It’s after 5 pm and you’re working late to meet your deadline. The cleaner arrives to tidy up after most employees have left. They pull out all the required disinfecting solutions and supplies. You’re focused on the task at hand and casually say hello as the cleaner begins to clean. After a while, the cleaner comes staggering over to you complaining of dizziness, feeling like they’re going to faint.
Do you know what your COSHH responsibilities in this situation are as an employee? And what do you do to help this person who has been exposed to hazardous chemicals on the job?
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) is designed to protect your employees from substances hazardous to health. But whose responsibility is it to protect individuals from harm in the workplace? Read on to uncover the answers to these questions and more, including:
- Who is responsible for COSHH in the workplace?
- What are your COSHH responsibilities?
- What are the employer’s responsibilities for COSHH?
- What are your COSHH responsibilities as an employee?
Who is responsible for COSHH in the workplace?
Who has legal responsibilities under the COSHH regulations? Under COSHH regulations, both the employer and employees have a legal duty and part to play in creating a safer work environment. Both have different roles and levels of responsibility, which must be fulfilled in the workplace to help minimise the risk of exposure to hazardous substances.
What are your COSHH responsibilities?
So what exactly are your COSHH responsibilities? Who is responsible for creating COSHH assessments? Who is responsible for COSHH training? Who is responsible for inspecting and enforcing COSHH regulations?
It’s best to break this down into different parts depending on whether you are an employer or an employee:
What are the employer's responsibilities for COSHH?
You might be wondering, is COSHH entirely the responsibility of the employer? As seen above, employees also have a part to play however, the duty mostly falls on the employer to make sure the environment is suitable for everyone. How can this be done?
We’ve outlined the main COSHH duties of an employer below:
- Conduct COSHH risk assessments to assess what substances hazardous to health may be located on-site. Don’t know where to begin? Check out our COSHH Risk Assessment Template so you don’t have to start from scratch.
- Prevent or control employee exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace, through elimination, substitution, or other control methods.
- Make sure all control methods put in place are followed and maintained.
- If employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals, follow all workplace exposure limits (WELs) and provide health surveillance to monitor their exposure.
- Communicate information on these substances to employees and train those who will be interacting closely with them on proper handling methods to prevent an accident or incident.
- Have emergency procedures in place in case of an accidental exposure event.
What are your COSHH responsibilities as an employee?
Employees are responsible for keeping each other safe by following all procedures and processes laid out by the employer. The following is exactly what you can do to fulfil your COSHH responsibilities as an employee:
- Always follow all the regulations, procedures, and control measures set by the employer.
- Make sure you have taken the necessary training needed to fulfil your job tasks safely and stay up to date with any further training needed.
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect yourself from hazardous substances.
- Report any hazards or risks observed on the job, as well as accidents or incidents.
- Participate in health surveillance if this is required as part of your job.
Embrace your COSHH responsibilities
The health and safety of your teams is paramount. Whether you are an employer or an employee, it’s time to embrace your COSHH responsibilities! You play such a critical role in protecting your teams and creating a safe work environment.
So, what can you do to help the unfortunate cleaner mentioned in the very beginning? You can find all the information you need in the safety data sheet (SDS) pertaining to this substance, particularly in section 4 which covers First Aid Measures.
Eager to find out more about more about mastering chemicals and staying compliant with COSHH regulations at work? Check out The Ultimate Guide to COSHH Management to explore chemical routes of exposure, chemical hazards, steps to COSHH management, and much more!