You can find chemicals in most workplaces and are used in different ways. Factories, shops, laboratories, offices and farms are just some of the places you would find chemicals in some form. The chemicals we use in our workplace may include products you buy to use in your core business, maintaining equipment or in general cleaning equipment.
The term chemical could also refer to hazardous substances you create as part of your work processes for example, dust created by cutting wood or stone.
A user of chemicals could be:
- a farmer
- a hairdresser
- a cleaner
- a worker in a chemical plant
- a technician in a laboratory
- a pest control operator
As an employer the law requires you to control the use of chemicals at work. You will need to assess the risks in your workplace, then implement and maintain effective control measures.
What is COSHH for?
COSHH stands for Control of Substances hazardous to health. The aim of COSHH is to prevent, or moderately control any exposure to the hazardous substances.
You can do this by:
using control equipment e.g. total enclosure or partial enclosure
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
By either changing how often a task in done, when or reducing the number of employees nearby, can make an improvement to exposure control.
Control equipment can include anything from general ventilation to extraction systems, such as local exhaust ventilation, enclosure, or where the air cannot be cleaned, refuges and respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
Other control equipment includes spillage capture, decontamination, clean-up procedures and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Ways of Working
To control the substances through the way you work includes the operating procedures, supervision and training of employees. This includes emergency procedures, decontamination and permit to work for tasks such as maintenance.
Testing all control measures regularly means you will have a smooth running control system as you will checking whether the control measures are working properly. You should be keeping records of any tests, examinations and repairs for at least five years. This will help identify any trends or variations in the equipment.
Employees must follow the control measures set as standard. They should be wearing all of the appropriate PPE and RPE, they should be using the control equipment, follow hygiene procedures and warning supervisors of anything that appears to be wrong.
For more information about COSHH assessments and hazardous substances please visit the HSE website