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What is COSHH assessment?

What is COSHH Assessment? | Controlling Hazardous Substances

What is COSHH Assessment?

In the UK, ‘COSHH’ is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health.

One of the key aspects of managing COSHH is understanding the level of risk that exists within your specific operation or activity. Performing a COSHH assessment is fundamental part of that process.

To perform a COSHH assesssment, you should:

  1. Gather information about the hazardous properties of the substances, the work, and the working practices (or find out what the problems are)
  2. Evaluate the risks to health
  3. Decide on the necessary measures to comply with Regulations 7-13 of COSHH
  4. Record the assessment (if you have 5 or more employees)
  5. Decide when the assessment needs to be reviewed

Download our COSHH Assessment Templates

COSHH Assessment Template

In the UK, COSHH stands for ‘Control of Substances Hazardous to Health’.

Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, employers need to either prevent or reduce their workers’ exposure to substances that are hazardous to their health.

COSHH Assessment | Helpful Products

Managing COSHH Risk

Most businesses use substances, or products that are mixtures of substances. Some processes create substances. These could cause harm to employees, contractors and other people.

Sometimes substances are easily recognised as harmful.

Equally, common household substances such as paint, bleach or dust from natural materials may also be harmful.

COSHH Cabinet
COSHH Cabinet - Fireproof and Bunded

In other circumstances, the potential harm caused by a substance or material may not be easily recognised or even understood. You can prevent or reduce workers exposure to hazardous substances in several different ways, they include:

  • finding out what the health hazards are;
  • deciding how to prevent harm to health (risk and COSHH assessment);
  • providing control measures to reduce potential for harm to health e.g. safe and secure containment;
  • making sure they are used via supervision, checks, audits etc. ;
  • keeping all control measures in good working order e.g. spill trays;
  • providing information, instruction and training for employees and others;
  • providing monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases;
  • planning for emergencies.

COSHH Assessment | Top 5 Things to Remember

COSHH Assessment Template

SAFETY DATA SHEETS

Read the SDS or MSDS thoroughly  – all of your information from the manufacturer – sometimes this information can be quite broad in terms of the application of the substance and will usually relate to intense use of the product or worse-case scenario – so, if you can’t, get someone who can interpret it.

Important information that you will glean from the SDS includes first aid, safe storage, handling and what to do in an emergency e.g spill response procedures.

COMPATIBILITY

Separate incompatible chemicals to avoid risk of harm to health or fire hazards – This is often overlooked and not given enough priority- it’s part of the reason COSHH assessments can be so useful – because it gives you the chance to look at all of the COSHH substances you are using across an entire site or project.

health and safety competent person service

Why is this important?  Well, let’s look at mixing Ammonia & Bleach, for example.

One of the most common hazards occurs when chlorine bleach is mixed with ammonia or acids. The combination of ammonia and bleach produces dangerous chlorine gas, which in small doses can cause irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. In large doses, it can kill.

COSHH Label

LABELLING

Make sure they are clearly and accurately labelled – ok, so this maybe seems obvious but its very easy for materials to be decanting or transferred to different container – what issue does this present – well firstly, it presents a risk to people of course, as they could confuse a hazardous material for something harmless and put themselves at risk. 

Also, when it comes to environmental aspect, you need to be able to properly identify the material for safe and compliant disposal with your waste service provider.

You have to aim for simplicity here – there are COSHH labels out there that can be purchased which will allow you to fill in the information similar to how its presented on the original product packaging, which is what you should be aiming for.

COSHH Storage

VENTILATION

Provide ventilation and avoid excess exposure to sun/heat/sources of ignition – heat may make the chemicals more volatile so controlling levels of heat important and maintaining good airflow reduce the risk gases or vapour accumulating. 

This is not only to mitigate any risk there might be of fire and explosion, but also helps to ensure the risk of harm to health – the vapours and gases can be irritant or can be toxic and act as an asphyxiant i.e. oxygen depletion is minimised

In some cases, you might want to put some form of oxygen monitoring or gas detection in place – as you would have around your boilers for carbon monoxide.

COSHH Storage

SECURE STORAGE

Store the substances securely e.g. in a bunded COSHH cabinet. and restrict use only to those who use or manage the chemicals – this stops them from getting into the hands of people who maybe aren’t aware of the potential risks – they haven’t been trained or informed on the hazards that exist.

If there is something that you are concerned about within your workplace, don’t forget that you can reach to a Safeti expert for help via our contact page.

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