We often get asked on training courses, “What is COSHH?” In this article we answer this question and explain what COSHH is actually all about.
What is COSHH?
COSHH is actually a set of health and safety regulations; the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. These regulations are abbreviated to COSHH and you generally hear people talking about COSHH substances which is generally a short hand way of referring to substances with are hazardous to health. You may also hear people referring to asbestos, lead and radioactive materials as COSHH but this is not actually correct as they are covered by their own individual sets of regulations.
So we are talking about the type of product our cleaners use?
Yes, these are encompassed by the COSHH Regulations, but the regulations are much wider ranging than just cleaning materials. COSHH substances can be chemical or biological in type and solid, dust, liquid, gas, fungal, viral or bacterial in nature! Not only that, but these substances are not necessarily ones you buy to use, they can be by products of the work process such as welding fumes or wood dusts or they can be naturally occurring such as bird droppings or diseases such as leptospirosis.
What do I need to do about them?
As with everything in health and safety you need to start with a risk assessment, specifically known a COSHH assessment in this case. If it is a product you buy from a supplier you will need the safety data sheet to start this process. You also need to look at your work processes and identify if any of them create COSHH substances as a by-product, these by-products will not have safety data sheets so you will need to research their effects.
Once I have this information what do I do next?
You need to create a risk assessment that details who what the hazards of contact with the product are, for example is it toxic or flammable perhaps? Then identify who may be harmed by the substance and how they may come into contact with it. The affected person could get it on their skin, inhale it, swallow it or get it in their eyes. When you have identified this information you then need to put I place control measures to reduce the risk of exposure to an acceptable level.
How do I select control measures, surely PPE is enough?
PPE is the last resort. You must select control measures based on the hierarchy of control. This prioritises engineering control measures that isolate the substance, thus protecting the entire workforce rather than individuals. The best control measure is not to use the hazardous substance in the first instance! Work down the list below and try to achieve the measures closer to the top of the list first:
- Eliminate the use of a harmful product or substance and use a safer one.
- Use a safer form of the product, e.g. paste rather than powder.
- Change the process to emit less of the substance.
- Enclose the process so that the product does not escape.
- Extract emissions of the substance near the source.
- Have as few workers in harm’s way as possible.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, coveralls and a respirator.
Envesca offers a Level 2 Award in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) course, which explains more about your legal obligations under the COSHH regulations and how to carry out a COSHH risk assessment. To find out more about the course simply click on the link below: