What is COSHH and RIDDOR?

What is COSHH and RIDDOR?

COSHH and RIDDOR are a set of regulations that control hazardous substances and allow an organisation to report any serious injuries that occur.

COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, and came into force in the UK in 2002. RIDDOR stands for the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, which became law in 2013.

What is RIDDOR?

RIDDOR is a set of regulations that allow a ‘responsible person’ to report accidents. According to HSE,[1] the types of accident that an organisation can report include:

  • Deaths and injuries
  • A dangerous occurrence
  • Carcinogens, mutagens and biological agents (or other COSHH items)
  • Diseases
  • A flammable gas incident
  • A dangerous gas fitting
  • Specified injuries

Specified injuries, as found in regulation 4, include any non-fatal accidents.[2] For example, fractures, amputations, loss of consciousness and serious burns.

RIDDOR makes it so that if any of these things occur, then it is the legal duty of the responsible person to report it. But who exactly is a responsible person?

This is any employer or person responsible for the working premises. If you are self-employed, then the person in control of the premises you work at is responsible. Nobody else can file a RIDDOR claim. However, if you fail to file a report, then you are failing one of your main duties as an employer. As a result, you could be penalised.

In addition, a responsible person has to keep records of any and all incidents at work. It is good practice to keep records on your work computers, because you can report a RIDDOR incident online. However, it is important to note that all “RIDDOR records must be kept strictly confidential and are stored away securely”.[3] Health data is valuable and mishandling of personal information is illegal under the Data Protection Act and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

What is COSHH?

COSHH legislates for dangerous chemicals, materials and substances that pose a large risk to someone’s health. It covers:

  • Corrosive chemicals
  • Flammable chemicals
  • Biological agents
  • Certain types of dust
  • Toxic gasses

These agents can cause serious harm if they are inhaled, ingested, or come into contact with the eyes or skin. This is a problem because even household items like cleaning products can contain toxic chemicals. As a result, COSHH means that employers need to safely store and handle household cleaning products.

If you have other harmful chemicals in your place of work, the first thing you should do is prevent exposure. Therefore, you should think of alternatives to the dangerous chemical or material in use at your place of work. According to HSE, this would involve switching it for something else, planning a safer method or using a safer form.[4]

If you can’t fully prevent exposure, then conduct a COSHH assessment. This means that you should note the nature of the substance and how harmful it is. Then, you should note what groups of people the chemical is likely to cause harm to. Afterwards, you need to come up with some control measures to minimise harm. This could be anything from reducing the time exposed to a chemical to providing personal protective equipment (PPE).

There is no strict legal requirement to update the assessment every certain number of years. However, it would be best practice to review it if workplace conditions or activities change. If they don’t, then you should annually update your assessment.

Understanding what COSHH and RIDDOR are and why the regulations are is vital for ensuring workplace health and safety. To prepare your workforce for hazardous chemicals, you can refer to our online training courses.

You can find our RoSPA approved online COSHH training course here.

[1] https://www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/report.htm

[2] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/1471/regulation/4/made

[3] https://www.oshcr.org/riddor-reporting-of-injuries-diseases-and-dangerous-occurrences-regulations/

[4] http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/basics/whatdo.htm