How to do a COSHH Assessment | Tutorial
A COSHH assessment is, in effect, a chemical risk assessment. The process allows you to assess the risk from a specific hazardous substance and decide if you need to add controls to reduce risk to health.
You are probably already aware of many risks in your trade or industry. A COSHH assessment specifically concentrates on controlling the risk of exposure to chemicals and the potential for harm to be caused.
Watch our video here or enrol in our free COSHH Assessment Training course to help build your confidence.
How to do a COSHH Assessment | 5 Steps to Assess Risk
Remember that hazards and risks are not limited to substances labelled as ‘hazardous’.
Here are 5 steps to making a COSHH assessment, beginning by walking around your workplace:
1. Potential Exposure to Hazardous Substances
Carefully observe and inspect what type of work is taking place in your workplace, looking out for any use of hazardous substances that could potentially cause harm to health.
Examples include processes that emit dust e.g. cutting concrete, fume e.g. soldering, vapour e.g. use of solvents e.g. acetone for degreasing , mist e.g. spray painting or gas e.g. natural gas for heating i.e. gas boiler or gas being used for a production process; and skin contact with liquids, pastes and dusts.
Many hazardous substances have workplace exposure limits (WELs) – these will be listed in the SDS.
Depending on the risk profile of your process, you may need to carry out a quantitative measurement of the exposure.
This is commonly referred to as an ‘industrial hygiene’ assessment.
2. How are the COSHH Substances Harmful to Health?
Get safety data sheet (SDS or MSDS’s – take a good look through them. You will get the detail on the hazard or COSHH symbols that you will see on the labels, for example.
It will also provide you with recommended protective equipment required and storage advice.
Examples include fume from welding or soldering, mist from metalworking, dust from quarrying, gases from silage.
Look at the HSE web pages for your trade or industry – Your Industry.
Be aware, harmful substances can be created by mixing of chemicals and/or from industrial processes.
3. What Jobs or Tasks could lead to COSHH Exposure?
Get all of your the existing information that you have from risk assessments, method statements and so on (as well of course as speaking to people on the ground to make sure you’re not missing anything).
Record what control measures you already use – are these sufficient now that you’ve really taken into consideration the risk from the chemicals or substances that you have reviewed?
Make sure to cover any direct or suspected ill-health reports that have occurred or been affected by work activities. Hopefully you have records of any low-level first aid events that have happened, those will inform you on what is happening on the ground too.
Examples include minor burns from splashes, nausea or migraine from solvents, coughing or chest pain from dusts/fumes etc.
4. Implement Control Measures
At this stage, you should have reached decisions on what the problems are. The next stage is to decide what to do about them.
Complete the assessment by considering the precautions needed in the light of the risks. If the risks are significant now or could foreseeably become so, then further precautions are likelt to be required.
Not all problems can be solved immediately and priorities for action will be required. Deciding priorities involves a mixture of the following;
- what are the most serious risks to health?
- what are the risks that are likely to occur soonest?
- what are the risks that can be dealt with soonest?
The most important of these is the seriousness of the risk. If a risk is serious it should be dealt with immediately. Less important matters should not assume greater priority merely because they can be dealt with more easily or occur more quickly.
5. Record and Review your COSHH Assessment
You may want to keep your COSHH assessments for each substance as a stand alone document and/or link them to the relevant risk assessments or work processes, depending on what way your business operates.
It should be very clear as to which hazardous substances you use, how you use them and how the risk of harm is controlled.
The important thing is to make sure the relevant information is easily accessible and available to those that need it, at all times.
When it comes to control of substances hazardous to health, there’s something that you will really want to look out for – COSHH Symbols. If a substance is in the original container, it should have information relating to the hazardous properties of the chemical.