What Happens if you Don’t Follow COSHH?

What Happens if you Don't Follow COSHH?

If you don’t follow COSHH, you will put your employees in danger, and the organisation may be liable to civil action like fines or prison time.

In short, nothing good will come from ignoring the COSHH regulations.

Picture the scene: a forklift truck drops a container, spilling litre upon litre of corrosive acid. Some of the acid splashes onto the forklift operator, causing very bad skin irritation. However, the employee didn’t realise how harmful the chemical was, making the situation a whole lot worse. He also didn’t know what to do after the acid spilled everywhere.

Who is at fault here? You, the organisation. One of your COSHH duties is to train employees. You need to train them about how harmful these chemicals are, and what to do with accidental exposure.

Since the employee training was lacking, the member of staff can file for compensation because of the accident. Compensation pay-outs are often huge, and if the situation is serious enough, a higher-up manager could go to prison.

Matters of health and safety are no joke, and breaches are often met with serious penalties. In all health and safety situations, ignorance is by no means bliss.

How You Put Your Employees in Danger by Ignoring COSHH

Failing to properly implement COSHH regulations or totally ignoring them is simply dangerous for workers.

This is because you, as an organisation, have failed to provide a safety net for when things go wrong. By ignoring COSHH, you fail to perform an assessment and all the other legal duties. Examples include:

  • Providing inappropriate control measures (or none at all)
  • Failing to identify risks
  • Failing to provide training

Because of the nature of hazardous chemicals, the regulations are so important. Corrosive, flammable or explosive chemicals can result in the most serious of injuries. They can injure almost all body parts, like lungs, eyes and the skin. In extreme cases, they may even cause death.

Consequently, the regulations have workplace exposure limits (WELs). When you ignore these, you fail to inform the employee of the serious health risks of prolonged exposure. As a result, it is likely that they will sustain harm.

Not only is it dangerous, you will not put employees at ease. They will not trust you as an organisation to deliver policies that protect them. This can have serious legal consequences.

Legal Penalties

If you fail your duties under the COSHH regulations, you may also fail your Health and Safety at work Act 1974 (HSWA) responsibilities too.

The most likely penalty is a fine. Recently, a company in Bristol had to pay a £100,000 fine and an additional £30,000 in damage costs. This is because workers were exposed to harmful chemicals, and they contracted a disease called ‘allergic contact dermatitis’.[1] The company was fined £30,000 for breaches of HSWA, and £10,000 for violating 6 COSHH regulations.

In addition, employees may seek compensation for their organisation’s failures. One worker did so after it was found that he was exposed to harmful levels of Isocyanates. This led to occupational asthma.[2]

In the most serious cases of gross misconduct, an organisation may be forced to pay an unlimited fine, or face prison time.

So, why take the risk? Adherence to any law, especially regulations of health and safety, is just the morally right thing to do. Not to mention, if there is an accident, that worker will have days off, decreasing overall productivity. Meaning, compliance is in everyone’s best interests.

Protect your employees by completing an online training course. Our course has RoSPA approval and will make sure your business is fully compliant with the regulations.

You can find our COSHH training course here.


[1] http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/casestudies/dermatitis.htm

[2] http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/casestudies/isocyanates.htm