information to your employees in regards to COSHH.