Your organisation or employer is ultimately responsible for COSHH in the workplace.
This is because employers have a duty of care to all workers, to protect their health and safety by all appropriate means.
COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health. It is a set of regulations that came into UK law in 2002.
However, organisations are not the only ones with responsibilities. Employers, employees and the self-employed all have duties under the regulations.
An organisation must not, under any circumstances, “carry out work which is liable to expose any employee to any substance hazardous to health”. So, how do businesses tackle this? Employer responsibilities involve five key steps. They include:
- Performing a COSHH assessment
- Controlling hazardous substances by implementing control measures
- Monitoring and review
- Health screening
- Staff training
COSHH assessments involve going around your place of work and spotting all the signs of danger. In this case, this would be any chemical that poses a significant risk to health. You must ask yourself whether there are areas at work that could be dangerous, and if so, then how. During an assessment, a safety data sheet (SDS) is very useful. It will outline chemical properties, how it can be harmful as well as safe handling and storage. However, be wary that not all hazards will have a data sheet, so you can’t rely just on them.
Afterwards, you must control these hazards by coming up with effective control measures or solutions. There are a wide range of COSHH controls at your disposal, including personal protective equipment (PPE), substituting the substance for one that is less harmful, or redesigning a task to avoid exposure. Remember, the control has to be appropriate for the level of risk. They must also constantly monitor the controls to ensure they are doing their job.
After, you must screen employees and do regular health checks. This is your way of figuring out whether your controls are working.
At the end of the process comes one of the most important steps: staff training. You are required by law to train staff in your findings, controls, and screening. Staff must know about the present threats to their health.
Employees play a key role in making a success of internal rules and policies. As a result, their duties include co-operating with their employer in a number of areas, including:
- Attending staff training and adopting the policies
- Properly using any control measures
Members of staff must attend any training sessions that an employer puts on. This is because policies may be updated with new control measures. If you fail to adopt new measures, then you are a threat to yourself, as well as your colleagues.
In addition, all staff members should properly use any control measures. Again, abusing PPE or failing to adopt other controls is just dangerous. Co-operation is key, and although your organisation will formulate policies to protect you, only you and your colleagues can make a success of them.
Finally, self-employed persons have the same responsibilities as employers and members of staff combined.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, if you have employees, then every part of the COSHH regulations apply. In addition, COSHH legislates for all types of workplace premises. Meaning, that if you take hazardous substances into “other people’s premises, all parts of COSHH regulations apply except those about monitoring and surveillance”.
Overall, nearly everyone is responsible for COSHH in the workplace. However, employers have a higher number of duties, and they have the ultimate responsibility for compliance with regulations.
For more information, you can view an eLearning course. Our course is RoSPA approved and will prepare your workforce for any COSHH-related issue.