COSHH - How to Control Substances Hazardous to our Health

Posted on April 26, 2013

What is a substance hazardous to health?

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) covers substances that are hazardous to health. Substances can take many forms and include:

- chemicals
- products containing chemicals
- fumes
- dusts
- vapours
- mists
- nanotechnology
- gases and asphyxiating gases
- biological agents (germs)

What is COSHH for?

COSHH's objective it to prevent, or to adequately control exposure of substances that are hazardous to health. This can be done by:

- Using control equipment such as total enclosure, partial enclosure or local exhaust ventilation (LEV);

-Controlling procedures, e.g. ways of working, supervision and training to reduce exposure, maintenance, examination and testing of control measures;

-Worker behaviour, making sure employees follow the control measures.

COSHH Assessment

Before your start your COSHH assessment, you need to think about what do you do that involves hazardous substances? How can these cause harm? And how can you reduce the risk of harm occurring?

You should always try and prevent exposure at source – for example

- Can you avoid using a hazardous substance or use a safer process – preventing exposure, e.g. using a water-based product rather than a solvent-based product or applying by a brush rather than using a spray can?

-Can you substitute it for something safer – e.g. swap an irritant cleaning product for something milder, or using a vacuum cleaner rather than a brush?

- Can you use a safer form, e.g. can you use a solid rather than liquid to avoid splashes or a waxy solid instead of a dry power to avoid dust?

If some of these methods cannot be changed then you need to control it by applying the principles of good control practice.

1. Design and operate any process and activity to minimise emissions, release and spread of substance hazardous to health.
2. Take into consideration all relevant route of exposure – inhalation, skin absorption and ingestion – when developing control measures.
3. Control exposure by measures that are proportionate to the health risk.
4. Choose the most effective and most reliable control option which can minimise the escape and spread of substances hazardous to health
5. Where you cannot adequately control of exposure cannot be achieved by other means, in combination with other control measures, provide suitable personal protective equipment (PPE).
6. Check and review all elements of control measures regularly to continue their effectiveness.
7. Inform and train all employees on the hazards and risks from the substances they work with and the use of control measures developed to minimise the risks.
8. Ensure that the introduction of control measures does not increase the overall health and safety risk.

COSHH assessment: Identifying hazards and assessing risk.

You should already be aware of the majority of risks in your industry. A COSHH assessment concentrates on the hazards and risks from substances in our workplace.

The hazards and risks are not limited to labeling hazardous substances. There are four other points that should be taken into consideration that go towards making a COSHH assessment:

- Have a walk around the workplace. Where is there potential for exposure to substances that might hazardous to health?

Examples may include processes that emit dust, fumes, vapour, mist or gas and skin contact with liquids, pastes and dusts. Substances with workplace exposure limits (WELs) are hazardous to health.

- In what way are the substances harmful to health?

Get safety data sheets and read your trade magazines. Some substances arise from processes such as fumes from welding or soldering, mist from metalworking, dust from quarrying, and gases from silage and have no safety data sheet.

- What jobs or tasks lead to exposure?

Note these down and what control measures are already in place. For these jobs, how likely is any harm to workers' health?

- Are there any areas of concern, e.g. from the Accident Book?

Examples include burns from splashes, nausea, or light-headedness from solvents.

Click to view our range of COSHH cabinets and  wall charts.

Posted in News, Health and Safety