You do a COSHH assessment by identifying hazards, spotting who may be at risk, implementing control measures, staff training and constant monitoring and review.
As an employer, it is your legal duty to conduct an assessment. It helps to fulfil one of your most important duties: safeguarding employee health and safety.
A specialised COSHH assessment is a little different from a regular risk assessment. This is why it is important to know the steps in the process, should your organisation ever need it. Of course, only do one if you think your organisation will or do handle harmful substances.
The first step when you do a COSHH assessment is to identify any and all risks to employee health. In this case, it would be hazardous chemicals.
The COSHH regulations cover chemicals, vapours, dusts, fumes, gasses and biological agents. It is really important to know what COSHH covers, and what it does not. This is because you may not even know that you have a risk in your workplace. Household items may be hazardous, for instance, “flowers, bulbs, some fungi, wet cement and glue are all hazardous substances under COSHH”.
Once you are confident that you know what you are looking for, you can go around your workplace looking for hazardous materials. It is wise to do so along with any safety data sheets (SDSs) you have. When ordering any hazardous chemical or substance, the manufacturer should provide one.
Spotting Who is at Risk
Secondly, you need to identify any vulnerable groups. This is any employee, or person affected by an organisation’s work, that may be exposed to hazardous substances.
You need to ask yourself some questions to evaluate the hazard, including:
- What groups might be at risk?
- How are they at risk?
- What are they at risk from?
- How likely is it that the group will be exposed to the risk?
After you do this, you can then move on to actually controlling and reducing the threat to harm.
There are a huge number of control measures out there. But it really depends on what your workplace is experiencing.
However, you need to first “tackle the hazards with the most serious health risk”. It is very good practice to prioritise your list of risks, so you can put more effort and resources into the most serious ones.
In addition, you should also plan ahead and make a plan to properly maintain the controls. This is especially important for physical protection like PPE, because they may become faulty.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend you keep in mind the common controls, which are associated with cleaning, containment and changing workplace processes.
Fourthly, an organisation must train all staff members in the appropriate policies.
These are any findings, controls and review mechanisms in place. Training must be broad, yet detailed. It must be broad in the sense that it should cover everything before this step but detailed in how well the policies and controls are implemented.
Training must instil confidence in employees, that they know their organisation is looking out for them. If it does, they are more likely to successfully adopt any policies.
Monitoring and Reviewing
Lastly, an organisation must constantly monitor and review COSHH control measures.
You can achieve this by conducting random checks on employees to see if the measures are working. Furthermore, you may want to screen the health of employees who are exposed to the risk.
Suppose a member of staff breathes in some toxic fumes. This would suggest that control measures have failed. However, you may not necessarily know this until you check their personal health to find trouble with their breathing.
COSHH assessments are an absolute staple of the regulations, because they are one of the most important parts.