COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health and is a set of regulations that controls substances that may cause harm to employees.
The COSHH regulations became law in the UK in 2002, and they cover quite a range of substances and materials. They include:
- Chemicals and items that may contain chemicals
- Airborne substances like dusts, vapours, fumes, mists and gasses
- Biological agents like germs
When uncontrolled, these substances can cause serious health and safety damage. An organisation should follow all necessary steps to comply with the regulations, or they will be in serious trouble.
In the UK, Health and and Safety COSHH issues cost organisations dearly. This is because they may have to pay compensation, or let a worker have days off. Its estimated that in the business year 2016/17, organisations had to pay a total of £15 billion due to workplace illness and injury.
How Do I Comply with COSHH?
COSHH contains a number of regulations to follow in the workplace, in order to keep your employees safe. These include:
- Conducting a COSHH risk assessment
- Noting down all of the hazardous chemicals you use in the workplace
- Following storage advice as per the manufacturer’s safety data sheets (SDSs)
- Implementing control measures to reduce the level of risk
- Reviewing all controls
- Screening employee health
- Training staff in your findings
However, employees have their role to play in compliance. Organisations may plan and promote their policies, but members of staff are the only ones that can put them into action. According to the British Safety Council, employees have seven main duties:
Employees should work together to create an open, accountable and safe working environment. This is because under the UK laws, it is illegal for workers to threaten the health and safety of a colleague, be it accidentally or directly.
Workers must also co-operate with their organisation to enact any policies. This has the effect of avoiding accidents and injuries. For example, members of staff must wear, properly maintain and store personal protective equipment. Furthermore, Employees need to clean PPE and any other equipment using the resources given to them by their organisation. However, if there is an accident, chemical spillage or injury, it must be reported.
Your employer will ask you to go to health screening sessions. You must co-operate, for your own safety, and for the safety of your colleagues. You also need to attend the relevant training sessions and be fully attentive. Information in health and safety training is so important.
Why is COSHH Important?
The COSHH regulations are broad, and far-reaching. As a result, they apply to a huge range of sectors, including construction, health and social care, and science.
The regulations are, first and foremost, vital for protecting the health and safety of your employees. Employees need to know about the risks of hazardous chemicals, and how to safely handle and store them,
Furthermore, you may not even realise that you work with a hazardous substance every day. Household items sometimes count as a hazard, like cleaning products. COSHH therefore ensures that you review your existing policies and make updates wherever necessary.
Finally, the regulations are simply important from a legal perspective. As an organisation, you never want the enforcement agencies breathing down your neck. This is especially the case when you fear penalties, such as a fine.
There is no need to take the risk. To protect your organisation, you can complete our eLearning course. With RoSPA approval, it will ensure all parts of your operations are compliant with the rules.