Best Practice For Authoring COSHH Assessments

Best Practice For Authoring COSHH Assessments

Published February 18, 2021

4 minute read

Who is responsible for COSHH Assessments?


One of the cornerstones of a good COSHH management program is deciding who in the organization will be responsible for conducting the necessary assessments. Ensuring compliance with all rules and regulations is vital for the survival of your business, and any confusion surrounding assessments should be avoided. Below we have detailed four different options for determining how to complete this process and have outlined the pros and cons of each method.

First, we will briefly go over what COSHH assessments actually are. These assessments are detailed descriptions and briefs about the risks associated with hazardous chemicals, and hazards in general, in your workplace. They go beyond the substances we typically think of as hazardous – like chemicals or heavy machinery. Smaller sources of hazard, such as dust from a variety of sources, are also included in COSHH assessments. These assessments are required by the HSE within the UK, though the learnings an organization can draw from assessments similar to COSHH assessments should be considered. Even if you do not operate within the UK, considering how these models of best practice can apply to the rules and regulations you must follow within your regulatory landscape will immensely benefit your efficiency and compliance.

Keeping in mind what a COSHH assessment consists of, consider who in your organization would be best suited to craft these reports. Should it be the managers? Should it be the employees working most directly to the potential hazards? Read the following scenarios, their associated pros and cons and evaluate the effectiveness of your strategy.

1. Completed by EHS with no input from additional staff members

In this strategy, the EHS department in your company will take sole responsibility for writing COSHH assessments. They can either document the assessments themselves or utilize an external resource – such as software ­- to complete them properly. There would be no input from staff in other departments, even if they are using the chemicals in question.

Pros Cons
  • Recourse and time efficient.
  • Staff are not removed from their core tasks and duties to help with assessments.
  • Consistency in assessments across the organization, as the EHS department determines how to handle the process.
  • No collaboration with staff means tasks may not be properly described or assessed - which can lead to risks when handling chemicals.
  • No ownership of safety taken by other staff members - even though they are using the chemicals.
  • COSHH assessments may be viewed by other departments as simply a documentation exercise.
  • Least recommended option


2. Completed by the staff handling the chemicals with no input from the EHS department

In this scenario, individual staff would be trained fully in COSHH so that they can author COSHH assessments independently for their own department. In this case, the EHS department is not involved in the process of conducting assessments at all. Instead, they would put their expertise elsewhere and consider this responsibility to belong to each department themselves.

Pros Cons
  • Assessments will be relevant to staff handling the chemicals
  • Staff have taken ownership of chemical safety in their own area.
  • Staff will be more informed of the chemicals they use day to day, which could reduce the associated risks.
  • Very resource heavy. Depending on the size and structure of the organization, a lot of staff may have to be fully COSHH trained in order to operate using this method.
  • There is the potential for inconsistencies in quality and procedures across the organization as departments work independently of one another and do not coordinate.
  • Possibility of the duplication of work across departments where products are used similarly, and thus time wasted on unnecessary tasks for the individuals involved.


3. Completed by EHS department in partnership with other staff members

When using this method, the EHS department will take responsibility for authoring and managing COSHH assessments. All COSHH assessments would be written in partnership with the relevant department staff involved in the day-to-day use of the chemicals being assessed. Ideally, this work would be completed in the relevant department itself with oversight from EHS. 

Pros Cons
  • Assessments will be relevant to staff handling the chemicals.
  • Staff have taken ownership of chemical safety in their own area and have the knowledge to exhibit safer behaviors
  • Recourse efficient as only EHS staff need to be COSHH trained prior to assessments
  • Consistency in assessments across the organization as the EHS department has a hand in each assessment.
  • Process is solely dependent on the EHS department to continue updating the COSHH assessments and coordinating with each department that must be evaluated. This generates a great deal of work for the EHS department.


4. Completed by staff members – signed off by EHS

Here, individual staff would complete COSHH assessments for their own departments. However, no assessments will be published until checked and signed off by the EHS department. Some COSHH training will be required for staff, but they will not need to be fully COSHH trained as they are not the ones signing off on the assessments.

Pros Cons
  • Assessments will be relevant to the staff handling the chemicals
  • Staff have taken ownership of chemical safety in their own area and have the knowledge to exhibit safer behaviors
  • Recourse efficient as only light staff training required. This training can likely be completed in-house with the right individuals in place to conduct trainings.
  • Consistency in assessments across the organization as they are all checked and signed off centrally by the EHS department.
  • Some more hands-on staff involvement is required when compared to previous option.


Important Considerations

The responsibility of keeping employees safe and out of harms way when working with hazardous substances does not belong to one person or one department within any organization. Safety is a day-to-day responsibility that pertains to each and every employee. As such, it is wise to try to make sure even the smallest of measures require involvement, or at least some consideration, from all staff members. While your time may not be best spent training every staff member in COSHH protocols and the logistics of filing and approving these assessments, they should be aware of the criticality of these assessments and take up some responsibility for their creation. This charge, of course, must be led by senior management and the EHS department.

Perhaps you agree, and you think every employee should be involved in the COSHH assessment process and overall safety processes that keep your organization and its employees safe. However, you may be wondering how to make this ideal situation a reality. This is where software comes into play.


Optimize COSHH Management with Software

Implementing EcoOnline software is somewhat like having a full-time chemical safety department in your organisation. The software acts similar to an employee who is dedicated to the collection, management and distribution of updated chemical safety information for your staff. It also allows for input from all staff members by giving you the option to permit access to relevant documents and reports, so managing COSHH assessments and overall safety can be as collaborative of a pursuit as you would like it to be.

Whichever method you choose to adopt within your organisation, the implementation of chemical safety software – such as EcoOnline’s software – has the potential to increase the efficiency and accuracy of your COSHH assessments and overall chemical safety practices. Thus, your workers will be safer, your assessments will be completed thoroughly and accurately without fail, and you can focus your energy on running a successful business.


Author Gillian

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