What is COSHH?

We’re often asked, “What is COSHH?” So, we thought we’d take a closer look at this important piece of legislation and its implications for employers and employees.

COSHH is an abbreviation of, ‘Control of Substances Hazardous to Health’, which is referring to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. These regulations legally bind employers to prevent or reduce their workers’ exposure to substances that are hazardous to their health. Employees also have a responsibility towards their own exposure to hazardous substances.

Any breach of these regulations by an employer or employee is a crime, with punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment.

What does COSHH cover?

A large number of companies use substances that are deemed potentially hazardous to employees. The hazardous substances that you’re most likely to come across are:

  • Asphyxiating gases
  • Biological agents
  • Chemicals
  • Dusts
  • Fumes
  • Gases and asphyxiating gases
  • Germs that cause diseases, such as leptospirosis or legionnaires disease
  • Mists
  • Nanotechnology
  • Products containing chemicals
  • Vapours

COSHH does not cover lead, asbestos or radioactive substances. These substances are covered by their own specific regulations.

COSHH symbols and their meanings

There are international symbols attached to hazardous substances, allowing for quick identification.

The image above shows a selection of the symbols you’re most likely to come across and their meanings.

COSHH and Employees

COSHH requires employers to provide employees with the necessary information and training required to prevent exposure to harm. This includes:

  • Findings from risk assessments.
  • Substances they could potentially be exposed to and the risks this creates.
  • Access to data sheets in relation to these substances.
  • Access to, and information on using, personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Exposure monitoring information and health surveillance.
  • Information on emergency procedures.

Cleaning operatives, maintenance personnel and contractors who are required to come on site are also covered by these regulations, entitling them to the same protection as full-time employees.

COSHH and Employers

Under COSHH, employers are legally obligated to perform workplace risk assessments to prevent and protect employees from harm.

Employers must consult with employees on health and safety issues.

Employers have to give employees information about any risks present in the workplace and how they’re protected from them.

They must also train employees on how to deal with the risks hazardous substances create.

COSHH and Environmental Consultancy Services

Assessments can be outsources to trained environmental consultancy services, saving companies time, and ensuring that assessments are performed correctly, in line with legislation.

Consultancy Services can also give advice on actions required to manage risk and prevent employees from becoming unwell.

COSHH is a very important piece of legislation that has been in place for more than 20 years. Through this legislation workplaces have become safer, employees have greater protection from harm and accident rates have fallen. Make sure you keep yourself safe in the workplace by following COSHH.